Calcium's Sherman Yee on the Lure of Innovation in Healthcare
Sherman Yee is VP and creative director at Calcium, an agency with offices in New York, Miami, Philadelphia and San Francisco that counts a number of healthcare companies as clients.
Fluent in both digital and print, Sherman seeks to create work that blends story with innovation and is an expert in concepting, art directing, and supervising cross-channel, attention-grabbing campaigns.
Sherman is also a contemporary artist and painter. We spoke with Sherman for our series Checkup, where we chat with leaders in the healthcare marketing space.
Sherman, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born and raised in a very small town. Cedar City, Utah. I moved to Manhattan in 2000 and have lived there until 2021, where I split my time between NYC and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
How you first got into healthcare marketing, and what attracted you to it.
My first foray into healthcare was in 2000 when I first moved to Manhattan. My background was in graphic design, and there weren't many design agencies in NYC at the time. So my headhunter found me a job in healthcare at CDM. I didn't know what I was getting into. I honestly didn't enjoy it at first. I was trained to really design every detail from typography to image to paper selection. In healthcare, there were so many rules and limitations. After that I went on to work in consumer ad agencies as a freelancer for about 10 years. I finally decided I would go back to healthcare but with a mindset of changing the industry and making healthcare more of a creative space similar to consumer advertising. The challenge is what keeps me going each day, in addition to working with some amazing people and teams.
Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.
There are many more hurdles to go through to get creative work to the public. If you see work that is amazing and inspiring, there was a lot of effort and time—so much time—to get that to that level.
A recent project you're proud of.
I'm very proud of my work on a project called Elevate Enthesitis. It is a disease awareness campaign that I was very hands on with from initial concept to execution. The campaign features an inferno occurring under the surface in the tendons of the joints while firemen are trying to put out this fire. The campaign brings light to Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) patients that physicians may overlook and misdiagnose. There was not a huge budget, but with some creative staffing we were able to bring the campaign to life with video and animations in various tactical executions.
Someone else's project in healthcare that you were impressed by recently.
I was really impressed with Insmed NTM rare lung disease animated videos that tell stories from a patient perspective in an engaging way. It's a series, but I particularly like the "Unbreakable" piece of the campaign because it's serious disease but brings attention through these characters. Overall, from soundtrack to story/plot to character development, it's very well done.
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.
One of the biggest and probably most obvious challenges is Covid. It has changed how the world interacts with brands. Sales forces are being reduced so there are challenges to live events such as conventions and in-person rep visits. This is an opportunity to lead and innovate and find new ways of working, which is exciting.
One thing about how healthcare is evolving that you're excited about.
I think I touched on it in the previous question. Innovation is exciting. We are in new territory, and new technologies are being utilized to expand and reach people. New ways of presenting ideas and concepts, and more to be discovered.
How healthcare can attract more creative talent.
The trend is for more creative campaigns in the healthcare space. Clients see the benefits of a strategic creative campaign and are willing to push for those conceptual stories more these days. Where there is creativity, the talent usually follows.
What you would be doing if you weren't in healthcare marketing.
If I weren't in healthcare marketing, I would be creating in some way. Creativity has always inspired my life since I was young. I really enjoy traditional painting in watercolor and acrylics. It's a very zen activity for me to paint and see the final painting. There are so many interests creatively that I have, but painting is probably the one I would focus on. I have many gallery shows and hope to continue on that journey.