Discovering Meaning in Marketing

Posted by Julie Wolpow from Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide Planning - North America on March 7, 2017


As an employee of the Ogilvy Associates Program, I am fortunate to experience three different departments at the company before deciding where I would like to focus my career. Prior to my current rotation as a planner at Ogilvy CommonHealth, I had never considered working in pharmaceutical advertising – or at least I had never thought that I would enjoy it. Ever since I knew I wanted to be a planner, which was when I came across the Dove Real Beauty Sketches video on Facebook during my freshman year of college, I had dreamed of being on a strictly B2C account, uncovering insights about women and their cosmetic products or men and their beer. That’s where the real creativity flowed, I believed, within the walls of war rooms dedicated to soda brands and fitness wearables. In pharma, you can’t create a billboard that dispenses cancer drugs or prescription bottles that come with song lyrics, so where is the room for originality? Or excitement? 

It didn’t take me long to start finding the answers to these questions. I soon learned that the process of brand planning for a cancer drug was identical to that of a soap brand, but that the difference lay in the profundity of the insights. While it may be entertaining to watch new moms shop for diapers or interview millennials about their social media habits, the understandings that a planner develops about cancer patients, doctors, and caregivers carry a special kind of meaning. They are about struggle, pain, love, and anger, and the depth of human emotion that is felt when a person finds out that he or she might have only a few more years, months, or weeks to live. 

As an anthropology major, when I realized that I wanted to work in advertising, I was insistent that my goal would be to help change consumer behavior in order to make the world a better, more liberating place for people. While I am not denying that the ultimate objective in pharmaceutical advertising is to sell more of your drug and thus make more money – the way it is with all marketing – it nevertheless feels rewarding to create messaging for a product that was invented to save people’s lives.

I am only halfway through my rotation at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, and I still have so much more to learn, but I am grateful that my experience in this department – one that I had not considered prior to coming to Ogilvy – has already been so fulfilling.