2 Minutes With ... James Talerico, President and CCO at Heartbeat
Growing up near Scranton Pa., James spent his childhood in his grandfather's bar, serving pony bottles of Rolling Rock to retired coal miners while memorizing verb declensions for Latin class. He's been creating such strange juxtapositions ever since.
As president and chief creative officer for Heartbeat—which serves healthcare challenger brands—James has launched ambitious campaigns for Genentech, Pfizer, Bristol Myers Squibb and Boston Scientific. His teams have hoisted more than 300 creative awards during the last 15 years, from Pencils and Mannys to Webbys and Emmys.
James is madly in love with two glorious women: his wife, Shawn, and daughter, Hallelujah. His favorite color is white.
We spent two minutes with James to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.
James, tell us...
Where you grew up, and where you live now.
I grew up in Old Forge, Pa., in my grandfather's bar, basically. It's only a couple-hour drive from Harlem, where I live now. But in many ways, it's another country.
How you first got interested in health.
I didn't really get interested in health. I just got to the point in my career that I wanted to apply what talent I had to something more than selling fast food or fast fashion. Health gave me that opportunity, along with a whole new language to learn. The passion followed.
One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on, and why.
Our campaign for Horizant was visceral and emotional and raw in a way rarely seen in HCP marketing. It rises to the urgent need of the patient and makes that need plain to the doctor, without apology.
A recent project you're proud of, and why.
Sometimes a simple tactic makes the most noise. When working with Twirla—a contraceptive patch—last year, our folks kept reading stories from women about their contraceptives gone wrong. This hatched our "Oh Sh*t Stories," a funny-but-true series of Instagram stories that nailed the downsides of so many common contraceptives.
One thing about how health is evolving that you're excited about.
People are more engaged with their health than ever before. They're more educated, more motivated, and more ambitious to be healthy. They're also LESS interested in the pasteurized, golden-hour emptiness that often insinuates itself into healthcare advertising. All of that raises the bar for us in the best possible way.
Someone else's work, in health or beyond, that you admired lately.
I adored the A British Original campaign that Uncommon Creative Studio did for British Air at the end of last year. It's simple, clever, infinitely flexible and a copy writer’s dream (or nightmare). Five hundred unique lines and myriad executions across OOH, digital, and video enumerate sometimes emotional, sometimes silly, never predictable reason we travel.
A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.
Is it weird to say I'd rather talk about poetry? Maybe. Lately I’ve rediscovered William Carlos Williams. I mean, those plums! It's gotten me thinking more about the attention we pay to the everyday and the meaning we leave on the table when we don’t. And what it says to our audiences when we misrepresent their everyday reality.
A visual artist or band/musician you admire.
SZA. I’m stunned at how she bends her talent to different genres, owns them, manipulates them, and makes them her own. "SOS" has snatches of rap, pop-punk, country, Janet Jackson, Joni Mitchell, and Old Dirty Bastard … all at the highest level of craft and all adding up to a powerful emotional work. Crazy.
Your favorite fictional character.
Someone worth following in social media.
IG: @artbutmakeitsports – Love the NBA? Love art history? Go follow.
Your main strength as a marketer/creative.
I'm curious. I love hearing other people’s ideas, understanding perspectives, learning about what influenced them … That curiosity has served me well, whether trying to understand a new audience, getting to core of an emerging, half-articulated idea, or knowing what problem a client really needs to solve.
Your biggest weakness.
Curiosity can easily lead you into wormholes. I've been able to solve for that with teams of folks who know more than me, are more talented than me, and who are ever-generous with those two things.
One thing that always makes you happy.
New York City. Every part of it. Even the subway.
One thing that always makes you sad.
When people think the worst of others.
Something people would find surprising about you.
I have some pretty respectable Excel skills.
What you'd be doing if you weren’t in health.