JD Cassidy headlines trio of senior-level Syneos hires

As Tim Pantello enters the second half of his inaugural year as president, communications of Syneos Health Communications, he’s rounding out his senior team.

The new joiners include former Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness president JD Cassidy, whose dual remit has him overseeing North American advertising and the agency GSW NY, and industry veterans Maria Tender and Ian Dorrian, tapped to lead strategy and EU communications, respectively. All three report into Pantello, who joined Syneos in January and has global responsibility for advertising, PR and medical communications.

Cassidy sees the hirings as “a clear signal” of prioritization of the communications group. “We’re all excited to see that kind of investment and commitment from Syneos Health and the brands that we all represent,” he said.

Syneos’ portfolio of healthcare shops includes some of the most well-known in the sector, from GSW and Navicor on the advertising side to PR firms Chandler Chicco Agency, Biosector 2 and Chamberlain Healthcare Communications.

GSW, for one, has a footprint in Columbus, Ohio, where it was founded, and in Philly, Toronto, Santa Monica and New York. Its Manhattan team represents legacy shops from the old inVentiv Health network, like Palio and Blue Diesel.

“There’s a lot of great DNA within the New York office,” said Cassidy. “GSW is an iconic brand that has been relevant in healthcare advertising and communications for decades. There’s space for that agency and brand to continue to deliver great work and to continue to evolve to match the way the marketplace is going.”

COVID-19 has prompted the agency to evolve its offering, Cassidy added. “One of my goals is to continue to produce great creative work, appreciating brand experiences and how they’ve changed because of the COVID world we live in.”

Cassidy’s tenure with the Saatchi brand spanned more than seven years, during which he integrated Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness, which had been purely consumer-focused, with two of Publicis’ professionally oriented shops, Saatchi & Saatchi Health and Medicus. Prior to that, he held a global client lead position with Publicis Health and helmed the indie shop DiD. Cassidy started his agency career with Medical Broadcasting Corp., which was eventually bought by Publicis and integrated with Digitas Health.

Tender, Syneos’ new strategy lead, hails from Omnicom’s DDB, where she built the healthcare strategy group and led planning. Dorrian, the EU comms head, has worked for Omnicom shops and a variety of other healthcare agencies.
MM&M estimates that Syneos Health Communications generated revenue of $255 million in 2019, a 4% increase over 2018’s take of $245 million.

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Three approaches to engaging podcast enthusiasts

Podcasts have surged in popularity over the last few years, expanding their focus from pure entertainment into important areas, including healthcare.

It is no coincidence that podcasts are becoming a more prominent communication tool within patient and caregiver communities given the unique qualities of the channel. As a result, the medium is rightfully gaining more attention from healthcare marketers, but where and how do we begin and how do we engage?

Most organizations’ first thought with podcasting as a media channel is, “How can we start our own podcast?” While operating a podcast can be immensely valuable over time, it’s a long-term investment. On the other hand, advertising within existing popular, or highly targeted podcasts, can deliver value from the medium quickly.

While navigating podcasts is not yet as simple as executing a digital programmatic buy or as structured as radio, the market has coalesced around three primary structures, each with their own distinct considerations:

  1. Emerging Programmatic: Over the last two years, the foundation for a real programmatic podcast market has taken shape. What started with a few niche providers is now advancing with larger players like Spotify and iHeartMedia making ad spots available across their networks. This works much like any other digital programmatic buy with pre-recorded audio spots that air within several programs based on desired targeting parameters.

Even with the ability to layer in third-party targeting data, this approach requires a message with broader audience appeal as it is harder to select individual shows. Also, it is important to note that scale is often achieved by running across both podcasts as well as digital radio.

  1. Brokered Placements: Many popular podcasts work with a handful of brokers who coordinate between producers, agents, and industry to setup podcast advertising agreements. This is typically the path followed to place an original host-read message on air. Within the healthcare space, this approach can work well for partnering with more mainstream or broader health-topic shows.

With an intermediary involved, brokered placements can be relatively expensive and slower to execute. Beyond that, the more niche the show topic the trickier it is, given long-tail creators are less likely to have an existing broker relationship.

  1. Individual Agreements: There’s nothing stopping any advertiser from working out an advertising agreement with virtually any podcast on an individual basis. This is a critical pathway for many of our partners who serve cancer and rare disease communities, as it’s the best way to partner with relevant and popular endemic podcasts.

This approach requires the longest lead time by far, but individual agreements offer the most customization and granular targeting for those willing to invest the time. Perhaps more importantly, partnering with individual podcast producers builds relationships, which may create programming opportunities much more valuable than the advertising itself.

Each approach offers benefits and drawbacks, specifically around speed and cost. Ultimately, as with any channel, the most appropriate path or combination of tactics will depend on the audience size and composition as well as message considerations.

Alex Lindroth is Media Manager at Guidemark Health and can be reached at alindroth@guidemarkhealth.com

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Inside the COVID-era debut of People en Español Salud

It takes a supreme degree of confidence to launch a print product into any environment, much less a reconfigured one like point of care, amid a global pandemic. Yet with the recent debut of People en Español Salud, Targeted Media Health (TMH), print giant Meredith’s point-of-care arm, has taken just such a leap.

The publication joins People Health, Time Health and Health Reports in TMH’s point-of-care stable. Some 120 copies of each condition-specific, single-sponsor issue will be delivered to 2,000 physician’s offices over the course of every three-month period.

John Kenyon, VP, managing director of Targeted Media Health and publisher of the four titles, doesn’t understate the challenges that come with debuting a print-first product at a precarious time for many medical practices. “The overall uncertainty hasn’t really cleared up at all,” he said. “Long-term, who knows what the ‘new normal’ will be. It’s possible we’re living in it now.”

Still, Kenyon believes there’s a keen need among Hispanic audiences for better information on a range of health conditions, not to mention an equal desire among marketers and educators to better serve them. He rattles off a host of statistics about the title’s potential readers: They’re 10% more likely to ask a physician for a specific drug in an advertisement versus the general market and around 20% more likely to discuss health and wellness with others in a family setting.

Kenyon adds that Hispanics are disproportionately affected by a range of health problems, including diabetes, obesity, lung cancer and asthma. Diabetes in particular presents a huge problem: Hispanics are 32% more likely to suffer from it than the general population.

“There needs to be cultural education around lifestyle decisions that possibly relate to manifesting some of these conditions,” Kenyon said.

To that end, the content of People en Español Salud hews closely to the formula of People Health: health and wellness information conveyed through the prism of celebrity. The first issue’s cover star is television journalist and author Myrka Dellanos, who details how her life has been affected by diabetes. Other featured celebrities in the issue, devoted to diabetes, include actors Gina Rodriguez and Christian Tappan.

Kenyon says that the People en Español Salud content mix – education and inspiration, with light helpings of fashion and recipes/nutrition – should feel familiar to readers. “People find tremendous comfort in hearing how extraordinary people have ordinary things that happen to them, just like regular people do,” he explained. “Everything is [communicated] in comforting fashion. That’s important, because you’re giving this to people in physicians’ offices, where there can be anxiety.”

As for those offices, TMH has digitized its publications to account for COVID-era concerns about hygiene and viral transmission. “We have a professionally designed QR code which was designed for 60-year-olds to be able to use it. We worked the words four or five times,” Kenyon noted.

At the same time, he believes that print remains a preferred point-of-care option, coronavirus or no. “Listen, [Meredith is] probably one of the U.S. Postal Service’s biggest customers. The number of copies coming back to us – that’s the best auditing you can have, right?” he said. “We really haven’t seen that.”

Kenyon estimates that “10 or 15” offices canceled their subscriptions to THM publications but that “at least 80” called to request additional copies – which, he added, is “kind of bizarre.” Still, he concedes that a digital option is all but necessary in this climate.

“You look at where we are today as a country – we had to address it. There’s no option not to do this,” he said. “So we’re giving doctors and patients the choice. If they don’t want to put the magazines out, we’ll do digital copies. We can do exam rooms. We can do mobile fencing and hit peoples’ phones in the parking lot and building.”

Kenyon expects that future issues of People en Español Salud will revolve around conditions like asthma and psoriasis. While the first issue counted a pharma brand as its sole advertiser, Kenyon hopes subsequent ones will push into the realms of OTC and CPG.

“A P&G brand – what they’re going to say at point of care is extremely different from what they’re going to say in an ad in a magazine or on TV,” he said. “With this [channel] and this audience, there’s so much that they can do with us.”

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Novo Nordisk adapts Rybelsus launch to the coronavirus era

Even during a pandemic, new drugs are still hitting the market. One new medicine, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes treatment Rybelsus, launched this year as the coronavirus fundamentally altered doctors’ and patients’ lives.

The treatment was approved in late 2019 after gaining accelerated approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The launch was scheduled for early 2020, right as the coronavirus began to ramp up around the world.

Because patients with diabetes are at a higher risk from COVID-19, Novo Nordisk also incorporated education about COVID-19 and diabetes into its launch strategy.

“We introduced the drug at the beginning of the year, no doubt the coronavirus situation threw a curveball to how we were going to approach it,” said Ed Cinca, VP of the GLP-1 portfolio at Novo Nordisk. “We continued to accelerate this launch considering many patients would benefit particularly because of coronavirus. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes are suffering the most when it comes to complications associated with COVID-19. It doubled down on our purpose with the introduction of Rybelsus. We needed to ensure that physicians were taking action with a medicine that was powerful enough to support them and easy enough to do so through innovations in telemedicine.”

To adapt to the loss of in-person meetings, Novo Nordisk began holding virtual events for physicians. One such event was its speaker series, typically a two-day live event. Cinca said the transition was fairly smooth to virtual.

The virtual event also saw higher attendance as physicians no longer needed to leave the office and travel to the venue to join in, Cinca said.

As routine doctor visits fell in March and April, Novo Nordisk introduced a virtual copay program and patient education effort for Rybelsus that allowed patients to sign up via text. The support program gave patients virtual access to a certified diabetes educator, Cinca said, allowing them to ask questions about Rybelsus, diabetes or COVID-19 if their usual doctor wasn’t available.

The company also altered the last few seconds of its direct-to-consumer TV ad, adding information about receiving a three-month supply, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A lot of patients were furloughed or losing jobs, creating economic concern around affording their medicines,” Cinca said. “As a portfolio, we brought forward more education about the unfortunate reality that many of these patients are suffering at disproportionate numbers relative to the general population. We want to make sure physicians are aware that patients who are uncontrolled in diabetes are more susceptible to complications from COVID-19 and make educational resources available to them.”

At the height of the pandemic in the U.S., the Rybelsus team also made sure to align their communications with the customer’s needs.

A patient or doctor in New York didn’t have the same needs as one in New Mexico in April, Cinca said. The company was careful not to overwhelm its patients or HCPs during an uncertain time.

“For us, it has been a recognition of being on the customer’s agenda and better understanding where your customer is coming from,” he said. “We make sure our customers are getting all the information and products they need. But the other side is the recognition that this is not what they may need right now and that every area of the country is being impacted differently. We were checking in, making sure patients have access to the product, but it was not the time for us to start introducing new clinical data or to put a foot forward into the sales realm.”

Internally, Cinca said the digital teams took the rapid shift to virtual in stride. To his teams, Cinca emphasized the need for clarity and purpose in every decision or communication.

“I coach youth sports and one of the things you’ll hear me yelling on the sidelines is, ‘Let’s go!’” Cinca said. “We’ve incorporated that into everything we’re doing, even email sign-offs. ‘Let’s go!’ has become a rallying cry inside our organization, with people trying to outdo each other with exclamation points at the end of it. It’s no simple feat to turn those things around and do so in a way that has been simple. Everybody is running toward it with everything we have.”

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Coronavirus Briefing: Schools plan for the fall, beachgoer shaming, and a patient-confidence rebound

It was another week of coronavirus trend lines zigging where we wanted them to zag, and it happened to coincide with – and largely gut – one of the year’s hallowed long weekends in the U.S. We chose to be angrier about this turn of circumstance than we did the neglect and indifference that birthed it in the first place. At least our stagnation on mitigation is somewhat counterbalanced by optimism on the vaccine and therapeutic fronts. Man, do we need that vaccine if only for the hope it can restore.

This week’s Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing is 1,261 words and will take you seven minutes to read.


The schools

It’s almost cliché at this point: We can’t truly resuscitate the economy until we find a way to send our children back to school safely and lessen childcare demands on working parents. But sending them back to school safely demands we stop the virus in its tracks, a task for which we may or may not lack the necessary will. September feels a long way away.

  • The Kaiser Family Foundation offers a comprehensive (and oft-updated) look at the nation’s emergence from and possible return to lockdown, with an emphasis on state data and policy considerations.
  • Columbia University Teachers College professor Sarah Cohodes argues in The Atlantic that “A Better Fall Is Possible” if opening schools becomes the top priority for those states in a position to do so safely.

The Takeaway

My five-year-old interrupted me four times in the minute it took to write this sentence, which ordinarily would’ve been a three-second endeavor. Help. Let’s get this one right.


Daily Life In New York City Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
Source: Getty

The great outdoors/not-great indoors

It’s summertime and we all want to be outside – at least until the stronger-than-usual hurricane season some experts are predicting sends us scrambling for cover. The good news is we can avail ourselves of the season’s warm air and sunlight, not to mention the frosty beverages and charred meat stuffs that often go hand in hand with them, so long as we wear masks and maintain respectful distances. In conclusion, let’s wear masks and maintain respectful distances.

  • Visits to U.K. parks and green spaces are up 300%, Matthew Appleby notes in Horticulture Week.
  • When Civic Science asked U.S. adults which of a handful of options would make them most likely to resume non-grocery retail experiences, 41% said mask requirements, 14% said confirmed/visible disinfecting practices and another 14% said limitations on the number of patrons allowed in the store at once. Twenty percent responded none of the above.

The Takeaway

Outside activities conducted safely and responsibly are good. Basement keggers are not – not now, anyway. Please wear a mask and kindly decline all basement kegger invitations.


linkedin marketing covid19

The communicators

There continue to be many lemonade-out-of-lemons success stories in and around the worlds of communication and marketing. Here’s to doing whatever we can to amplifying those stories, because any number of the approaches translate easily across verticals.

  • Damon Jones, who assumed the lead communications role at Procter & Gamble at the start of the coronavirus crisis, topped PRWeek’s annual Power List. He becomes the first Black executive to hold that distinction.
  • MM&M debuts an excerpt from an upcoming feature on health media during the coronavirus era. In it, Gather’s Dr. Judith Simmons weighs in on social-media follows and coverage blind spots. MM&M has also unveiled #CreateHealthEquity, an initiative advocating for more equal and thus better healthcare outcomes amid COVID-19.

The Takeaway

Those looking for marketing and communication role models can find at least 10 of them in the stories above. Follow these leaders.


Woman carrying brown boxes from house
Source: Getty

The dislocation

An underrated heartbreak of the COVID-19 crisis is the way it has splintered any number of functioning units – families, communities, workplaces – in a manner that doesn’t allow for easy reassembly. It’s going to take longer to fully assess the damage and pick up the pieces than it will to engineer a vaccine.

  • The test-administration and -processing situation isn’t much better in the world of nursing homes, McKnight’s Long-Term Care News notes.

The Takeaway

It’s hard to wrap your head around all the loss and dislocation we’ve suffered during the last four months. As somebody who does so every week for this briefing, I recommend against even trying. Here’s to the day when we’re whole again.


The rest

  • A Healthgrades study found patient confidence has reached its highest level since March. Nearly 70% of respondents said they would feel comfortable starting a new treatment within the next two months, while 60% said they would feel comfortable visiting their primary care physician.

Thanks again for reading. We’ll be back with the next Haymarket Media Coronavirus Briefing on Wednesday, July 15. Here’s hoping the sun is shining wherever you happen to be.

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Arthur Sadoun warns of ‘very tough days’ ahead as Publicis fights to return to growth

Arthur Sadoun, chief executive and chairman of Publicis Groupe, has warned that there are still tough days ahead and the “fight is only starting” as the world begins to emerge from lockdown.

In his final Sunday video message yesterday (5 July) to all Publicis employees, he thanked everyone for making decisions that protect the business, such as recruiting from within.

Sadoun said: “Since day one, you have made the right decisions to protect our agencies by not going outside of the group for recruitment, freelancers and third-party suppliers. In a matter of weeks, you created resource allocation platforms to save as many jobs as possible against the revenue decline we have seen in many agencies.”

He also praised staff for their response in coming up with measures against racism after the Black Lives Matter protests. He added: “In the last month following the terrible events taking place in the US, you have come together in many countries to accelerate our diversity and inclusion agenda, and implement strong measures against racism and inequality.”

However, Sadoun warned that this is not the end of the fight against coronavirus, explaining that the economic situation is not set to improve any time soon and clients will continue to increase pressure on agencies.

He continued: “Let’s be clear, the fight is only starting. Very tough days are still ahead. We will have to live with the virus. The economic context won’t get better soon. And the client pressure will continue to increase. But we should be confident that we have the organisation, the products and a team that is stronger than ever to face these challenges.

“So this is my last Sunday film, as next weekend I will be back on the road to meet some of you and see some clients with the necessary social distance. From now on, I’ll be spending most of my time with many of you on clients and new business. Returning to growth must the number-one priority for all of us.”

Sadoun has been delivering a video message to staff every Sunday since March, when many countries began their coronavirus lockdowns.
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Excerpt: Health media in the COVID-19 era

For a feature set to be published in the July/August issue of MM&M, we reached out to leaders from a broad range of media-adjacent organizations – WebMD, Health magazine, Outcome Health, Mesmerize, Publicis Health Media, CMI/Compas, Pascale Communications and WEGO Health, among others – and asked them a range of questions about the broader media coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. In this preview, we share responses from Dr. Judith Simmons, managing director of healthcare at Gather, founder of Lion Head Advisors and one of the health-media world’s most thoughtful voices.

Who have been your COVID-19 must-follows on social media?

Disclaimer: I’m a physician, so my picks might be a bit more clinical than most. Although I’m not currently active in clinical practice, I’ve been a “doctor on call” since March for my family, friends, clients and colleagues. I’ve been educating and advising about the virus SARS COV-2 and the disease it causes.

My aim in using social media has been to gather as much information as I could on the science, the epidemiology, the clinical aspects and the impact on the healthcare system. As a result, my must-follows are skewed in that direction – as well as towards New York, where I live and work.

There’s been so much terrific writing. Good curation has been key, and I have relied on trusted sites to guide me to important original sources. COVID updates from The New York Times, Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, STAT, Nature Briefing, Science, The COVID Tracking Project, The New England Journal of Medicine, Kaiser Health News and the CDC have kept up with the rapid pace of important information.

I rely on my social media feeds for breaking news and up-to-the minute information from leaders like Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who took decisive actions and kept the people of New York State exceptionally well informed. Current and former officials like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Tom Frieden and Andy Slavitt are experienced and valued voices.

Who have been the most authoritative and effective COVID-19 writers and voices in traditional media?

The New York Times has stood out in providing local, national and global views, reporting on the science and publishing beautiful data visualizations that have helped make information clear for readers. The NYT has also done a great job at communicating the human stories nationally and internationally, especially in the early months of the pandemic. Gothamist, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and The Atlantic have consistently delivered quality in-depth articles.

Is there a piece of reporting or a feature story or even a social-media thread published between mid-March and now that sticks with you as especially smart, funny, touching or otherwise prescient?

Hearing from a wide range of people on the front lines has been so important from the beginning. Not only the voices and stories of essential workers in healthcare, education, groceries, restaurants and pastoral and funeral care, but also the voices and stories of those managing lockdown in remarkably creative and adaptive ways.

Dr. Craig Smith, chair of the Department of Surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, started writing a series of daily letters that spanned a 50,000-foot overview to the ground level of his hospital. He shared important information with perspective, warmth, context and occasionally poetry. Each letter was a realistic and human assessment of the moment and collectively they have become a narrative of the pandemic.

What, if anything, has been missing or shortchanged in COVID-related coverage during the last few months?

The unprecedented breadth of achievements in six months related to this virus and pandemic. It is the novel coronavirus, SARS-COV-2. COVID-19 is a totally new disease and when I look back on what has been accomplished in basic science, therapeutics, clinical management, vaccine development, transmission and adjustments in how people live and work – in just months – it’s amazing.

It matters because we need to use the growing bank of facts and science that we have learned to guide us as we move ahead. We know a lot more now. The science has moved rapidly and there has been terrific collaboration at times. But there have also been serious missteps along the way, and we need to learn from all of it. It is by nature a nuanced conversation but one that is essential for the media to share with the public. Politics may impact what we do and how we act, but it has no impact on how the virus spreads, replicates and causes disease.

As the country continues to reopen – and, in some cases, re-close – what are the three things that you’d most like to see in health-media coverage?

In light of the current surge, somehow we haven’t communicated a clear understanding of how the virus is transmitted, how pandemics grow and how one person’s actions may affect others. Mask wearing has become politicized, rather than normalized, and that must change.

Despite all the public service announcements, we’re still not getting the message across. We need to work on that. We know so much more than we did even three months ago. We’ve got to keep refreshing people’s knowledge and presenting essential information in all ways across all platforms.

Information can both allay people’s fears and give them guidance on how to think about the future while keeping the pandemic at bay. This virus is not going away and we will have to adapt to it. We have to adjust how we interact, how we work, how we teach, how we play, how we celebrate and how we vote. More coverage of innovations and solutions needs to be shared, along with stories that capture COVID challenges economically, socially and emotionally.

The media should embrace the opportunity to address long-standing issues – health disparities based on race, income and neighborhood, and insufficient services for behavioral health – that have long been under-reported. The glaring implications of not having universal access or a truly comprehensive healthcare system has to be covered. So should the need to support our public health organizations at the local, state, federal and international levels.

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Pharma brands tweak media mix to align with their stance on racism

Numerous drug makers publicly expressed solidarity with Black Americans in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Now, they’re tweaking their media mix to ensure that environments where their ads appear align with those stances.

Thirty-nine biopharma brands paused Facebook and Instagram ad campaigns on either Friday Juneteenth or the ensuing weekend, per data compiled by ad-tech firm AdComplyRx. And some are mulling whether to join a July ad boycott against the social network that was recently called for by civil-rights groups in protest of what the groups say is Facebook’s lack of progress policing hate speech and misinformation.

The biggest of the Juneteenth weekend boycotters, Novartis saw more than 10 of its brands interrupt digital ad runs.

“We did pause paid campaigns on Facebook for Juneteenth out of respect for the [#BlackLivesMatter] movement as well as respect for the history of the day,” a Novartis spokesperson explained. In regards to the upcoming Facebook boycott, she added, “we are currently evaluating and analyzing the situation.”

Most striking about the Juneteenth boycotters was that, for the most part, small pharma was not among them – Genentech and Amgen ranked second and third, respectively, on the list of companies with the most brands to pause ads on the social networks, according to a report released on Thursday by AdComplyRx. Brands that did so reflected a wide breadth of therapeutic categories, from oncology, neurology and dermatology to cardiology and respiratory.

Also remarkable is the speed with which the Juneteenth boycott came together – less than a week after the #StopHateForProfit campaign, backed by a coalition including the NAACP and the ADL, began running a full-page ad in the LA Times calling for July’s full-month boycott.

Their media moves proved temporary. All 39 brands returned to the social networks the following Monday, June 22, said Ian Orekondy, CEO of AdComplyRx, which tracks about 300 pharma brands on social media. He added that, in the case of the upcoming July boycott, a corporate-level stance may be more likely than a brand-level one.

“We’ve seen statements from pharma company CEOs in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement,” Orekondy said. “Now that the Facebook boycott is upon us, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them weigh in as well.”

Following the spate of killings of Black people by law-enforcement officers, CEOs from several drug makers spoke out publicly decrying police brutality and systemic racism. Many added statements to their websites and social channels, and made sizable donations to non-profits. The industry itself has seen its overall reputation improve markedly in the eyes of the general public during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This wouldn’t be the first time pharma companies have fled a social network due to brand safety. GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson were among the U.S. companies reported to have pulled their YouTube advertising in 2017 following an investigation by the Times of London into the propensity of ads to run alongside extremist content on that social network.

A source from the agency Good Apple said the upcoming boycott is expected to gain more traction than the one against YouTube, with a number of large advertisers in the pharma space either participating or addressing the movement. The agency is helping clients plan for that scenario, the source added, by advising them on diversifying their media mix and suggesting alternative platform partners to Facebook.

Is industry’s newfound social activism a sign it’s ready to shed its traditionally conservative reputation? Orekondy said he’s hesitant to label this such a tipping point.

“Given the category, we’re not hearing directly from brands,” he said. “They’re taking a very conservative stance and don’t want to be on the wrong side of any public criticism for brands that did not stand in solidarity with the movement.”

In other words, the Juneteenth pause may not necessarily be indicative of a trend toward pharma brand activism as much as a signal of an increasing tendency for marketers to pay attention to brand safety in the current environment.

Don’t look for big pharma to start acting like outdoor apparel firm The North Face, which was the first of a slew of outdoor firms pledging to suspend paid advertising on Facebook-owned properties indefinitely. “We’re not seeing that from pharma just yet,” said Orekondy. “The short-term nature of the current pause is somewhat of a clue as to how brands may behave in July. They may sit out in July and resume in August.”

Nor, for that matter, are life-science CEOs expected to take a cue from the chief executive of Ben & Jerry’s, who told the Wall Street Journal that the ice cream brand is considering joining the July boycott while pushing its media partners to take further action on systemic racism.

“We believe that corporate statements and corporate giving is not enough,” said Jabari Paul, who heads the social justice team at Ben & Jerry’s, during a session at this week’s Cannes Lions Live virtual event. “We work to leverage the full arsenal of our business tools, from our marketing capabilities to our shops to our in-house talent, who can curate content for storytelling, to adding capacity to our NGO partners and helping build their campaigns, especially when it seems they’re at watershed moments and can win with a little added support.”

The question remains whether the monthlong Facebook boycott will attract widespread support within pharma. So far, companies haven’t jumped in with both feet.

A spokesperson for Genentech, the drug maker which saw the second-highest number of brands go silent last weekend, said the big biotech’s social-media policy calls for pausing content and promotion across its corporate channels during times of a “high-profile tragedy, national emergency and whenever space is needed in the social media landscape for critical news and important conversations.”

Is this such a time? “We are reviewing information on the July ad boycott,” the spokesperson said.

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Publicis reveals diversity data and outlines 7 actions to improve equality

Publicis Group has vowed to take seven actions toward a more inclusive workplace.

CEO Arthur Sadoun outlined the pledge in an internal memo on Wednesday which reveals the holding company’s diversity numbers.

The data, which includes close to 21,000 employees who self-reported their ethnicity, shows that 5.4 percent of its workforce in the U.S. is black. This includes eight percent in junior levels, 4.6 percent in mid-level positions and 1.9 percent at the senior leadership level.

Sadoun said: “What has become clear is that too many initiatives and disparate efforts without focus does not drive the necessary impact to truly change things. That is why today we deliberately want to take fewer but stronger actions with on-going measurement and accountability.

“Our actions need to drive diversity and inclusion in all its forms, across all minorities and identities. We must also acknowledge the urgency and the intensity that affect the black community in the US. So, if our strategy needs to focus on our priorities, we will never lose sight of the fact that Publicis must include everyone.”

The steps include: publishing and monitoring its own data; cultivating the careers of black talent; designing a recruitment, interviewing and onboarding experience that champions black talent; building a culture of strong ally-ship; focusing on investment; launching an open internship on Marcel; creating a Diversity Progress Council.

All of these are explained in detail in Sadoun’s note below.


Publish and monitor our data

One of the most common requests from our “Pausing for Action” day was to release our data. So, despite French privacy laws, which ban under penalty of sanctions the collection and use of ethnicity data, we have worked hard over the last two weeks on a process to properly disclose data for our U.S. workforce.

Our data includes close to 21,000 employees who self-reported their ethnicity. As you can see below, this reveals that 5.4% of our workforce in the US is Black. This includes 8% in junior levels, 4.6% in mid-level positions and 1.9% at the senior leadership level.

These statistics, based on existing self-declared information, are within a similar range of that of other holding companies. It further illuminates the two critical issues for Black talent (1) access to our industry and (2) career path to leadership positions.

Going forward, we are committed to measuring progress and releasing our data every year. This means we want to improve the accuracy and completeness of our data, so we will be encouraging the employees who have not yet self-reported their ethnicity to do so in the near future.


Cultivate the careers of our black talent

We will be intentional about cultivating the careers of Black talent across all roles within our organization. To do so, we will ensure there is a defined career path and plan for each of our Black talents. Through structured career development programs, mentorship & personalized coaching, we will invest in individual growth, career progression, and create clear pathways to leadership for Black talent. Access to opportunities, rate of promotion and metrics related to overall career development will be monitored, measured and also reviewed.


Design a recruitment, interviewing and onboarding experience that champions black talent

We will provide greater access for Black talent by designing an unmatched talent pipeline experience that champions them.

We will scale and aggregate current and new partnerships across historically Black colleges, local community schools and specific organizations. We will work with sourcing experts from the multicultural community. We will also review our processes and train parties involved to make sure we are screening, interviewing and hiring with inclusion and diversity in mind.


Build a culture of strong ally-ship

We will make “disrupting everyday bias training” required for all Publicis employees. This consists of 3 learning tracks: Understanding Everyday Bias, Inclusive Leadership from Any Seat, Bystander Intervention Training. This training has already started but will be available to all agencies by January 2021.


Focus our investment

We will invest 45 million euros over three years on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice. In addition to our existing programs, it will fund our commitment to training our Black talent, allies and leaders. By pooling and concentrating our investment, we can drive real impact. More specifically, this will fund the new training programs, extend proprietary programs such as MCTP, subsidize critical partnerships, pipeline and apprenticeship development and support our relationships with NGOs and institutions fighting against racism and inequalities.


Launch Open Apprenticeship on Marcel

We will launch a virtual apprenticeship on the Marcel platform that serves minority youth who typically do not have access or exposure to our industry. The apprenticeship will consist of how-to guides, online lessons, live workshops, networking, mentoring and gig opportunities for all its members. In its first year, the Marcel Apprenticeship will target and be pushed to 1,000 young people in the UK and the US, with a commitment to hire 50 people each year.


Create the Diversity Progress Council

In order to measure progress and evaluate our actions on an on-going basis, we are creating the DPC – Diversity Progress Council. This council marries diverse experience, internal and external views, as well as the passion and courage of youth. It will be composed of Publicis Groupe members, key clients, academic and youth representatives. The first meeting of this council will be held in September.


Voilà, tomorrow we have Q&A sessions with 2,000 of your leaders in the US. We know that people will respond differently to these measures, as there is no silver bullet or perfect solution. But we will answer all of their questions, as always, and make sure they’re aligned with executing this plan. I encourage you to reach out to them if you have any questions to contribute.

I want to thank you again for your outstanding engagement in the last weeks.

You have shown courage and compassion, motivation and drive.

I am conscious that these actions represent only the first step in a long journey, but you can count on my full commitment to implement them with all of you and create a truly diverse environment that we can all be proud of.

I am sure I can count on each and every one of you too.

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Novartis, Pfizer among drug makers giving thumbs-up to Facebook ad boycott

Several drugmakers have signed onto the July #StopHateForProfit Facebook ad boycott and dozens of pharma brands have halted campaigns that were previously running on the social network, as the industry continues a recent focus on brand safety.

Pfizer, Vertex, and Novartis are among the companies officially joining #StopHateForProfit. The stoppage was called for by non-profit groups like the NAACP and ADL, along with advocacy organization Sleeping Giants, on June 17. It’s envisioned as a way to protest what the groups say is Facebook’s lack of progress combating hate speech and misinformation.

“In accordance with the mission of the #StopHateforProfit movement, Novartis has decided to pause/reallocate all paid content across Facebook and Instagram for the month of July,” a spokesperson for the Swiss drugmaker told MM&M. Novartis is reallocating the funds across various non-Facebook owned social and digital platforms, the spokesperson added.

“Today we are asking Facebook to take proactive steps to ensure their platforms are safe and trusted spaces for all,” Pfizer declared in its statement, shared with MM&M. Vertex, for its part, joined the boycott “to encourage Facebook, Inc. to take real action against the spread of hate and misinformation on their platforms,” according to CNBC.

Across all industries, more than 240 organizations or businesses have joined the campaign or yanked spending on other social platforms, such as Twitter and YouTube. Some have done so independently of formally joining the boycott, per a running list from Sleeping Giants.

As of Wednesday evening, 31 out of 39 pharma brands (79%) that had paused Facebook ads on Juneteenth and the ensuing weekend had done so again on July 1 – a move which also “appears to be in support of the #StopHateForProfit July boycott,” observed Ian Orekondy, CEO of ad-tech firm AdComplyRx.

Put another way, out of 90 pharma Rx brands that, according to AdComplyRx, ran digital ad campaigns on Facebook and Instagram last month, 39 (43%) paused for Juneteenth weekend and 58 (64%) paused on July 1.

While the total number of brands going dark as of July 1 is a lot higher than for Juneteenth weekend, Orekondy said the lion’s share didn’t necessarily do so to make a social statement. “We’re hearing that brands are really thinking about brand safety first as opposed to playing an activist role,” he noted.

Brands among the Juneteenth boycotters that did not pause their Facebook campaigns yesterday included ones from AstraZeneca and Bristol Myers Squibb, Orekondy said. “In some cases, this is a brand-by-brand decision made in conjunction with their agency, and sometimes it’s an overall pharma company decision.”

In the latter camp was Genentech, which told MM&M it decided “to pause advertising and paid promotion on all social media platforms for the time being to conduct an assessment and ensure the standards of each platform do not conflict with our company’s position and values.”

As for those companies that publicly pledged support for the boycott, it’s a sign that pharma, which largely spoke out against systemic racism after the death of George Floyd, is rallying around #StopHateForProfit – at least to a certain extent – as a way to translate those corporate statements into action. “For us, it’s clear that to live our value of Equity, demonstrating respect for all people and making it clear that any hate speech is unacceptable, we must speak up and take action,” Pfizer said in its statement.

Formal signatories to the boycott also included med-tech firm Siemens, German skincare company Beiersdorf AG, CPG giant Unilever and health plan Blue Shield of California.

Editor’s note: This is a developing story. MM&M will update this list if and when other biopharma or med-tech companies join the July ad boycott. 

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