Area 23's Joe Capanear on the False Divide Between Science and Creativity in Healthcare

Plus, Insmed's animated films, 'The Cost of Bullying,' and more

Joe Capanear has been working in advertising for over 18 years to help clients and brands both big and small, rare and common, and domestic and global, break new ground. His work has been recognized in international award shows including Clio Health, Cannes Lions, D&AD, One Show, Andy Awards and others. And he continues to rank highly within the pages of Lurzer’s Archive.

Joe is currently group creative director at Area 23. When Joe isn’t spending time with his wonderful wife and daughter, he likes to moonlight as a pool table salesman.

We spoke with Joe for our series Checkup, where we chat with leaders in the healthcare marketing space.

Joe, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

Grew up in North Jersey. I now live in Bergen County (also in North Jersey).

How you first got into healthcare marketing, and what attracted you to it.

Hey my student loans weren't going to pay themselves back! But seriously, over the years I've come to appreciate the great potential in health. Incredible innovation is happening all the time and innovation for such an important category. Is there anything more important than health? It kind of makes ads for chewing gum seem trivial.

Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.

I think big pharma gets an unfair amount of hate. To me, they do much much more good than harm. Some of these life-saving treatments are very expensive to bring to market.

A recent project you're proud of.

These animated films for our NTM rare disease client Insmed. Three films, three different styles of animation that fit the particular patient's stories. For one we even had a Broadway singer record an original song, and because the film referenced old Disney animations, we did it in traditional hand-drawn cell animation.

Someone else's project in healthcare that you were impressed by recently.

"The Cost of Bullying" is a great idea. If you've played video games online, you know gamers, especially 13-year-olds, can be brutal. So to be able to detect bullying in real time and jack up the price of in-game content like weapons and power-ups for the bullies is very clever. Well done.

Samsung 'Cost of Bullying'
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.

In health advertising, there's a weird idea that science and data is one thing, and creativity is a separate thing over here. And they don't mix. I don't agree. In fact, I think it's the exact opposite. Scientists are some of the most creative people on the planet, for one. To me, a great creative idea comes from data and facts and becomes a uniquely crafted expression of those facts. If the industry starts to understand that science and creativity are more alike than different, I think it would resolve a weird tension that exists. And we will see even better work.

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

Healthcare service in general feels a bit antiquated. Have you gone to the doctor recently? I waited in a room with old magazines for 45 minutes before I was called. I stared at a sign that told me I'd be charged if I was late or a no-show. Then I waited in another room. Then a doctor I just met asked me a few general questions. This seems like it can be improved. So the idea of tech and A.I. and apps coming out to help make health more immediate and precise and custom is very interesting and long overdue.

How healthcare can attract more creative talent.

There is more talent in health today, as assumed by the question. But to attract more, health advertising needs to continue to change the idea that health advertising can't be great. Why can't it? No one is stopping it from being great. There are legal limitations, no doubt, as there are with any category. But no one is stopping you from creating great craft for instance. Writing an emotional film. Or shooting an amazing TV spot. If health can do more of this, talent will continue to follow.

What would you be doing if you weren't in healthcare marketing?

I wanna say directing action films in Croatia or something. But probably watching Venture Bros re-runs.

Checkup is our new weekly Muse series, publishing on Thursdays, where we chat with leaders in healthcare marketing. To learn more about Checkup or our Clio Health program, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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