Russell Goldsmith
Russell Goldsmith 9 July 2019

Podcast - Healthcare Marketing - From Cannes Lions 2019

Recorded at Cannes Lions 2019, this episode focuses on Healthcare Marketing: 1. Zuleika Burnett, Havas Life Medicom on ‘the power of the spoken word and the benefits of podcasting to healthcare’ 2. Claire Gillis, WPP Health on ‘China and the Health Explosion’ 3. Atilla Cansun, P&G Health on ‘Engaging with HCPs: Doctors are not robots!’

Part 1 – Power of the Spoken Word

Russell Goldsmith spoke with Zuleika Burnett of Havas Life Medicom about the presentation they had given on ‘The Power of the spoken word and benefits of podcasting for healthcare’.

Russell & Zuleika presenting on the Lions Health stage

Russell & Zuleika presenting on the Lions Health stage


Chatting with Havas Life Medicom’s Zuleika Burnett in the Havas Cafe at Cannes Lions​

Zuleika said that what hit home for her about the true power of podcasting was hearing a csuite podcast interview with Haiyan Zhang of Microsoft Research Cambridge about a project she worked on where she created a life changing device to help people with Parkinson’s.  This interview was co-created content - between brand, designer and producer, enabling Haiyan to tell hers and Emma’s story in an engaging and captivating way.

Zuleika sees podcasting as a huge opportunity in health. Reuters Institute Digital News Report points to the fact that about a third of people are listening to podcasts on a regular basis. She said that in healthcare, they need more tools, not just pills, as just taking more pills is probably not the answer – they need people to live more healthily, eat better, sleep better, exercise … all of which requires people to change their behaviours. However, she added that they need a purpose and a meaning to change their behaviours and storytelling can really bridge that gap between just understanding and turning that understanding to action and motivation.

According to research by Yolo Communications, 25% of UK podcast listeners, listen to specific podcasts around healthcare and of that 25%, 57% of them listen to podcasts around mental health and well-being, 51% on general health care, but other specialist topics that they were listening to included asthma, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cholesterol and arthritis. 

When asked why they listen to those podcasts, reasons included giving more information about the condition, giving hope and positivity but also a sense of community.

Zuleika referred to the BBC podcast You, Me and the Big C, originally hosted by Deborah JamesLauren Mahon and Rachael Bland, but Rachel sadly died in September last year, but the other two presenters continued with the podcast. She believes the reason it’s been so successful is because they are producing regular content, with nothing seeming to get in their way. The fact that they are themselves sick and going through a terrible time is actually almost like their bodies are weaker, but their voices are stronger.  They are absolutely relentlessly in getting their message out and it’s so real, they’re talking about stuff that you don’t hear if you read articles about people living with cancer, and that you don’t really see it in the press that often – it’s so raw, so real and so compelling, that she thinks it’s probably the most meaningful content and information if you were experiencing yourself cancer or you knew someone with cancer.  Zuleika said that there is so much information and a lot of the time they’re actually laughing with some of the content being extremely funny and yet they’re kind of almost laughing in the face of the negative, so for her, they are incredible.

This kind of podcasting was very much personal content, i.e. people sharing a lived experience. 

In their talk, they played clip from another recent csuite podcast episode about an internal communications campaign that DRPG  produced for Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) that featured three video stories of JLR employees who had suffered from mental health. That podcast feature a clip from a video case study of Matt, a senior manager at JLR who had had a stress related breakdown which caused him to consider taking his own life, and everyone in the studio recording at the time agreed that listening to Matt’s voice on his own without the supporting video content potentially made his story even more powerful.

Zuleika said that that deep engagement is something they lack in a lot of the communications healthcare is producing. She felt that video content is getting shorter and shorter and more and more chopped up and it’s all about short bursts of content that people don’t have time to consume.  Therefore, a lot of marketers are challenging themselves to make their content easier to consume and therefore shorter as opposed to thinking about deeper content that can be repeated or created over time.

With the average podcast being around 40 minutes and with subscribers listening to on average 80-90% of what they download, it becomes a huge amount of time that a brand can engage with their audience for if choosing to use podcasting.

Zuleika said that when you talk about behaviour change, if that was the goal of a podcast series, then that will take time, as people don’t change their behaviour overnight.  Therefore, getting continuous ongoing engagement, coming up with different people to interview, visiting places, all the different audiences that you could involve in your topic and becoming that authoritative voice in your topic and the expert, is a key opportunity.

Here’s what healthcare podcaster, Petra Velzeboer, host of the Mental Health podcast Adversity to Advantage, had to say:

Zuleika said that healthcare is rich with personal stories – stories about hope in the face of despair, about compassion in the face of suffering or courage in the face of adversity, all those stories that really connect and inspire other people and about being human.  The call therefore is for healthcare brands to produce more podcasts and get those stories told as there are so many audiences from doctors, patients, nurses, patient advocates, who could talk about their experiences, whether it’s on the frontline of health or whether it’s someone suffering from a chronic disease, whatever it might be.

Part 2 – China and the Health Explosion

Russell was joined by Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health.


With Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health in the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions

The synopsis of Claire’s talk said that by 2030, the number of Chinese citizens over 60 will be greater than the entire US population, which will excite some people in terms of growth opportunity, but will also lead to an increasing healthcare burden too. Claire thinks, therefore, that there needs to be or there is planning to be an entire revamp of the Chinese healthcare system because:

  1. it can’t cope
  2. just getting the people through the system is problematic.

Claire explained that there is no primary care service in China. So, when you’re a patient and you think you’re sick, you probably self-diagnose and then you ping around the system until you find a specialist that can actually diagnose what you have. The implications of that are that it’s a longer time to diagnosis, which she said is tough, as you might have a problem that’s asymptomatic, or you might be diabetic, in which case, by the time you get treated the damage has been done and you can’t reverse it, which has an impact later on in the system because it will cost the Chinese government or the insurance companies more to fix that long term problem.

The way to addressing these issues, according to Claire, is to make sure we tailor our messages so that we can educate people to take responsibility for their own healthcare and to get a better outcome.

Part 3 – Engaging with HCPs: Doctors are not robots!

Our final guest was Atilla Cansun, Chief Marketing Officer for Merck Consumer Health brands at P&G Health, who spoke about how we should be talking to doctors and other health care professionals to improve the engagement that they have with brands.


With Claire Gillis, International CEO of WPP Health in the ICCO House of PR at Cannes Lions

Atilla believes that the pharma industry makes the mistake of treating doctors as customers not humans. He said it’s because on all the companies in the industry, there’s a certain pressure for achieving the results, the sales numbers, and profit numbers and only a few companies are able to separate themselves and focus on the fact that there’s a human inside and the humans recognise the human side of the doctors and of the health care professionals in general.

Atilla shared some examples of how P&G Health, working with their Merck legacy brands, nurture emotional connections with healthcare professionals.  He said that ‘brand over business’ is the overarching umbrella, underneath which they have two themes.

  1. Putting the focus on the patients - a lot of the time the healthcare industry, again due to pressure to do business, talks about the company and how great it is, their products and ingredients of the products and how they exactly work, or in the hopes of scoring with the doctor, praising them.  However, Atilla said that the focus has to be on the patient – real patients, real stories, their wishes, expectations, maybe worries and complaints, which then immediately brings that brand much closer to the heart of the doctor, because day in day out they are basically living the patient’s stories.
  2. Delight don’t drain. Attila said that 80% of materials that are shared with doctors are graphs – data being expressed in charts etc. Therefore, they see graph after graph after graph, which drains their energy. Atilla believes that if you ask a pharmacist or a doctor the reason why they have become not a mathematician or an engineer, it will be because they wanted to interact with and help people – not to be drained and bogged down by data.  Therefore, great design, a visual identity that’s recognisable, pleases them but has also the impact.  It reminds them of a certain treatment category, so it doesn’t get lost in the sea of ‘similars’,  as well as I think the lighting has also the aspect of educating without burdening

All previous shows of the series are available at

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