In 2020, there was no bigger story than health care. The category—normally considered one of the unsexier creative landcapes—took center stage during the pandemic as both consumers and marketers paid renewed attention. During COVID, the health care sector was a rare bright spot in agency earnings calls filled with bleak results, layoffs and client cutbacks.
“What the pandemic did was put pharma on the map,” says Dana Maiman, president-CEO of FCB Health. “When you review the sentiment, polls and things like that, you see that pharma is the industry that has achieved the greatest change from the beginning of the pandemic.”
Maiman should know: Under her leadership last year, FCB Health, a network of 23 agencies that work for 19 of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies, gained 100 new accounts, grew revenue 23.4% and added 800 staff, bringing the network to over 3,000 people.
Health care is now “the hot spot, but at the same time we still kind of feel like that red-headed stepchild a little bit,” says Maiman, a 20-year veteran of the agency, who jokes that “when I first started here, we were so small that people actually thought we were the infirmary for FCB.”
“I don’t want [the sector] to be seen as hot because financially we make sense. I want it to seem hot for other reasons, too,” she says. “The creativity, and the fact that we are doing so much good. The fact that we are talking folks on the general side [of advertising] and now reorienting and reinventing ourselves to have tremendous careers on the health care side.”
As for doing good, under Maiman’s stewardship this year FCB Health launched “The Trial for Clinical Equality” initiative, which seeks to achieve equality for Black people and Hispanics too often overlooked in clinical oncology trials. The effort ran in print and digital platforms aimed at medical professionals and built on its earlier platform “Blood Equality,” which sought equality for gays blocked from donating blood.
And while the pandemic has raised the profile of health care agencies—which have to fight for business every day given that accounts disappear when patents expire or assignments fall through when drugs fail to achieve regulatory approval—it’s a category that deserves everyday respect, says Maiman.
When headlines were filled with news of COVID treatments or preventative therapies, she says, “all of a sudden people started to remember why health care, why pharma, why this industry is so important—it saves lives,” she says. “And that has been an incredible feeling for me, because of course I’ve known all these things and that has fueled my passion all these years.”