CAKE's Susanne Haug on Breaking Down Society's Medical Taboos

Plus, the striking campaign reframing urticaria

After more than 15 years in German and Austrian agencies, where Susanne Haug worked for brands such as Ford, Unicef and Mini, she moved into healthcare advertising.

Thinking about products that really help people makes her feel like she is doing something meaningful. Susanne has three passions in advertising: one for clever strategies and ideas that hit the spot, one for language, and one for ideas with a certain craziness that attract attention. As a parent, she is also interested in fairness in agencies and would love to see more awareness of the discrimination that often happens, even unconsciously, against people based on gender, childcare or part-time work.

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


Susanne, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela. I grew up in Germany. Now I live in Vienna, Austria.

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

After more than 15 years in classic creative agencies with "normal" clients, I wanted to reorient myself. Should I start something completely new? But I love creative work. Looking for something that somehow "makes more sense" to me and helps someone else, I came across healthcare advertising.

Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.

If people perceive the pharmaceutical industry as evil and money-grubbing, that's OK. Because the concept of "healing people" is just so hard to fit together with the concept of "making money." But the development of the eagerly awaited Covid vaccine should have made clear to everyone how important medical research and, ultimately, pharmaceutical companies are.

A recent project you’re proud of. 

"Suffering by Urticaria" is a project we did for urticaria awareness. People are bombarded daily by beauty brands with messages about how beauty should look. As a result, people with urticaria develop even more shame, show their symptoms even less in public, and also go to the dermatologist less often. But beauty is not reserved for people with healthy skin. People suffering from urticaria are also beautiful and receive appreciative attention when they show themselves in public. So we developed a campaign for a beauty brand the world didn't know yet: Urticaria. And showed the suffering of sufferers by using the campaign thinking of an industry that is our biggest opponent in the war of communication for skin beauty: the beauty industry.

Someone else’s project within healthcare that you were impressed by recently.

I was very impressed by "The Bread Exam." The fact that women cannot be educated about breast cancer and its prevention for cultural-religious reasons is really bad. But it is always like that in life: Either you accept something, which in this case costs lives, or you look for an unusual way. This is a great example that there is always a way to reach your goal.

The Bread Exam
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.

In briefings, it often says: The doctors don't know that ... Lifelong learning should be promoted much more in the healthcare industry. After all, it's about people's health and, in the toughest cases, life or death.

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

I often hear: Patients are afraid to talk to their doctor about XYZ. The issue of shame and taboos comes up a lot in the healthcare industry because you're just incredibly close to people and their bodies, bodily sensations and the emotions that go with them. I would be thrilled if every single person would do something to get rid of this shame and these taboos in our society. So, please. Live it, talk openly with your loved ones, with your friends, with your children—and never be ashamed of anything! 

How healthcare can attract more creative talent.

For a long time, health advertising was stuffy and boring, simply too factual. That is changing. The more brave and innovative campaigns there are, the greater the radiating effect on the entire industry will be.

What you would be doing if you weren’t in healthcare marketing.

I would write obscure books. Or I would observe small animals with strange noses. 

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.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a senior broadcast journalism student at the University of Colorado Boulder and a contributor to Muse by Clio.

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