The pharma report: small agency, big name

McCann Health Canada combines a boutique approach with a wealth of specialized capabilities
McCann Health Canada did its first ad on streaming platform Twitch this year – a video for Alcon Systane that turned dry eye drops into a performance product.

McCann Health Canada did its first ad on streaming platform Twitch this year – a video for Alcon Systane that turned dry eye drops into a performance product.

McCann Health Canada may sound like a large-scale operation, but president Neill Brown says it’s really “a small agency with a big name.” While global advertising network McCann is one of the most recognized names in the business, McCann Health Canada is a standalone focusing entirely on healthcare. And that’s a key selling feature. Despite recent growth, thinking small is a mindset it embraces by setting up dedicated teams for clients, sharing the challenger spirit of their brands, and fostering a culture of conscious inclusion.

“McCann Health is built for Canada – the knowledge of our strategic regulatory environment, the understanding of all the stakeholders you can reach and connect with across the healthcare spectrum, and Canadian-sized budgets,” says Brown, who has also held positions in the UK, U.S. and Asia.

In a recent campaign for a Canadian pharmaceutical company, McCann Health Canada referenced the challenges many patients with COPD must contend with, not casting blame and focusing on the future

In a recent campaign for a Canadian pharmaceutical company, McCann Health Canada referenced the challenges many patients with COPD must contend with, not casting blame and focusing on the future.

With offices in Toronto and Montreal, the 50-strong agency retains the mindset of a small shop, Brown says, with two clearly defined teams – one focusing on marketing to healthcare professionals (HCPs), the other on consumers and patients – that have the expertise to navigate their respective areas of the business while learning from each other.

The recent creation of IPG Health, bringing together McCann Health and FCB Health into “one integrated powerhouse,” says Brown, means clients get simplified access to more specialized capabilities such as data analytics, media production and more.

A series about HIV for a Canadian pharmaceutical company speaks to the diverse range of PLHIV (people living with HIV), rather than the narrow representation often depicted in advertising.

A series about HIV for a Canadian pharmaceutical company speaks to the diverse range of PLHIV (people living with HIV), rather than the narrow representation often depicted in advertising.

At the core of the company’s success is its insights-based approach to problem solving.

“It’s very different from rushing straight into tactics,” he says.

“We work upfront to correctly define the problem and apply data analytics and journey-mapping to identify areas of opportunity and tell truths around brands and categories. We ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening to both clients and the target audience.”

The Variety Society is a group of McCann Health Canada staff members who volunteer to help engage staff on diversity, equity and inclusion topics.

The Variety Society is a group of McCann Health Canada staff members who volunteer to help engage staff on diversity, equity and inclusion topics.

The priority when engaging HCPs is respecting their time, Brown adds. The conversation is shifting from a sales-driven, promotional conversation to more of a medical exchange.

“It’s about listening to what’s important to them, how they want to connect with their patients, how they want to connect with their peers and pharma and then modeling your approach accordingly,” he says.

McCann Health Canada partnered with CRC Research on a study investigating the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare marketing. The survey found that while the pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of health, HCPs are concerned that the lack of human connection may limit their ability to provide the best clinical care. They also felt the huge amount of online information (and misinformation) may affect patients’ ability to properly assess medical decisions.

The “Fight the Fog” campaign encouraged essential workers to enter a contest to win a one-year supply of Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1 contact lenses

The “Fight the Fog” campaign encouraged essential workers to enter a contest to win a one-year supply of Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1 contact lenses.

With these challenges in mind, McCann Health Canada endeavors to find “a meaningful role for brands in people’s lives,” Brown says.

He points to a recent Alcon DAILIES TOTAL1 contact lenses campaign spearheaded by executive creative director Sean Riley.

The “Fight the Fog” campaign was sparked by mandatory mask-wearing due to the pandemic that posed a challenge for glasses wearers who had to deal with fogging or even frosting glasses. “Fogging glasses present a serious barrier for essential workers who need to be able to see clearly to perform their services,” Riley notes.

 

Alcon encouraged essential workers to enter a contest in which they shared how one year’s supply of DAILIES TOTAL1 lenses would help them, and that prize was awarded to 100 winners. The contest was promoted through social media and clinic materials for six weeks and further amplified through experts on TV and in editorial across the country. Riley says the number of applications was overwhelming and the testimonials powerful.

In terms of channel innovation, McCann Health was proud of its first ad on videogame streaming platform Twitch this year. “Knowing that people were spending a lot of time gaming, we developed a spot for Systane that turned dry-eye drops into a performance product,” he says.

McCann Health Canada’s work with Alcon included this “Comfort of Nothing” digital video

McCann Health Canada’s work with Alcon included this “Comfort of Nothing” digital video

He credits Richelle Colbear, director of client services, for helping to create an environment where staff can flex their creative muscles. Colbear recently helped create the Variety Society, the company’s DE&I committee consisting of a group of staff who volunteer to arrange weekly programming on topics including Indigenous rights, 2SLGBTQ+ equality and neurodiversity. “We invest in our people and the culture that binds us together,”Colbear says.

According to Brown, the company has grown significantly in the last five years, recently expanding brand assignments with existing clients such as Novartis and GSK and working with new clients Dentalcorp, Lilly and AbbVie.

He adds, “Now more than ever, being in health is incredibly meaningful and rewarding in terms of helping Canadians live healthier lives.”

CONTACT:
Neill Brown
President
neill.brown@mccannhealth.com

2021 pharma report:

BAM Strategy: Sparking ‘careiosity’

NFA: No fixed approach

Tank Worldwide: hyper-collaboration and adding value