Leith's John McPartland on the 'Extra Time Badge' and Helping Consumers Navigate Their Health
John McPartland is a creative director with a background in design and art direction. Having worked in healthcare for over a decade, he has seen a huge transformation within the industry and has picked up multiple awards along the way.
John has worked on a huge range of clients and categories, from global oncology, dermatology and diabetes brands to local campaigns for a veterans care home and a children's book to help diagnose dyslexia. He recently made the move to set up a new healthcare offering at consumer agency Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland. Focusing on solving problems at the heart of people's health by bringing consumer thinking backed by medical expertise, the agency's work spans health and wellness, pharmaceuticals and reputational bodies.
We spoke with John for our series Checkup, where we chat with leaders in the healthcare marketing space.
John, tell us..
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I was born and grew up in and around Manchester. I now live in the countryside in Lancashire. There isn't a Starbucks in sight, but we do have a waterfall.
How you first got into healthcare marketing, and what attracted you to it.
I started working in healthcare about a decade ago, and to be perfectly honest, fell into it. Working at an agency that did both healthcare and public sector work, the draw was always toward the non-health work. But there were opportunities to do great work in health, and so I threw myself into making healthcare work as good as if not better than consumer work. I've never looked back.
Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.
When you really boil it down, it's not so different to other sectors. We are trying to solve problems that our clients or the public face. Whether that's raising awareness of signs of early stage cancer or helping people stay on treatments, it comes down to how we creatively solve those problems. However, the big difference is that in healthcare the problems you're solving really effect people, so when the work works, you get to see the positive impact on people's lives.
A recent project you're proud of.
We recently launched a new initiative aimed at educating grassroots football on how to perform CPR: The Extra Time Badge. Over the past year the spotlight on sudden cardiac arrest and football has been intensified, yet there is only ever attention paid after a tragedy. We wanted to shift the focus. Working in collaboration with grassroots organizations, we produced iron-on badges that show people the key steps to CPR, placed in the exact place where it should be performed.
What I'm most proud of is the tenacity of the team bring this project to life. Every week we spent working on it, there were incidents around the country where CPR could have saved somebody's life, and this drove us forward constantly. It's not your traditional awareness campaign, we wanted to produce something that actually helped people, at the exact moment when they needed it most.
Someone else's project in healthcare that you were impressed by recently.
I absolutely loved the campaign "Live and Let Live" for Montefiore from mid-way through last year. Creating a platform that people needing organ donations can create their own personalized films to help find donors. It was such an emotionally charged campaign that was delicately handled. The use of tech was key to the piece, but it wasn't the hero of the campaign, which can be tricky to get the balance right.
Another more recent piece was "Lil Sugar" by Area23, a campaign showing kids how sugar can sneak its way into your food. The animation and music worked perfectly together and was just right for the audience. The fact that they had Darryl McDaniels from Run-D.M.C. rap is a winner by itself.
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.
Whilst the public have become much more health literate over the past few years—who would have thought Moderna would be a household name?— there is a danger of people worn down by health messages. This means we need to work much harder in how we communicate with people. It's no longer just enough to highlight the dangers of conditions; we need to offer solutions and give people a way to navigate their health issues.
One thing about how healthcare is evolving that you're excited about.
Healthcare is blending more and more into the consumer world. We now have brands such as Ikea talking about health, which is great; it means that partnerships between traditional healthcare brands and consumer brands are beginning to solve problems faced by people. Healthcare advertising can become part of the way people live.
How healthcare can attract more creative talent.
Keep producing amazing work that breaks down the perceptions of healthcare. We set the standards by which we are judged, moving from great work for healthcare to just great work.
What would you be doing if you weren't in healthcare marketing?
If had any self-control, I'd love to open up a bakery. I'm sure if I did then my path would cross with healthcare once again pretty quickly.