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Dr Ryan Wallman on healthcare ads, regulation and the impact of Covid-19

The Drum 19 Jun 2020 07:00
Dr Ryan Wallman on healthcare ads, regulation and the impact of Covid-19

As long-time followers of Ryan (@Dr_Draper) Wallman on Twitter will contest he is one of the wittiest and most insightful advertising professionals out there.

In his role of creative director and head of copy for Wellmark, the doctor-turned-creative has a unique take on what works in the health sector when it comes to communications, but as his recently released book Delusions of Brandeur demonstrates, he has an engaging understanding on the world, and problems, of marketing.

Wallman spoke to The Drum’s executive editor Stephen Lepitak over a cuppa as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival to discuss just how marketing and health will move forward as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic while offering a few views on marketing in general too.

Here are some of the highlights from the conversation, which can be seen in full here.

“There are lots of them, I couldn’t count them all… firstly the obsession with new technology and with shiny new things. We see a lot of this in our industry when the next thing comes along, it was VR or AR and now it‘s TikTok.

On pharma advertising...

“[This is partly due to it being] such a highly regulated industry that [brands] can't get away with a hell of a lot. There are certain phrases and styles of advertising they can get away with. So that tends to be a bit of an issue, because of that [brands] will go through rounds of medical and regulatory changes which means that everything starts to look a little bit the same.

“Part of that is because it was [categorised] in the ‘wellness‘ section which was [distinct] from pharmaceutical advertising, so it wasn‘t quite as subject to the same regulatory constraints that pharmaceutical advertising needs. But nonetheless it elevated healthcare advertising to a different level.

“[The regulations are] very restrictive in some ways. Particularly for people who have worked on the consumer side who come into healthcare advertising or who have some kind of contact with healthcare advertising, they tend to go: ‘Whoa, what a fuck? This is ridiculous.’ I can‘t say anything.’

On the impact Covid-19 has had on ads...

“I guess what I‘ve seen is… a lot of generalization of communications, everything‘s ‘unprecedented’. Everything is ‘these uncertain times’ where ‘we’re in this together’, blah, blah, blah.

On what’s next for health companies?

“In some ways, in the healthcare space it has accelerated innovation because it’s not a traditionally innovative or progressive industry, and to give you an example, that quite a lot of them still use faxes, and I’m not joking here. We still do a lot of direct mail pieces that have fax-back order forms and stuff, which is I’m not saying anything against, but it’s generally technologically negative I think it’s fair to say.

Wallman spoke with The Drum’s executive editor Stephen Lepitak as part of The Drum’s Can-Do Festival, an online event celebrating the positive energy, innovation and creative thinking that can make the marketing community such a powerful force for good. You can watch the interview in full here.

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WallmanStephen LepitakWellmarkBrandeur
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