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Astrid Defries-Lansing on the Role of the Customer Experience in Health

On her work for XGEVA and a lasting love affair with the health vertical

Astrid Defries-Lansing, EVP, executive creative director of GSW, powered by Syneos Health, is originally from Germany where she started her own ad/design shop right out of college, handling an array of clients including a little auto company called Porsche. She has been in the New York area for over 20 years, leading efforts for health care agencies CDM, AgencyRx/DDB Health, BGB Group and most recently Havas, as the AOR for several large and small pharma companies.

Astrid has developed award-winning campaigns and programs across brands, categories and geographies and is a multi-channel pro. Her experience ranges from high science (Hem/Onc) to Women's health (oral contraception), primary care and wellness launching products in the U.S. and globally.

She is a true leader who inspires, mentors and coaches and is as involved with overall agency culture and business success as she is with the creative product. She has an incredible eye and believes deeply in the craft of creative, from ideation through execution.

Astrid lives with her husband, her two half-lab dogs and cat in New Jersey and the Poconos, and enjoys hiking, yoga and healthy eating.

Muse: How did you get into the marketing world and how did you choose the health vertical?

Astrid Defries-Lansing: I studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart, Germany, with a few classes in communications design, and ran my own agency with my then partner mostly focused on automotive and fashion, with some sprinkles of healthcare. I landed in New York with a suitcase full of blurry ideas, two cats, and a ten-page portfolio in an Hermes box, which landed me my first job and work visa at CDM NY. Healthcare advertising was at first an arranged marriage by a headhunter but it turned out to be my life's lasting love affair with the industry.

Talk about a recent project you're especially proud of.

The XGEVA campaign we created at GSW NY is a beautiful example of unique insight and powerful creative execution. When it comes to treating bone complications that can arise when cancer spreads to the bones, HCPs pick the path of least resistance and prescribe the cheaper—and less effective—generic treatment. They just don't see the value of XGEVA.

In order to change HCPs perceptions, first we needed to change the way they perceived the value of their patient's bones, which are the foundation of everything we do. And as such, they tell a story about who we are, what our dreams are and what keeps us going.

The campaign, "The Story in Their Bones," won numerous awards.

What ads or media inspired you to get into this business and what inspires you now.

In 2004 Dove launched "Campaign for Real Beauty," which was celebrated because it positively impacted the cultural landscape, industry and lives of consumers. The campaign continues to run today to dismantle the #BeautyBias and help "make beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety." This campaign is coupled with change initiatives like "The Dove Self-Esteem Project," which helps children redefine their definition of beauty.

I drew a lot of parallels to healthcare advertising as we also had to shift away from the glossy patient depictions to a more reality-focused approach of telling stories that are authentic and real.

How do you see the health space evolving in the next 5 years?

Customer experience will take the front seat in everything we do. Big poster campaigns, which focus on the product, are in essence self-centered and self-serving. Campaigns rooted in human insights though paired with meaningful experiences—which foster human connection and speak with true empathy in an authentic voice—will make the product the conduit to better lives for our customers.

What do you do when you're not working? What are your hobbies, hustles and passions away from the office? What do you enjoy doing most?

My focus outside of work is wellness, both physically and spiritually. I am an avid yogi going for my teacher training this fall. In the past I have studied nutrition and believe and practice healthy, mostly plant based, eating. And I love nature! My zen place is our home in the Pocono mountains where my husband Richard and I, with our two dogs go for hikes, frequently exploring the beauty and miracles of nature's fauna and flora.

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