2 Minutes With ... Joe Marcoux, SVP & GCD at ConcentricLife

On creating from the heart, then applying rules

Joe Marcoux likes to say his advertising career started back in junior high school when he penned the headline, "People start pollution. People can stop it." That was for a city-wide awareness contest. He won the first-place blue ribbon. A year later, he heard that same line in a PSA. Naturally, he thought some big ad exec had seen his poster on display and "borrowed" his idea. But he got over it.

Later, he moved to NYC to pursue acting. After booking a handful of commercials, Joe was more intrigued by the agency pros and crew on the other side of the camera. That's when he shifted his efforts from in front of the lens to behind it. He started as a retail copywriter and soon transitioned to general advertising and eventually moved into health and wellness.

We spent two minutes with Joe to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Joe, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Leominster, Mass., the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed (yes, he was an actual person) and the pioneer plastic city of the world. Why leave? NYC was always calling me, so I went to school there and worked there. Longing for weekend escape, I purchased a home in upstate N.Y. in a little town of Callicoon 18 years ago. This is now my primary residence.

How you first got interested in health.

I was working in the business for about five years when I was asked to work on tobacco. I just said no. I had a mother with lung cancer. I had uncles that died of it. At the time I was working on the iconic Absolut account, an opportunity came up to work on a pharma product. And I thought, this could be interesting. Honestly, It was the best decision I made. At the end of the day, I'm not selling cars or soup (not that that's bad), I'm crafting work that's helping people live healthier lives. That's rewarding. 

One of your favorite projects you've ever worked on.

I think it's great when you get to globally rebrand an existing product. I had this opportunity on Transitions, photochromic lenses that automatically shift to a dark lens when you go out. Essilor, the client, wanted to attract a 20-to-30 year-old audience. The problem was, this audience viewed the product as a "medical lens" for "old people." So, Transitions was repositioned as a lifestyle brand in an array of fashion colors that provide blue-light protection. From digital to social, broadcast to point-of-sale, we reimagined the whole experience.

A recent project you're proud of.

Working in pharma has its challenges, and that's what makes it so appealing. You're never on autopilot. But you need to remove that "regulatory" hat and push boundaries. When you do, it can be magic. A few years back, I was working on Dupixent for nasal polyps. The creative team came up with a humorous online social and video series. Now, a light-hearted tone and pharma don't usually land with legal. But we loved the idea. So did the client. And we were able to get it through multiple regulatory reviews pretty much unscathed. And the clients liked the final cuts so much, we created a national TV spot.

We also created an unbranded disease awareness campaign. Through CGI, we moved an octopus over a woman's head, symbolic of the pressure and smothering congestion that come with nasal polyps. The campaign, "How It Feels," was translated into nine languages, ran in 11 countries and went on to win multiple awards.

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

Health and wellness marketing is creating some of the most exciting work out there. I recently sat on the 2023 Clio Health Jury and was blown away at the creativity. It truly is pushing the industry forward. Not just in the new technologies like A.I., but reimagining the tried and true like print and point of care.

Someone else's work, in health or beyond, that you admired lately.

While I can look beyond health, I don't have to. A few top-of-mind notables that I've admired include: "Lil' Sugar" and "Bread Exam." The use of A.I. for "The Unfinished Votes" is truly inspiring, and "Instant Doctor" is flat-out brilliant.

A book, movie, TV show, or podcast you recently found inspiring.

I recently picked up The Creative Act: A Way of Being by Rick Rubin. I heard him speak on a podcast and was immediately pulled in. He's revered as a producer in the music industry. I'm enjoying the read. Creativity should always feel fresh and new. There's always inspiration to be found. 

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I'm gonna go old school here. There's something about bossa nova music that I find very inspiring. I can turn on any of the greats: Jobim, Gilberto, Getz, Mendes. But newer interpretations of the classics are great too, like Andrea Motis. When I'm coming up with ideas, writing, or just want to lift my spirits, this is what is playing in my earbuds. I think it's the samba and jazz influence that I find so appealing.

Your favorite fictional character. 

There are many. Every time I read a great book I discover a new one. But when I first read the Game of Thrones series, I couldn't help but root for Jon Snow. He's the penultimate underdog that overcomes every obstacle that's thrown his way. And for all the hardships that he faced (including death!) he never loses faith.

Someone worth following on social media.

One of my guilty pleasures is following Ryan Reynolds. From his shameless and humorous Mint Mobile plugs to following his Wrexham AFC updates to his feud with Hugh Jackman, he has a knack for poking fun at people without upsetting anyone. Probably because he makes fun of himself most often.

Your main strength as a marketer/creative.

Being open. As a creative lead working a highly regulated health space in the U.S., I find creative teams can often shut down ideas that they think won't pass legal. When this happens, the whole spark and joy of the process fails. You need to keep that mind open. I recently heard a creative director say that you need to create from the heart, then apply the rules. I think that's brilliant. That's how I try to lead my teams. If there's a kernel of an amazing idea, let's flesh it out and find ways to make it work.

Your biggest weakness.

Goes back to what I just said. When you work in health and wellness, it can take upwards of a year (or more) to move projects through regulatory and finally get them produced. The expression "patience is a virtue" is one I need to master at times. 

One thing that always makes you happy.

We work in an industry that demands a lot of our time. It's nice to just decompress, silence messaging and emails, and do simple things: cook for friends, travel, go to a show, or take my dog for a walk. My husband and I gave up our place in NYC and live in the Catskills now. I miss the city energy but I love the fresh air, the sounds of the streams, the mountains. Nature is my therapy now. 

One thing that always makes you sad.

Rushing to get things done. Today, everything moves at unprecedented speed. Think before you react. All too often, people don't do this.

Something people would find surprising about you.

I once cut an Academy-Award-winning actor's lines in a script. She wasn't very pleased with it. 

What you'd be doing if you weren't in health.

When I was starting out, I was interested in an assistant curator job at a museum in NYC. Of course, as a young person living in a very expensive city, I stayed in advertising for the money. I often wonder where I would be if I took that position.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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