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‘Rise Above. Easy to Say No. Harder to Say Yes’.

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LBB editor, Gabby Lott heads to Japan for an insight into agency & client collaboration

‘Rise Above. Easy to Say No. Harder to Say Yes’.

 

Engagement. Have you ever thought about how your doctor, your therapist, your consultant, surgeon or nurse engages with the pharmaceutical industry? It’s not something that I’ve personally considered and I’d be surprised if I was the only one. In fact, when it comes to our medical health, many of us are extremely trusting of the medical profession, expecting them to be up-to-date and aware of every new advancement and product that is out there on the market. Yet, how does that market manage to communicate to that profession and how do they keep them aware of the different products and advancements that they have? 
 
Last week I was asked by McCann Health Japan to Tokyo to join one of their largest clients, Lilly Japan, in a two-day workshop that they’d created with the production house, Great Guns. 
 
It was no coincidence that Tokyo was selected to host the event. Japan is the world’s second largest pharmaceutical market, which is driven by an aging population. Its mature JPY10.358bn (US$131.1bn) revenue is forecast to expand by 4.9% this year alone, with the industry making up 10% of Japan’s global revenue. This is the only market that is growing - and steadily - by an annual 7.9%. Drugs are an important and profitable business across the globe and with APAC’s 2012 revenue of $234bn, Japan makes up a hefty 56% of the market. 
 
Keeping fresh and inspired is important in any business, but when you have to engage a target audience who might be too busy saving lives to spend five minutes speaking with you or reading your recent communication, it’s crucial. In order to help their sales and marketing teams break out of ruts and self-created restrictions, Lilly Japan engaged McCann McCann Japan to curate a selection of creative and inspiring speakers.
 
This is the third such seminar that McCann Health’s global creative director, Jeremy Perrott and Great Guns’ Laura Gregory have produced together. Previous events have been held in LA and Berlin under the title ‘Be Inspired. Create Change’ Born out of Perrott’s belief that there should be a cultural shift towards improving the work in healthcare, the event is designed to elevate standards, inspire fresh thinking, innovation and lateral thinking. In this instance the client requested their own two-day work shop; their brief to McCann Health Japan and Great Guns, to challenge and change this typically conservative brands marketing teams perceptions, believing that understanding the successful creative journey’s of a collective group of artists, directors and innovators would unlock and unleash the conformatism that most businesses and individuals fall into. Over the two days, the audience spent the first part listening and watching the stories of the speakers, their work and their lives and the second part of the seminar was devoted to workshop activities were individuals drew from the presentations to create their own messages and philosophies in a bid to create the next steps for themselves and their business. These were then presented to the speakers who appraised the work and gave back helpful, structured feedback.
 
 
Laura Gregory and her innovative Great Guns team put together a collective of inspiring speakers. The showcase unfurled in the extremely cool nightclub, Super Deluxe, in the Roppongi district of Tokyo. Bean bags, blankets, crates, artwork, lanterns and wooden boxes were used to create a warm, open and engaging environment for over 40 attendees. With three large projections on the wall, speakers from the UK, Japan, India, Australia, Denmark and America conveyed their interpretation of the two day theme: ‘Rise Above. Easy to say no. Harder to say yes’. 
 
The inspiration? According to Barret B Madrigal, Senior Director at Lilly Japan, it’s all about creating a lasting effect on the culture of the sales and marketing team. “At Lilly Japan we’re fairly conservative and that plays out in very structured meetings,” he explained. 
 
When Amar Urhekar, President Japan & EVP Asia Pacific McCann Health, approached Madrigal with the project Gregory and Perrott had created in Berlin, Madrigal saw a chance to try something new. “It sounded interesting and certainly a lot of fun,” said Madrigal. “I decided to take the risk… We can have another meeting in the office and probably get the same output. We’ve got to try something completely different - after all, what do we have to lose? We put together the agenda. I think we will get some really good views out of this, but I also think that it will engage my people in a way that they’ve never, ever been engaged before. It’s a kind of emotional experience. Some of the things being discussed are striking; that kind of emotional experience is going to cause them to think. It’ll linger a whole lot longer. Much longer than is we had just another meeting at the company. That’s the inspiration.”
 
As Amar commented, “We’ve been working with Lilly Japan as their agency of record for the last three and a half years, four years now in Japan and we’ve done some spectacular work. We’ve won lots of awards. Many of their products and brands are becoming number one in their respective categories. So, in a way we are achieving a certain leadership status that we’ve always aspired for. On the other hand, as Winston Churchill said “the price of greatness is responsibility”, and I think some of the products that Lilly Japan have are truly great. That greatness needs to be spread to the larger patient pool, it needs to have better acceptance of the doctors. It’s not just about healthcare communication skills; it’s about the larger good, the larger ambition that we have. To understand that we’ve got to challenge our current way of thinking, we’ve got to challenge how the pharmaceutical industry interacts with the medical industry, medical professionals and so on.”
 
The day started with Great Guns founder, Laura Gregory. She opened her presentation by announcing, “Nothing excites me more than when an agency producer says ‘We’ve got a problem’.” Showcasing some of their most successful and challenging campaigns, including ground breaking work for Guess, the collaboration with David Lynch and Trevor Beattie for PS2, recent work for Nike and an innovative 360 campaign ‘Virgin LA 4320’ with Droga5. Each challenge as and when it presents itself is another form of inspiration – or as Laura put it ‘there isn’t a NO at Great Guns’. At the end of the presentation, Jeremy added ‘we need to be pushed. We need to dig deep and we need to find something from within – something that we wouldn’t have naturally found’.
 
 
One of Japan’s most successful photographers Yasushi Handa the author of Mighty Silence then took to the stage. He spoke about why he picked up his camera and head to the area’s affected by last year’s earthquake. He showcased his stunning images to the group who watched and listened in silence. 
 
McCann Health Japan then showed ‘Radio – Exercise’.  The project drew inspiration from post-war Japan where people were encouraged to exercise collectively to encourage community spirit and emotional wellbeing. In response to the devastation that affected the country last year, McCann Health Japan created exercise programs, which are roughly five minutes in length, for local people to use. A simple idea, inspired by history, that had outstanding results. More than 1,000,000 Youtube users engaged, 1,200 communities adopted radio exercise and the project gained over 40 million yen’s worth of coverage. Adding to its local success, the campaign then sent care package’s to other cities around the world that had also been affected by quakes. Sent out by the local mayor, on world peace day, these small offerings were a means of sending something ‘good’ into other areas of the world.  
 
The next speaker was Mika Rosie, a brave woman who recounted her extraordinary career path. Japanese by birth and from a small country town, this grocer’s daughter has been a trail-blazer ever since she first secretly applied for an exchange placement in the US at 15 years old. She might have started off as a non-English speaking student in America, but she went on to launch Disney mobile entertainment, bring Japanese produce to California, and launch e-commerce for Estée Lauder. Her talk also covered her three marriages, the birth of her beautiful son and her final decision to work for herself; this inspiring woman has lived all over the world and has embraced change as often as it happens. “Just when things are starting to feel too comfortable, that’s when you need to take the next leap… and make it a big one,” she said, revealing her personal mantra.
 
One of India’s most successful commercial directors Ram Madhvani (part of the Great Gun’s roster) took us through ‘The Heroes Journey’, the basic pattern that has been said to underpin all narrative. He outlined the six steps: The Calling, Denial, The Road of Trials, Self-Knowledge, Coming Home and Passing it on. 
 
 
It was a path and a pattern really struck a chord with Lilly Japan’s Barret B Madrigal. “One of the things that I really liked was ‘The Calling’ from Ram’s ‘Heroes Journey’. We get into habits, ruts and behaviours without any particularly good reason – we’re just on the hamster wheel, doing our business and I think it’s good to stop and think ‘what is The Calling? Where are you going? Is it really worth it?’ I think Steve Jobs said that you really have to love what you’re doing otherwise it’s just too damn hard. You will give up. You’ll be sane. You’ll go home at 5pm like all the normal people. So, I think for me really having that calling is important to go back to, to check to make sure that I have it and that I am calling the right thing.” 
 
Just as audience began to process Ram’s words and apply them to their own lives, Great Guns then hit us with yet another creative genius. This time it was the graffiti artist, Remo Camerota. He built up a list of the influences in his childhood that he believed created his path to becoming an artist. From his first nude (the neighbour’s daughter flashed in the garden shed) to the underwater mural his art teacher commissioned, Remo juxtaposed his practice with each of the early influences he’d experienced and their effect on the medium’s he used. 
 
 
To process the thoughts and to ensure that the audience applied them to their own daily practice groups were then created and each were asked to brainstorm their responses and interpretations. 
 
By sharing this creative process with Lilly Japan, Urhekar hopes to build a platform for future co-collaboration between client and agency. “My upbringing has been that you’re as good as your client. So, my endeavor here is to raise the bar with the client,” he said. “If they expand their perimeters, their horizons and challenge us more we will, of course, end up delivering a better product. If we go through this process with them, then the onus is consequently on us to challenge their briefs, challenge their thinking and at the same time, hopefully come back with new ideas that they have not experienced before. We are also a microcosm of the communications industry in Japan. It is not exactly creative or digitally savvy or as innovative as the rest of the world, but we think that we can lead that process. If we do this with clients like Lilly Japan, I think that we will be able to maintain a leadership position and make it even stronger.” 
 
 
Lilly Japan’s Madrigal added, “We often hear about story-telling and I consider myself to be a pretty good storyteller, but is the story-telling interactive, is it engaging, is it just my script? How can I make it other people’s script? How can we be not just collaborative but co-creative? I really like that idea and I’m thinking about how I can do that. I have a lot of fun with my people. I think my team’s probably naturally that way but more we can take it to the next level. As an individual you can play, but it really takes team to do the kind of innovation and creation that we’re talking about and that’s how we’re going to do something substantial.”
 
Where do you go from there and how do you conclude? After a great dinner where Great Guns, McCann Health Japan, LBB and Lilly Japan mixed and mingled, the next day saw everyone regroup for the final two speakers and an afternoon of brainstorming presentations.
 
Fashion photographer and director Klaus Thymann kicked off proceedings with his presentation on climate change. Amusingly, when the topic was raised, many looked dumbfounded and serious, but that soon changed when he walked them through his mesmerising work. Taking the power of an idea and a personal interest, Thymann and have team have challenged themselves to save the glaciers. ‘Project Pressure’  is a not-for-profit organisation which has set out to generate the world’s first crowd sourced Glacier Atlas consisting of thousands of images of the world’s retreating and vanishing glaciers. They are collaborating with many scientific organisations including World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and NASA. In 2011 Project Pressure was recognised as an official contributor to the Global Terrestrial Network for Glaciers. Their principal goal is to document the world’s changing glaciers, and to record first-hand the environmental impact of climate change. No such archive exists or is currently being generated. Suddenly climate change doesn’t seem so boring anymore. 
 
 
Rounding things up was Great Guns’ Global Head of Content and Interactive, Sheridan Thomas. For the next hour, he successfully managed to keep the audience entranced by showing project after project of outstanding work that combined TV, online, and interactive. Topics included a Volvo project that involved a blind artist, how the power of social media helped director Danny Trachtenberg forge a hugely successful career, and a discussion of the new opportunities created by technology. This self-confessed gaming and film geek walked us through the labyrinth of complexities and options that productions such as the recent interactive work for Subaru can create. He finished by highlighting the power of risk-taking, and the controversial recent music promo for Biting Elbow’s ‘Bad Motherfucker’ that Russian  vodka company NEFT funded.
 
 
After seven inspirational speakers there followed an afternoon of interpretation and implementation began. The Lilly Japan team separated into their brainstorming groups and worked through thought-provoking questions. With the help of the presenters they began to translate what they’d heard into their business practice.
 
 
It was crucial to the organisers at McCann Health Japan that attendees took away ideas and approaches that could make a real difference in their day-to-day business. “At a more pragmatic and practical level it’s all about engagement. Although we’re talking about it, I don’t think we’re practicing it as much as we could within the health care industry. Which is ironic because we are talking about real patients, real lives. Real life and death situations. So, it appears to be more engaging than what has been before,” said McCann’s Urhekar. 
 
 
Lilly Japan’s Madrigal noted, “There are several leaders that I respect and one of the things they do really well is challenge the premise of the situation. We think we can’t do certain things… but why, why can’t we? It hasn’t been done that way before? There’s no good model? I’m afraid of failing? How do I get really good at challenging the limits and the boundaries? How can I, as a leader, give my people some tools so that they can do that themselves?  Once they’ve challenged their boundaries, how can I help prevent them going back to the usual? What kind of mental maps or thinking habits, tips or tools can we create so that they can feel enabled to do this by themselves in their own small groups? It then becomes more than just an idea, it becomes a habit, a practice, a part of their DNA.”
 
Once inspiration had been drawn and implemented, the Lilly Japan teams then took to the stage to present their thoughts. The seven speakers gave feedback and support whilst also delivering objectives responses. 
 
 
Wrapping up the event there was a moment of fun where the floor was cleared and a large canvas was stretched. Each of the participants was asked to step forward and write three things down that they would implement and channel within their personal and working lives. Two extremely rousing days where much was heard and much was learnt - but also two successful days where agency and brand worked collaboratively, drawing inspiration from others and from one another to help forge a stronger and more rewarding relationship. Two day spent understanding and recognising each other to create a sturdier common ground and working platform. Two days exciting days filled with laughter and happiness. When Lilly Japan’s Barrett Madrigal said that he had “nothing to lose” by taking up McCann Health Japan’s offer, he was right. Big risks come with big rewards. 
 
 
 
 
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McCann Asia Pacific, Wed, 24 Apr 2013 04:12:47 GMT