Dentsu Health's Collette Douaihy on Breakthrough Creative in Healthcare

From Breathe Right's 'Everybody Strip' to Garvan Institute's 'Disease Dilemmas'

Collette Douaihy recently joined dentsu health as chief creative officer. As CCO, Collette will inspire a new generation of creative talent in the healthcare space. She will build a culture where game-changing ideas can find a home with clients brave enough to bring them to life.

Collette has created first-of-a-kind, award-winning creative campaigns that have helped solve serious health problems for patients and clients alike. She has worked on a wide range of launch campaigns for BMS, Shire, Gilead, Sanofi Pasteur, AbbVie, and Ferring Pharmaceuticals, to name a few.

Collette worked in consumer advertising before putting her creative talents to work in healthcare. When looking for inspiration outside of healthcare advertising, she can be found hanging with her teenage boy, who keeps her inspired and young at heart.

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


Collette, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now?

I grew up in the Pocono Mountains and live in Philadelphia now.

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

After working in B2B marketing for several years, I knew I needed a new kind of creative challenge. Something more fulfilling and meaningful. So, when an unexpected offer dropped in my lap some 21 years ago to work on Kodak Health Imaging, I jumped at the opportunity and never looked back. I'm glad I did. I love working in healthcare marketing. You are constantly learning about advancements in medicine, health technology, and, best of all, the resilience of the human spirit.

Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.

Healthcare marketing is complex and has a unique set of challenges—unlike any other industry. That can be a non-starter for a creative but shouldn't be. Despite all the challenges, pharma and healthcare marketing can be extremely rewarding. To put it frankly, you have to be more creative in healthcare marketing to push up against all its regulations—the creative challenge. The outstanding work being produced today is motivating people to take action. That will promote health, save lives, and advance the overall healthcare experience.

A recent project you're proud of.

I love when a brand is a perfect fit for a little humor. Recently we had an opportunity to help nasal strip brand Breathe Right launch a new campaign, "Everybody Strip," highlighting the product's versatility. The campaign focuses on the different place's consumers can use Breathe Right strips. I'm so proud of the team's work on this campaign—to help a 25-year-old brand get some much-needed attention.

Everybody Strip | Breathe Right®
Someone else's project in healthcare that you were impressed by recently.

I was very impressed by The Garvan Institute of Medical Research "Disease Dilemmas" campaign. This direct and beautifully executed campaign challenges the viewer with impossible choices—who would they donate to? I love the empathic power of the portraits in this campaign that immediately engage with the audience. The heart of the campaign is personal stories, real people sharing everyday moments from their own life experiences. Work like this has the power to save lives and to make creatives think, "I wish I had done that."

Garvan Disease Dilemmas Case Study
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.

Creatively speaking, breaking through the sea of sameness. Clients want it. Agencies want it. I want it. Yet breakthrough creative remains a challenge with government restrictions, tightening budgets, and the pressure to perform. We must continue to push healthcare advertising further—to go big, bold, and not routinely return to what has worked in the past. Brands need to tell an emotional story and stand for something beyond just functional benefits. Healthcare advertising should aspire to be creative, innovative, deeply personal, and above all, brave.

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

Technology, hands down. From AI to AR, from wearables to 3-D printing, the industry is evolving more rapidly than ever before. And thanks to the early trends of leading tech companies such as Apple and Google, healthcare information is more intelligent and user-friendly. The relationship between technology and healthcare is now inextricably linked to better outcomes and an improved patient experience. Several years ago, I was lucky enough to work on a launch that embraced some of these technologies, allowing us to produce game-changing ideas for the brand. The continuing advancements in health tech have created a wealth of creative opportunities.

How healthcare can attract more creative talent.

First, we have to change the perception that healthcare advertising is not creative. It is creative, and some of the most meaningful and award-winning work being done is in healthcare. Yes, it is challenging, but that challenge can be met. If healthcare advertising had more mainstream exposure, it would help to change that perception. Yes, start by recruiting new graduates, but also entice someone working in retail, technology or hospitality—they most certainly will bring a unique perspective to the table. And they may be up for a new challenge.

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

Interior design. I've always been in awe of what an interior designer can do with a space. Similar to advertising, communicating a design concept is akin to storytelling. And who doesn't love a good story, even one you can sit in?

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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