Yana Hunt's Pursuit of Empathy in a World of Patient-Led Healthcare

Our chat with Havas Health Wave's CCO

Yana Hunt is chief creative officer at Havas Health Wave. She oversees the work of the agency's growing creative department, which at the moment consists of 38 talented, multi-disciplinary creatives.

Prior to joining Havas Health Wave, Yana spent 25 years honing her skills at large advertising agencies and small creative shops. She launched new brands and products, successfully repositioned established ones and carefully steered some iconic brands along the way. Her work received industry awards and recognition—from winning the first-ever Mobile Cannes Gold Lion for Band-Aid's augmented reality app, to effecting legislative change in four states on behalf of Period Equity.

When it comes to health and wellness, Yana believes in empathy being a measure of success. That is why she is passionate about smart, strategic creative that resonates and advocates.

Yana arrived in the U.S. with two suitcases full of books and no knowledge of the English language; 28 years later, she prefers the laconic ingenuity of English to her mother tongue and admits her collection of first editions has grown out of control. Yana is a mom, an avid reader of fiction, menus and small children's minds. She lives in Westchester with her husband and 9-year-old twins.

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


Yana, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I am a product of the Soviet Union. Born and raised in the world that had no commercials and a lot of propaganda. In 1993, I arrived in New York with two suitcases and $80 in my pocket. I did not speak a word of English yet felt immediately at home.

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

I have always been interested in health and wellness category, but early on my career path took me in the direction of luxury goods, alcohol and automobiles. And I loved it. Forward to 2016, when I was diagnosed with cancer—this event was a cathartic one for me. It spotlighted what was important and what was not. Around the same time, I worked on a project for a nonprofit organization that aimed to have a legislative impact on states that have "pink tax"—an unfair and discriminatory practice. It felt good. It felt right. So, it was a no-brainer for me to join the Havas family as CCO of Havas Health Wave.

Something people might not know about the healthcare industry.

Being a science nerd is not a requirement. Just bring your empathy and you will fit right in.

A recent project you're proud of.

Life Interrupted is a labor of love that advocates on behalf of those who live with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD). Patient lives are interrupted by this painful, lifelong condition. Yet their struggles often go unnoticed and are even dismissed by healthcare professionals. We had to do something about it.

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

The Bread Exam! What a genius way to game the system and talk about a taboo subject matter. I will not spoil this for you, just watch the case study.

The Bread Exam
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.

Advertising must move at the speed of culture to be relevant. And our culture is moving at a neck-breaking speed. Being proactive just doesn't cut it; we need to be reactive, and that is a challenge when your timeline has to account for MLR.

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

These days, patients set the agenda. They are more educated and empowered. Advocating on their behalf is an honor. This shift calls for ideas that are rooted in human purpose, rather than the ones that pray at the altar of science. I do not dismiss the glory of science, but it must be in service of empathy.

How healthcare can attract more creative talent.

I am happy to report that the talent is already here. What we need to do is create the right environment for the creativity to blossom.

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

You would find me in my kitchen religiously following a Mark Bittman recipe.

Checkup is a 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.

Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. He is the former creative editor of Adweek.

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