Twelve months ago I was asked if instead of a festive greetings card, could we try and raise enough money to send 10 children to school in Africa. Of course, I was delighted to do something more meaningful than cards. This time of year can inspire the the very best from our society, and perhaps now we need it more than ever.
It should have come as no surprise to me, that repeating last year’s feat was not enough. Why fund individuals’ education, when you can build a school? This year, in support of Born To Thrive, we will build classrooms. How many? The target is one, but I certainly won’t be betting against a few more. #LYNXLife
I’m often asked about how hard it is to be CEO of Havas Lynx? Managing 200+ diverse experts? Preserving 30 years values & culture? And the answer is simple – it isn’t, at all. I have the best job in the world. I work alongside the most amazing people, doing amazing things. I don’t inspire them, they inspire me.
Almost three years ago I attended my first Havas Health Global Leadership Meeting. The theme was, “Change Faster”. It was a brilliant meeting, incredibly inspiring and a fantastic first taste of the network. It entirely validated our decision to join, and had me ready to change the world.
Except, on returning to Havas Lynx, whilst I was now beset on change, I had no idea where to start. On the 6th of October, I’ll be hosting the Havas Health Global Leadership Meeting in Miami, with Cris Morton. So that delegates can avoid similar confusion, the theme this year is very clear: #ChangeForGood.
Since that first meeting in January 2013, Havas Lynx has gone from strength-to-strength; building capabilities, winning awards, hitting targets and producing work that makes a real difference. At the heart of this success is an agile agency culture. We’re responding to the needs of the market, the needs of patients and healthcare professionals and the needs of our team.
I’m sure that managing an agency has never been easy. Certainly Mad Men provides an indication of the trials and tribulations of a previous – and less moral – era. But today, agencies must blend extreme diversity, from traditional creatives to engineers and mathematicians. Moreover, they then need experienced heads alongside digital natives who are ready to turn the working world upside down. And all this against increasing austerity, fiscal pressure and ambitions established in a golden age.
Changes to the market have been as profound as those within our agencies. We’ve moved from manufacturing brands to earning them, as we’ve witnessed the profound impact of our behaviour. We’ve moved from engaging consumers to prosumers, as we start to understand social dynamics. We’ve started to use creativity to maximise outcomes, and not points of sale.
Healthcare professionals and patients have also changed significantly, in both their behaviours and their expectations. Agencies are challenged to build relationships through new means, and in new ways. The format of the idea can now be as important as the idea itself.
We’re incredibly lucky. The world is amazing. Fuelled by technology, it changes every day; it’s fascinating, interesting and challenging, in equal measure. Our success is born from changing faster.
Born in 1980, I’m a borderline Millennial depending on your preferred interpretation. Regardless, I can still feel like an old man when it comes to Millennial engagement in the work place, which is why I’m so proud of our retention rate. Many agencies struggle to retain bright, ambitious talent, whereas at Havas Lynx, we prosper.
We believe Millennials want to make a difference and at Havas Lynx, we are committed to doing just that. We focus on improving patient outcomes; to drive commercial success for our partners. But our efforts don’t end with the client budget, we go much further. In 2015, we’ve already funded the education of 42 children in Africa.
We believe that Millennials want to exist within a vibrant community. #LYNXLife was launched to preserve and enhance our culture. It includes a tea lady, breakfast club and Summer Fun day offline, and Facebook and Instagram, online. To get involved, join us by following #LYNXLife.
Each year we conduct an internal survey. Of 200+ participants 30 % said professional development was their key priority. Many people challenge our investment in #LXAcademy accusing it of being excessive but I’d challenge us to spend more.
We try our best to shun excessive structure and hierarchy. Yes, the ultimate decision resides with the senior team but you won’t find us hiding in an office. To my knowledge, no-one at either Havas Lynx, or formerly Creative Lynx, has had their own office, and it’s my intention to maintain this record.
It’s up for debate how many of these principles are specific to Millennials and to me, it simply sounds like good business. But then again, maybe that’s just the Millennial in me.
“Content is King” is a great expression; catchy, weighty, easy. It’s also misleading, absent of substance, and wrong on many levels. As of January 2014, the Internet has 861,379,0001 websites, or if you prefer Google has indexed 200 Terabytes of data2 which is just 0.004% of the total Internet. Either way, there is no shortage of content. There is however an appetite for relevant, topical, bespoke content delivered as part of an expert brand strategy – the social world requires brain not brawn.
Content is a form of advertisement, albeit positioned as a more sophisticated strategy. The objective remains to elicit an emotion that drives an action. However, despite this universal truth, the world has changed. It is more connected, more social, and ultimately more judgemental. It is no longer enough to tell stories; we need to craft a collaborative narrative. Being instant lacks longevity and durability. Producing content without emotion and relevance dilutes and devalues brands. Today, more than ever, the market requires insight, imagination and innovation. Our Havas colleagues in Australia produced what I consider to be the best social campaign in healthcare: The world’s most powerful arm.
Great agencies are more, not less, critical to the brand building process. So too is a genuine brand. We can no longer manufacture our image, we can no longer limit the format of our customer interactions, we are exposed, open, and unintentionally honest. A strong authentic brand personality is essential. It must represent the values of a business and be aligned to the personality of their customers. Fonts, colours and high-gloss photographs, pale-away versus behaviour and conduct. Social success today relies more than ever on the principles of brand development.
The scale of the Internet is infinite, standing out from the crowd is harder than ever, unless of course you join the crowd. Become more than just an isolated part. Participate in something greater. Unite your community through a shared ambition. Do more. Social success is inextricably linked to the power of the collective to make a difference; it requires more than a content production line.
At the heart of an agencies success are the people. Heritage, structure and framework are simply the platform. As a business we are committed to attracting, developing, engaging and retaining the very best talent. The #LXAcademy was conceived to build core expertise, and inspire imagination, curiosity & courage, across science, creativity & technology. The #LXAcademy Awards was a celebration of everything we have all achieved in 2014 – it was our finest night.
The submissions were exceptional & really quite humbling. The team behind Care4Today combined insight & innovation, with passion & belief. Their presentation belied their engineering background & claimed the Grand Prix award. The team driving Novartis Dermatology deservedly won Creative use of Technology, as we continued our track record of being digital pioneers at EADV. Combining consumer technology with pharma insight, they quickly & efficiently created a unique point of difference in a competitive environment. Having clocked up 320,000 miles for AstraZeneca and revolutionised their Japanese market, the team of the year was entirely deserved. Not everyone can travel the world & consistently bring energy, ideas & value. One of my personal highlights for 2014 is our partnership with Lundbeck, we share vales & ambition, and I was delighted that our team recorded best online campaign, it demonstrated superb alignment of insight & innovation. It also demonstrated a client-agency relationship working in tandem, towards a shared goal, delivering results.#SKINTOLIVEIN rightly won campaign of the year, described by a Big Pharma CEO as the most progressive digital campaign in their portfolio, there was little more for the judges to add. However it was also impossible to ignore the effort, expertise & collaboration required to make something so unique and of so much value to patients & pharma.
There’s a buzz in the agency & the awards epitomised this. It has also set expectations for 2015, with regards to #LXAcademy, the awards and #LYNXLife, which is scheduled to be launched in January. Our number one priority is our talent, we believe that the rest follow. Our staff retention is at 90%, we receive 120 applicants a week and 50 people have celebrated 5 years with the business. HAVAS LYNX is a great agency with great clients, and the #LXAcademy Awards were a fitting celebration.
None of this would be possible without @carlwalker & Lisa Jones, driving the #LXAcademy, supported by the amazing internal experts and our external thought leaders. And a special thanks for organising the awards to Sam Luk & the LX Ambassadors.
You can watch some of our inspiring LX Academy thought leadership sessions on our Youtube channel and see photos from the night on facebook and twitter
I’m incredibly fortunate to travel the world doing a job that I love. Five years ago it was the likes of Barcelona, Geneva & Milan, as I covered Europe. Today it is both the Northern & Southern Hemispheres, East & West. Typically we deliver academies & build expertise in social media, closed-loop marketing & integrated communications. My first day back to work in 2014 was in Osaka, being simultaneously translated as we discussed transforming field force interactions. (It is a really quite mind-boggling scenario when you stop to think.)
Beyond seeing the sights & sampling the local cuisine the different cultures, inside & outside the office, are fascinating. The insight it provides to shape global campaigns is invaluable.
The pharma industry is obsessed, rightly so, by closed-loop marketing. We believe in the value of personalised stories. At the same time we chase an increasingly global approach to communications. It’s a striking contradiction in policies. It represents an awkward balance of broad & narrow brush. It is also one I agree with, largely. But, I do think it lacks a subtlety. Are we one global community, a single market, the same the world over? Because on the surface, driven by geography, politics, religion we appear incredibly different. A campaign conceived in the US will not work in China. A Japanese campaign would be dismissed in Europe. South America emerged as the victors from Cannes Health Lions, but their ideas would be lost on some.
We certainly don’t need local campaigns and the necessary investment would be foolish. Cultural campaigns, however, would be an interesting concept, aligned through a consistent scientific story, that marries clinical data & patient benefits. Representing efficiencies & relevance, the solution would allow local markets to provide context, relevance & individual customer experiences.
I’ve learnt a huge amount on my travels, the most significant being humility & respect.
If you’re flown from Manchester to a far corner of the globe to lead a workshop and build digital expertise, you should be arriving with insight & expertise. You should be offering an opinion that counts, the room should be learning something new, and you must make a difference. In addition, without fail, every experience has also made a difference to me.
I arrived in Japan to develop expertise in digital communication. As lead facilitator it’s my duty to have the best case studies. That being said, it would have been impossible to top the work of Honda. They combined insight, innovation & cause to the benefit of their brand, customers, but ultimately society. On the 7th April 2011 Japan was struck by the tsunami. The devastation was catastrophic. The country desperately struggled to navigate communities & services around the area. In less than 24hrs, Honda had mapped working roads onto Google maps, allowing critical movement across the region. Inspired by this, my goal is to help big pharma demonstrate the same agility & conviction. For further information please watch the case study here.
Only recently I delivered a social academy in Scandinavia. It’s a region I have long admired for it’s innovation & ambition. In many ways the geography of the region implores a digital first approach, however the history & associated diversity, makes the whole endeavour far more complicated. As a region they will win. They will use digital communications, social media and technology to improve outcomes. At the heart of their success will be their culture, it inspires innovation. They are open to ideas, and encourage others. They explore the possibilities & lead with imagination, not rules. I’ve worked with a number of companies in the region, and enjoyed it every time.
We delivered our first true CLM initiative in 2008, I didn’t expect that, in just a few years, it would lead to CLM academies in Shanghai. I only hope the participants took the same value as I did. Being simultaneously translated is a unique experience, made more so with little or no feedback from the room. In the EU or US, the feedback is instant & rewarding – comforting, even easy, perhaps not always genuine. China is different. Every minute counts. The participants WANT knowledge, and it’s utterly inspiring. They’re not looking for occasional insight, but comprehensive detail they will employ religiously.
This Summer saw the inaugural Lions Health. As previously mentioned on this blog, there were a number of highlights. Of equal insight were the results of the awards. The overwhelming victors were from South America. Not only did they collect numerous awards, but there ideas were creatively outstanding & use of digital exceptional. We’re often guilty of assuming that the US or EU are the most technologically advanced. Perhaps our maturity and sophistication or rules & rigour actually stifle innovation & the improvements it can herald. In 2010 the Arab Spring used social media as a catalyst for seismic change. Motive & technology aligned. It re-affirms my belief in the power of morality & innovation. And as always, rewards travel & observation with learnings & insight.
The first ever Lions Health took place on June 13th and 14th 2014, at the famous Palais des Festivals in Cannes, France.
No one knew quite what to expect. Who would be there? What would we learn? Who would win? And what would become of the #LionsHealth?
The speakers were mixed. But importantly, when they were good, they were great. Events such as this often have one or two highlights. At #LionsHealth there were multiple. The event was opened by the brilliant @JimStengel. He spoke passionately about creating a culture of creativity & the importance of team engagement. It was impossible to not be impacted by Jim’s ideas & results. They will certainly shape my thinking as we plan for the continuing success of HAVAS LYNX.
Equally great, if a little more unorthodox, was R. John Fidelino. When I sat down for a session labelled, “Chasing Cool in Healthcare”, I was ready to be unimpressed. I’m proud of pharma & would choose significant over cool everyday. Fidelino’s presentation convinced me otherwise. He was meaningful, authentic and immersive – he embodied all the values he felt health communications must represent. He convinced me that perhaps we can have even more significance on people’s lives, if we are just a little cooler.
Not too many people have heard or considered narrative medicine. The always brilliant Dr. Rita Charon mesmerised much of the audience on day two. Having spent much of the event discussing technology, it was very refreshing to then consider content, emotion and stories. Technology is a platform, it’s the experience that counts. As Fidelino had explained, we must be meaningful, authentic and immersive. Dr. Rita Charon talked from the heart of her patient experiences & the importance of relationships. As we look to the future and our digital world, it is clear that HCP interactions will become ever more fragmented, and as such, relationships will be critical to improving outcomes.
We joined Havas to help drive our strategic thinking & creative pedigree. We were delighted to be part of a network that claimed three lions; a bronze, silver & gold. The network has amazing talent & we love the collaboration. It fuels our growth and ambition. We were also delighted for the team at Langland. A great agency, that represented the UK with great success.
So what will become of #LionsHealth? For me, that question remains unanswered. Much worked, but a lot didn’t. Did it meet year one expectations? Yes. Does it need to evolve significantly for year two? Almost certainly. Will we be there to support that growth? Absolutely.
With hindsight, would we still join Havas? If there were no financial incentives, would we still be willing to merge with a global network? Are we proud to be HAVAS LYNX? Yes, yes and yes.
As I have previously discussed on this blog, there are numerous benefits to joining a global network. However in isolation, it is not a silver bullet. It requires considerable effort from both parties to fulfil the potential.
Our team have really embraced the opportunity that Havas represents. They’ve worked with talent from across the group, learning with every interaction, growing with new perspectives, ideas & confidence. In addition, their return is always accompanied with praise, gratitude & recognition of their passion, creativity & innovation. They are representing themselves, LYNX, Manchester & London.
Have our clients benefited from the Havas Strategic Toolbox? Yes, but not at first. The tools are exceptional, but also seductive. We became guilty of talking too much, and doing too little. But, you learn. Today we use the tools at the right time, for the right results. We leverage best-in-class strategy with creativity, innovation & delivery to exceed our client expectations.
Have our global campaigns benefitted from the global footprint? Absolutely. One of the networks greatest strengths is their ability to curate local opinions, challenges & opportunities. Havas Health invest significantly in Global & Regional meetings, the result is a genuine willingness to collaborate across international boundaries.
Fiscal pressure & the patent cliffs are driving big Pharma to explore potential cost efficiencies. The hottest concept is decoupling, with investment focused towards insight, ideas, intellect. Havas prioritise thought leadership, and we are supported to do the same. Today we invest heavily in research & development; publishing white papers on our insights, piloting smart technologies & establishing strategic partnerships.
And for me? It was a challenge, it was a far steeper learning curve than I had expected. But that’s brilliant, it’s sparked my interest, maintained my passion, & driven my ambition. Like the rest of the team, I have now got a much bigger pitch to play on.
You’ve not told your team, your clients are blissfully unaware, the world needs to know & so might your family. Business as usual is the priority, but first comes the news.
Before discussing our communication strategy, I think it’s worth noting the confidentiality & respect with which all discussions took place. I was naturally concerned that our discussions would be leaked destabilising clients & our team. With the odd exception all parties conducted themselves impeccably and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Our number one priority was our staff, we told them first. Despite agreeing to join Havas for all the right reasons; exciting briefs, strategic insight & global support, we were naturally apprehensive. Would they be anxious, confused, cynical? Inevitably there were pockets of concern, but the overwhelming response was excitement. The agency saw it as an opportunity, a new challenge, they saw it as a promotion to the big league. A Manchester agency united with a global ambition. 18 months later we would be crowned Havas Agency of the Year.
Clients, an equal mixture of cynicism, ambivalence, excitement & recognition. To those that were cynical we outlined the benefits the merger would bring with the addition of strategic tools, shared expertise & global footprint. With hard work & determination we have allayed those fears. Some were ambivalent, they knew our values & trusted our judgement. Most were excited, they employed us for our strengths, they forgave our weaknesses, and knew that a global partner would address many of them. Our long-term partners, those that have known us since the beginning, were pleased. They understood all the benefits & helped celebrate our next step.
Having emerged from the process of a merger, nothing could be more refreshing than the day job. The process is both intellectually & emotionally draining. Ironically, across both clients & staff were small pockets which expressed their concern that with our announcement would come distractions. They worried we would lose focus on their business and be consumed by a network. This could not be further from the truth, the distraction was over. The extra work done. In many ways the public announcement, signified back to business as usual.