Every year, I speak to hundreds of college seniors about how to start their advertising careers. No surprise, their questions confirm that many have the same concerns: Am I good enough? Is my portfolio good enough? Will I find a job? Will I like my job? Can I do meaningful work?
Every year I tell them about the amazing career opportunities in healthcare advertising. Their overwhelming reaction? "Ah, no thank you."
You're probably not surprised that the industry I have come to love has a very bad image problem with college students. Because there's a good chance you may also think that healthcare advertising doesn't seem fun, doesn't seem sexy, and definitely seems career limiting.
But they're wrong. And I'll prove it to you by sharing the five most important things you need to know about healthcare advertising.
You actually have to be more creative.
I spent the first 20 years of my career in "regular" advertising on Madison Avenue, working as a copywriter (and eventually creative director) in consumer packaged goods, technology, beauty and virtually every other sector. Let me tell you, those categories are a walk in the park next to healthcare.
When I started working in healthcare, I found I had to be so much more creative. I couldn't just fall back on the usual puffery of faster, better, stronger and cleaner. I had to be able to prove that what I was writing was actually true. I had to have clinical trials that not only showed that the product worked, but that it was safe to take, too. And I had to find a way to communicate it in a simple and interesting way that everyone could understand. It's not easy. But it is meaningful.
Let me put it another way: Would you rather keep selling burgers and bottles of beer or save someone's life? (Forget the obvious that the aforementioned can lead to obesity, diabetes and many other health issues my clients help remedy.) I know that every day, I'm working on products that have a profound impact on patients' and their families' lives. And it feels good.
You don't have to be a scientist. Heck, you don't even have to be good at science.
As a creative, you just have to be creative. Healthcare advertising agencies employ hundreds of brilliant scientists—MD's, PhD's, PharmD's and many other highly educated medical professionals—to understand the science and turn that knowledge into marketing. To help educate people like me. To make me smart enough to create work that will help people understand the impact of the products and be medically accurate.
They prepare a Medical 101 brief at the beginning of every project to help explain how a product works in your body. They're brilliant, and I couldn't do my job without them. Unfortunately, I'm convinced I have a disease after each Medical 101. It's an occupational hazard, but don't worry, you get over it.
Healthcare advertising is not career limiting.
This is the No. 1 question I get from college students every year. Their professors tell them that if they start their careers in healthcare, they'll never get out. First of all, that's just not true. I know dozens of successful creatives who started in healthcare. And second, what's so bad about working with a company you love, in a job you love, and never having to worry about being downsized?
Yes, year after year, the healthcare industry continues to grow. There are still more jobs than people. The law of supply and demand usually means my entry-level people get paid more than those who start at general advertising agencies. How is this career limiting?
You can do amazingly creative work.
Don't believe me? Look at the Clio Health or Lions Health archives. Virtually every agency from every corner of the world works in healthcare. In Cannes this year, Health & Wellness and Pharma Lions were given on the same night as the Print and Outdoor Lions. The Innovation Lion Grand Prix was won by a healthcare client and agency. In the past few years, healthcare agencies have won more Lions in the general festival than in the Lions Health show. That means our best work isn't just "good work in healthcare." It's good work, period.
The real reason your professors don't want you to take a job in healthcare.
Back in the day when many professors had full-time jobs in advertising, consumer agencies were king and healthcare was the ugly stepchild. So, in their minds, having you take a bad job at a consumer agency is a good choice. But times have changed, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice not to explore all your options.
I'll be honest: You won't know if you like healthcare until you try it. The good news is, many agencies have intern programs. Others have training programs. Some will hire you, train you and pay you to learn on the job. The even better news is every good healthcare agency I know is looking for people. Lots of people. The industry is growing faster than most agencies can recruit and hire. In fact, our agency hires, on average, about 20 people every two weeks. You do the math. That's a lot of people in a year. The crazy part? That's probably about half as many as we need. So, if you're looking for a life-changing career, the time to jump in is now. I hate to say it, but your professors don't always know best.
There are dozens of other reasons why I love healthcare advertising. I love helping people. I love the teams we've created. I love working with new and emerging technologies in our digital innovation lab. I love proving college professors wrong. But most of all, I love hiring awesome creatives and working with them for their entire careers.
Are you good enough? Is your portfolio good enough? There's one way to find out. Jump in.