2017 Executive Jury Spotlight Interview: Elizabeth Elfenbein

The Global Awards brings together the world’s most prominent award-winning industry creatives to join the Executive Jury.  These respected creatives join together in New York City to select the most innovative creative entries in the Health & Wellness and Pharma (Rx) sphere worthy of being awarded a Global Award and the title of the World’s Best Healthcare & Wellness.

This year, Elizabeth Elfenbein, Partner, Chief Creative Officer, The Bloc, USA will Co-chair the Global Awards and will Chair the 2017 Health& Wellness Executive jury.  Throughout her 25 years in advertising, Elizabeth has created and directed buzzed-about, award-winning ideas across multiple sectors. consistently breaking the boundaries of traditional health-and-wellness advertising.  She has created unforgettable, industry-first social platforms and experiences, and taken her gift for disruption to a new level over the last decade as a creative leader at The Bloc.

Elizabeth applies her insights and vision to several industry leading platforms. As Editor in Chief of HealthWellNext, an industry-first publication, Elizabeth offers a refreshing, provocative point of view on the challenges and opportunities facing the health and wellness industry and how it communicates with customers. She is a sought-after thought leader, writing about innovation in the health-and-wellness sphere for Advertising Health, Clios.com, DTC Perspectives, MediaPost, Medicine Avenue, PharmaVOICE, and PM360 and about happiness for Coca-Cola Journey (www.coca-colacompany.com).

Globals spent a few minutes with Elizabeth and asked her to share her thoughts on Chairing this year’s Health & Wellness Executive Jury, the challenges of working within the industry, how culture and consumer experience play into the creative mix, how creative visual trends are changing the playing field, what inspires her about the industry and much more.

“I’m honored to be Chairing (the Chair Woman of) the 2017 Health and Wellness Jury. We’ve finally split the juries. And it’s meaningful. Because health and wellness and Pharma don’t play by the same rules. It’s time to stop apologizing for their differences and start celebrating and recognizing the very best work for each.”  Elizabeth Elfenbein

Does judging the year’s creative work within your industry influence your creative process? 

Elizabeth: As a creative leader, it’s important to see the award-winning trends. It doesn’t really influence our creative process. It can, however, influence and inspire our creative output.

What do you bring back to the agency team following judging?

Elizabeth: Understanding what great looks like this year. Also, how to tell what are the most impactful awards submission stories, as the films change stylistically from year to year. It’s always helpful to know what’s been done so you don’t create a similar idea.

What are the challenges and benefits to judging work from around the globe?

Elizabeth:  I see the experience as mostly beneficial. A great idea is a great idea. The award-winning global ideas tend to be simple and pure in nature, as well as stunning in execution. They don’t rely on a channel or a kind of technology to make them smart or clever. They’re about the singularity of the idea and how it can fill an unmet need. If there’s a challenge, it’s one of comparison, as some countries have fewer restrictions than those imposed in the US—and that makes the playing field a bit uneven. However, that should be a challenge that our industry solves by finding ways to create for great within this more defined box.

In your opinion, what are the challenges of working within your region’s healthcare and Pharma (Rx) advertising?

Elizabeth: This seems like an obvious question and answer. There are restrictions, plus there’s fear from our clients—not a good combination. Ideas are researched and revised to death, then we cobble together what’s left and they’re usually not worthy of an awards submission. When clients are reviewing ideas by committee, they aren’t willing to take chances, which leads to bland and consensus-driven ideas.
We need maverick clients who are brave, who know what great looks like, and who want to create experiences that are paradigms that can shift markets.

What will be the most prominent changes in healthcare and wellness advertising in the next few years?

Elizabeth: With the democratization of medicine, everyone will be treated like a consumer. This means ideas will be simpler, more intuitive, and focused on the user experience with AI working behind the scenes to drive a level of personalization at the point of need that we’ve never seen before. More and more branded ideas will be activated via experiential events and of course, pulled through Omni-channels, with a focus on mobile. And, lastly, I believe that with the direction that healthcare is going, there will be a push for even more purpose-driven marketing.

What are the creative obstacles when creating Pharma (Rx) campaigns?

Elizabeth:  I think we all know the answer—regulations. That said, there’s an even bigger challenge, and that’s our clients. They function in large groups, so more often than not you have reviewed by committee with the focus on building consensus. Ideas are researched and adapted according to research. What might go into research as a great idea might not come out of research as it went in. Today’s healthcare environment is not a brave one; it’s one that goes with what’s been successful in the past, which is not a recipe for award-winning ideas. To win awards, ideas need to break norms and shift paradigms.

With the influx of wellness campaigns vs adverts for pharmaceuticals, how does Pharma compete with its highly regulated guidelines? 

Elizabeth: Let’s not pretend that they can compete because they can’t; they’re apples and oranges. We need to change our expectations and understand that what may look great in Pharma is different than what looks great in health and wellness. And stop being so apologetic about it.

How do culture and consumer experience play into the overall creative mix? 

Elizabeth: It’s critical that we have a deep understanding of cultural trends and their influence on consumer behavior. This knowledge inspires ideas that are insightful, culturally relevant, and engage our users, wherever they are. It’s also much easier to persuade consumers to engage with something that they already use vs taking the time to assimilate to something new.

What creative visual trends are you seeing in the healthcare and wellness space and how are they changing the playing field?

Elizabeth: We’ve been talking a lot about the need to have empathy, to be authentic because it helps us understand our customers and their challenges. The healthcare industry has finally caught on. Visual trends are focusing more on human truths in a form of realism—sometimes even hyper-realism—and they’re also getting simpler and more intuitive. There seems to be a greater understanding that consumers need to feel something viscerally and emotionally when they happen upon your brand.

In your opinion, which brands have utilized technology in a unique way to attract the digital consumer and do breakthrough creative?

Elizabeth: “Meet Graham,” a ‘human’ designed to survive a road crash, was a road safety initiative created in Australia. Graham was an interactive sculpture designed by a trauma surgeon, an engineer, and an artist using decades of road safety data (evolution underpinned by evidence) to help them depict what a human would need to look like today in order to survive a crash. This initiative used technology and data brilliantly to create a totally surprising experience. And while they did leverage Google’s Tango to have a VR component to see deep inside Graham, it augmented the sculpture to give greater context to the idea, but it wasn’t the main idea.
Another ingenious use of technology was Italia Longeva’s “Chat Yourself,” which used a chatbot in a unique way. Their goal was to help Alzheimer’s patients hold onto what they want to remember by conversing with a chatbot. It took the notion of a chatbot and turned it on its head.
“Seem,” from Recruit Lifestyle Co., is a self-check app that allows men to test their sperm quality. The original technology analyzes and measures sperm concentrations to detect any abnormalities on the male side. This both destigmatizes infertility and allows couples to move more quickly to find alternatives to conceive. It was simple and intuitive and filled an unmet need in Japan.

What is your favorite healthcare and wellness advertising campaign that you’ve seen this year and why?

Elizabeth: So far, the “Immunity Charm” for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Health is rising to the top. The idea is so intuitive and simple, yet it had the power to activate a community in a really compelling way. It mashed culture with tradition and found a novel and practical way to tell each baby’s immunization story.

What inspires you about the industry and what do you wish you could change?

Elizabeth: What inspires me is knowing that I can make a meaningful difference in healthcare on a personal level and on a grand scale. This is a sector where if we do it right, our impact can be truly felt, and that feels really good. As for change, I wish I could make all clients recognize the advantage of being brave. If we collectively focused on doing what’s right for the customer, great things would happen and the brand would be the beneficiary.

What philosophy do you live by and what creative icon inspires you personally?

Elizabeth: Be fearless. Always walk in the shoes of your customer to best understand their challenges.


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