H4B Chelsea's Christian Bauman on the Past and Future of Healthcare Advertising

Plus, bringing health clients into social and digital in exciting new ways

Christian Bauman is president and chief creative officer of H4B Chelsea, the flagship creative agency of Havas's healthcare division. He's the only person we know with work represented in both the Smithsonian Institution and the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.

As a creative director, Christian has always worked in healthcare and never wanted to work anywhere else, guiding major campaign for clients including Pfizer, Sanofi, Novartis, Alcon, and many others. Outside of work he is the author of three novels and a former regular commentator for NPR's All Things Considered. His work has been featured on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, The New York Times and CNN, among others. Christian served in the U.S. Army from 1991 to1995, including tours in the war zones of Somalia and Haiti.

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


Christian, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and have lived for 20 years in the village of New Hope, Pennsylvania, a little arts mecca about 40 minutes north of Philly. It's a long commute to NYC.

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

I'm a novelist, which is artistically rewarding but doesn't provide health benefits, so I took a job as a proofreader at an ad agency. One thing led to another after that.

Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.

You might not know that health and medical advertising is actually the basis of all modern advertising, including things like first consistent use of logos and branding as well as conceptual campaigns. Also, some of the greatest NYC-based visual artists of the 1940s and 1950s worked in pharma advertising and helped build the industry, a dynamic that still exists today, with many working artists, musicians and writers like myself finding a home in this field.

A recent project you're proud of.

H4B Chelsea always tries to give back through pro bono creative and strategic work, and this year we've been supporting HealthCorps, an amazing organization founded by Dr. Oz that addresses teen health inequities in at-risk communities.

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

Anyone in NYC these days knows that the homeless situation has gotten worse with Covid. I love the pro bono commitment that Arnold and their CCO Rich Russo have long given to the Coalition for the Homeless.

A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.

A good problem to have: Our sector is growing faster than we can staff for it. I encourage anyone producing creative that sells sugared cereals to call me and make the healthy switch today!

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

Our clients are largely very conservative and slower adopters, but for very good reason: Lives are at stake, so risk of miscommunication needs to be zero. Having said that, we're doing a better job these days of showing them how to join the social and digital worlds in exciting, useful ways that are still responsible.

How healthcare can attract more creative talent.

I think we need to do a better job of talking to the ad schools about why our sector is a great one to consider, but also we need to do an even better job of looking beyond the ad schools at people with nontraditional backgrounds (like me) and making the case for how they can be useful here.

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

This is an easy one for me because I'm already doing it: writing my novels. But I like the balance in my life of art and commerce, and I like my job. It's not one or the other for me.

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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