NBCUniversal looks to woo health sector with new event
NBCUniversal is the latest addition to an ever-increasing roster of media companies that are fully embracing the health care industry for everything it’s worth, today announcing a first-of-its-kind panel event that will kickstart its future health-centric strategies and highlight how medical storytelling has changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
“As we were approaching one year of the pandemic, we were having conversations virtually every day about some form of health, whether that was COVID or a sick relative or wearing face masks,” says Mark Marshall, president of advertising sales and partnerships at NBCUniversal.
To acknowledge that holistic conversation and tie the medical field to its storytelling, NBCU next week is set to hold its first-ever “Health is Universal” summit, a series of panels and discussions about innovations and “human resilience” within the sector. “Everyone should tune in” to the once-in-a-lifetime media event that’s “up there with Live Aid,” Marshall jokes—even though it won’t be accessible to the general public.
The closed-door event will take place virtually on Thursday, Feb. 25.
On the agenda are presentations including “Examining Emerging Trends in the Health Industry” hosted by CNBC’s senior health and science reporter Meg Tirrell with leaders from UnitedHealth Group, Ro and Lilly, and a special seminar about the role and influence of caregivers by Marshall himself.
The summit will also feature a panel titled “Bringing the Health Experience to Content,” featuring some cast and crew members behind TV medical drama “New Amsterdam.” That presentation will be moderated by Yusuf Chuku, one of NBCU’s most recent hires who’ll fill the newly created role of executive VP, client strategy and insights in the company’s pursuit of boosting its One Platform storytelling.
“NBC, we’ve always told stories that are culturally relevant, and health care has always been part of it,” Marshall says, citing the network’s medical programming from classics like “ER” to “Chicago Med” and its contemporaries. Health care has a universal role in society, and when conveying that through entertainment mediums, “it’s different than kind of watching a legal drama” because “everyone resonates,” he adds.
NBCU’s recent embrace of the health sector echoes similar moves by other media and marketing companies—including Ad Age, which hosted its second annual Next: Health & Wellness conference last week—to dive into an industry that was once on most folks’ mental backburners but has since proven to be all too lucrative for those in the know.
Telehealth platforms, at-home prescription deliveries, DIY medical testing and more associated medical services have exploded over the past 12 months, permeating the U.S. marketplace and attracting consumer dollars like never before. And where dollars go, marketers follow.
Annual upticks in the medical industry’s media spend reflect this shift. Between 2017 and 2021, digital ad spending by health care and pharmaceutical brands will nearly double from $5.9 billion to a projected $11.3 billion by the end of this year, according to data from eMarketer, with 2020’s total spending alone up 14.2% from the previous pre-pandemic year.
And while Big Pharma marketing might not always be a bastion of cutting-edge creativity, it undeniably pays the bills.
For example, Omnicom Group’s global revenue plunged 24.7% in the second quarter of 2020, just as the pandemic was starting to take hold globally; every division took a hit, except its health care sales, which rose 3.2% in the same period, Ad Age reports. (It was the same story at Publicis Groupe and the Interpublic Group of Cos. last year, whose health businesses both posted increases despite wider losses in that same quarter.)
As for NBCU, the media giant has no plan to decrease its emphasis on the health care sector, even after the pandemic is eventually brought under control and life returns to normal.
“The positive sentiment toward the health care industry is at a 20-year high,” Marshall says, adding that re-evaluating the company’s attitudes toward some medical brands has “also been a little bit of a wake-up call for all of us.”