2 Minutes With ... Wendy Levine, Group President at 21GRAMS

On killing the old-school 'campaign' and creating work that's worthwhile

21GRAMS group president Wendy Levine began her career in healthcare as a sales rep for Johnson & Johnson. Recognizing her passion for marketing, she moved to a group product director role at J&J. Later, she served as a senior director of marketing at Novartis.

A love for advertising led her to the agency world, and she's held posts at The Bloc, McCann Health and GSW.

We spent two minutes with Wendy to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.

Wendy, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Rydal, a town about 15 miles north of Philly with my parents, older brother and my maternal grandparents. Today, I live in Manhattan (Nolita), and I am actively planning my escape as the Feast of San Gennaro approaches.

How you first got interested in health.

It's an embarrassing story, but I'll tell it anyway: I'm 17 years old in a car with my mom and we see a truck. It looks like the same one that's delivered vitamins to our door every month for as long as I could remember. So, I say something like "Oh snap!" (or whatever phrase of the time). "That's the vitamin truck!" Mom looks at me and laughs so hard she almost cries. "No, Wendy, that's the UPS truck." Apparently, they delivered more than vitamins. Who knew? But the lesson that stuck was how automatic the healthcare experience can be. What was seamless for vitamins was not seamless, easy or enjoyable for the rest of medicine. And I thought it should be.

A recent project you're proud of.

I don't know much about silent films but this project, "Under a Rock," makes me want to watch them. The power of visual expression, music and sound effects to tell a story was not lost on me with this work. In an industry that is so proud of the data it produces (and damn well should be), this proved you don't have to talk about all of that, all of the time, to get across your message and connect with your audience.

One thing about how health is evolving that you're excited about.

Dare I say the death of the one-size-fits-all campaign? With our ability to get to know people better than they know themselves through conversation, data and the slew of channels at our disposal, the days of a "campaign" that looks an awful lot like a print ad (that then gets copied and pasted into different mediums) are coming to an end. Customization, entertainment and smaller and smarter productions that value people's time and attention are in. Let's face it: no one has to sit through anything anymore. And in health, our messages are too important to miss. Killing the campaign and creating work that's worthwhile is a future I'm excited about.

A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I recently listened to the podcast The Retrievals. With each episode, and often within each episode, I was questioning myself and my beliefs. As someone whose nature is to seek to understand all sides of a situation, there was much about this story I hadn't considered. I love when that happens. It has rewired me in a way that is hard to explain. But I was inspired by the storytelling and the thought that went into sharing this story, all sides of it.

Your favorite fictional character.

The Count from Sesame Street. I was somewhat afraid of him when I was little. But now, I count all the time. In my head, not for all to hear, don't worry. But I do hear the counting in his voice at times.

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

That I truly care, so much. In its simplest form marketing is about people. And if you don't care about them, you can't do this job well.

Your biggest weakness.

Being an "all or nothing" type of person. It gets in the way when you have a lot on your plate. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

Seeing other people happy.

One thing that always makes you sad.

The loss of loved ones.

Something people would find surprising about you.

That I do sleep, despite Frank Mazzola's efforts to convince people otherwise. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in health.

Lately I'm thinking I'd love to be a librarian. The idea of being surrounded by unlimited access to learning is very appealing. I know there's Google, but it's not the same, because there are no people to interact with. And without people, there's no fun. 

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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