Sunday, March 31, 2024

16595: Good Grief, Charlie!


Digiday published a lengthy report on Pfizer building a new generative AI platform – named Charlie – designed to ultimately create pharmaceutical marketing.


Publicis Groupe – utilizing its AI doodad named Marcel – helped invent Charlie, forging a partnership that probably also inspired Pfizer’s decision to shift its marketing duties from IPG to the Paris-based White holding company.


Wonder how long before Charlie fires Marcel


With ‘Charlie,’ Pfizer is building a new generative AI platform for pharma marketing


By Marty Swant


Pfizer has developed a new generative AI platform and named it after the pharmaceutical giant’s founder.


Since last year, Pfizer has been developing a new AI platform to help with content supply chains and while also overhauling the company’s entire marketing workbench. “Charlie,” named after Pfizer co-founder Charles Pfizer, is now in the process of rolling out to the marketing organization. Executives say it’s still early, but the platform is now in use by Pfizer’s hundreds of people in central marketing team and thousands across the company’s various brands. It’s also being used by agency partners including Publicis Groupe and IPG.


A key focus for Pfizer’s strategy is improving the company’s content supply chain, according to Bill Worple, Pfizer’s vp of customer engagement platforms and technology. Along with helping with content creation and editing, generative AI also helps with fact-checking and legal reviews — something that’s especially important with highly regulated industries like pharmaceutical marketing. Using a “red, yellow, green” risk system when labeling content, Charlie can identify assets the medical review team might want to spend more time looking over. For example, a headline used many times might not need as much attention. Other creative assets might use previously approved language but now appear in a new setting while other content making new claims deserves the most time.


“The whole idea there is how do we triple [or] 5x our content creation to actually create messaging that resonates both for the health care providers as well as our patients,” Worple said.


Another focus is turning Charlie into a workbench for the entire marketing organization. That includes integrating media analytics for the company’s brands, insights about various competitors and data from various websites. Charlie is also being integrated into Adobe platforms like Workfront and Experience Manager to help users take actions based on insights across various dashboards. Other features include integrations with other platforms like Slack to help employees communicate and collaborate.


As for the type of content Charlie helps create, Pfizer is starting with digital media, emails and digital presentations that sales teams use with physicians. Another area it’s exploring is helping to research and write drafts for medical articles. Large language models also gather insights across therapeutic areas to better understand customers and treatments. For example, Worple mentioned how a parent might be affected by a migraine differently than someone without a family.


“You actually start creating different insights into who your customer is,” said Worple. “And then [knowing] what the actual pain point is for them. It’s not something we would classify as medical research. That insight of ‘X percentage of these people are this type of individual’ really helps you understand who your customer is. Now you know how to talk to them better.”


Spinning off Marcel


Charlie was trained on data from a range of sources, according to Worple. For generating marketing content, Pfizer uses training data from approved content that is filed by each category of treatment (such as oncology, endocrinology, etc.) and by specific products. It also uses segmentation models to teach Charlie about types of messaging that’s relevant to each segment and what’s most important.


While content creation is powered by a custom version of ChatGPT, Charlie uses recommendation algorithms. Pfizer’s also creating ways to use natural language processing (NLP) for queries related to internal research, cases studies and performance marketing data. And to prevent Charlie from giving inaccurate information or other “hallucinations,” answers are validated with source material based on previously published and validated Pfizer content. There’s also a process for reviewing and validating outputs.


Pfizer’s efforts are a collaboration with Publicis Groupe, which helped to build Charlie based on its existing Marcel AI platform. According to Marcel president Arpit Jain, Marcel is like the “base house” and Charlie is the version customized to Pfizer’s needs. He added that Publicis Groupe also has a dedicated team that helps maintain and evolve Charlie every day. Last month, Publicis announced major AI updates of its own including a new platform called CoreAI.


Because health care data is so sensitive, Pfizer is making sure Charlie’s collection and use of data meets various internal and external privacy requirements. Based on who is using Charlie, the platform can tailor its features to an employee’s role, how they use it and the types of data users engage with. That all makes data governance especially key, both in terms of accuracy and privacy.


“You’ve got to be very careful,” Jain said. “The last thing you want is to have some crazy data that you did not clean up right. And especially in healthcare, it could be a matter of life and death. If you recommend the wrong iPhone, it’s okay — it’s not the end of the world. But if you recommend the wrong medicine, God forbid something like that happens.”


Along with content creation, using generative AI for medical, legal and regulatory reviews is a key feature other pharma companies are also exploring, according to analysts covering the space. It’s also seen as low cost and lower risk, but high reward.


Marketers are excited about using generative AI to help with global rollouts of content that’s translated AI and localized for each market, according to Gartner analyst Chris Beland.


“The cost optimization potential is significant, but not without risk,” Beland said. “There are obvious implications in a consumer or [health care providers] seeing flawed or unauthentic content, but there could also be unintentional implications on the strategic, measurement, and approval workflows if not properly planned for.”


Generating ads — and more


Beyond marketing, generative AI could generate between $60 billion and $110 billion in annual economic value for the pharma and medical product industries, according to a January report by the McKinsey Global Institute. The report also mentioned that marketing-related uses for generative AI could help halve content creation costs and increase production pipelines by 20%. The technology could also double or triple the speed of approving content.


According to WARC, pharma and healthcare companies make up the third-fastest growing product segment for global ad spending behind financial services and technology/electronics. In the U.S. alone, the firm forecasts pharma and healthcare ad spending to reach $34.6 billion in 2024, or 16.7% more than 2023.


Some companies in various industries are exploring ways to generate synthetic data based on first-party data, according to Paul Stringer, WARC’s managing editor for research & insights. That way, companies can create audiences to look like their customers without exposing any personal information. However, he said it’s important that companies make sure they don’t end up replicating real-world biases in the process.


“If you don’t give these generative AI models the right training data, what you end up doing is leaving yourself at massive, massive risk of amplifying the existing bias and gaps in your customer data,” Stringer said.


Other agencies are also building their own generative AI tools for pharma clients. One is CMI Media Group, a media agency owned by WPP. (A few weeks ago, WPP said it would invest £250 million in 2024 to build its AI initiatives.) According to Justin Freid, CMI’s chief media & innovation officer, the tool will debut later this month and already is being tested with social and display ads, with a plan to later include video.


Along with helping in legal reviews, CMI is using the tool to help generate content personalized for each audience or optimized based on a platform’s performance data. For example, it might include changing the background of an ad based on the season of the year. The variations all still stay within set creative guidelines, but Freid said it opens up “a myriad of testing opportunities” to see what works with each audience.


“They still do need to be approved, but these are variations of creative versus like whole new campaigns,” Freid said. “The in-depth analysis of that new ad doesn’t need to be done…It’s nothing ridiculous where it’s a new tagline with a new claim or anything like that. We keep it simple, but we have found it to be more effective if it is more relevant to the end user.”

16594: Health & Wellness Field Feeling Unhealthy & Unwell…?

Publicis Health posted a wave of job listings for multiple positions. Imagine that.


The scenario actually underscores how White holding companies have fueled a commoditization of services and talent, whereby cookie-cutter White advertising agencies are staffed by repetitive, redundant, and replaceable drones.


Hopefully, IPG employees adversely affected by the Pfizer fiasco will be able to smoothly transition to Publicis Health. Although it might feel like going from one flaming dumpster to another.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

16593: Not The Top Plays In The NBA.


The NBA BlacklistBlacklist? Blacklist?!

Friday, March 29, 2024

16592: Pharma Karma For White Holding Companies…?


Fierce Pharma reported Pfizer injected its creative business into the global ass of a single White holding company—Publicis Groupe—roughly 10 months after a shootout that led to splitting marketing assignments between Publicis and IPG.


It’s gotta be a bitter pill to swallow for IPG—the former lead creative co-conspirator—although Pfizer claimed the jilted White holding company would retain certain undefined chores. Which sounds like going from running the hospital to bed pan duties.


There’s a bit of pharma karma at work here. After all, White holding companies have been closing, consolidating, casting off, and crapping on their own enterprises—ultimately disrupting people’s lives in the process. So, it’s kinda funny to see the corporations get a taste of their own medicine.


Pfizer shifts creative business to Publicis in latest marketing move


By Andrea Park


Less than a year after divvying up its marketing work between two firms, Publicis Groupe and Interpublic Group, Pfizer is tweaking the distribution of duties among the pair.


The Big Pharma has shifted its global creative business to Publicis’ purview, it confirmed to Fierce Pharma Marketing.


Previously, IPG was Pfizer’s lead creative partner; it’ll reportedly hang on to product PR and health brief responsibilities for the drugmaker, according to Campaign. Publicis, meanwhile, adds creative to an existing list of Pfizer marketing duties that includes data, media and production.


“As Pfizer evolves its marketing model, the company is deeply committed to the flexible, two-agency partnership that was put in place last year,” Pfizer said in a statement sent to Fierce Pharma Marketing. “Publicis and IPG, each with their respective areas of responsibility, will continue to help drive cutting-edge and data-driven integrated marketing communications focused on the value our science and our breakthroughs.”


Publicis declined to comment on the switch.


The shuffle comes about 10 months after Pfizer first tapped both Publicis and IPG to take over its marketing matters, which in turn came shortly after the company appointed Andreas “Drew” Panayiotou, a Verily alum, as its first-ever biopharma global chief marketing officer.


Panayiotou reportedly conducted an agency review after taking on the role, ultimately resulting in the selection of Publicis and IPG to head up Pfizer’s marketing. At the time of last spring’s announcement, he told PR Week that “consolidating and centralizing” the company’s agency model would help make its marketing business “more innovative, nimbler and data-driven.”


That shift for Pfizer’s marketing business, which is valued at $1.41 billion, added up to the biggest account move of last year by Campaign’s count.


Since then, Pfizer’s marketing moves have included a star-studded COVID-19 booster campaign last fall, an ad for its pneumonia vaccine during this year’s Oscars and, in perhaps its most high-profile spot, a Super Bowl LVIII commercial that celebrated scientific progress—and, of course, the role the pharma has played in that progress—which it reportedly produced in collaboration with Publicis.


Separately from the Oscars and Super Bowl ads, Pfizer kicked off the year by majorly upping its general TV ad spending: In January, it poured $22.7 million into its “If it’s Covid, Paxlovid” spot, which had previously been backed by just $6.7 million in December, and spent $17.6 million on ads for its Abrysvo RSV vaccine, down from $18 million the month before, earning Pfizer the fourth and 10th spots on the month’s ranking of pharma DTC spending. A month later, however, Pfizer was nowhere to be found on the top 10 list for February, which saw a significant month-over-month decrease in overall spending.

Thursday, March 28, 2024

16591: WPP Merges Grey & AKQA, Excretes Titanic Turd.

Campaign reported WPP is once again merging outhouses—White advertising agency Grey and White digital and design firm AKQA—to create a global shitshow.


This latest twosome toilet re-flushes a rejiggering attempted in 2020, when the White holding company sought to place both companies under the banner of AKQA Group. The deal was nixed when Grey staffers—along with longtime client Procter & Gamble—staged protests.


WPP CEO Mark Read seemingly caved in to the complaints, despite reportedly having initiated the merger as early as 2018. It now turns out, however, that Grey and AKQA were quietly partnering all along, which makes the big announcement a farting formality.


Most outrageous is the WPP contention that only 11 people will be “impacted” by redundancies. Sounds—and smells—like fecal impaction.


AKQA and Grey merge operations in five markets in efficiency drive


By Gideon Spanier


Two of WPP’s creative agencies, AKQA and Grey, are to merge operations in five markets as part of an efficiency drive.


AKQA will become the sole or lead brand in four of the five markets – Australia, Belgium, Italy and the United Arab Emirates.


AKQA “assumes management” of these offices, “with Grey’s senior management becoming part of the local leadership teams”, the two companies said. Grey will be the lead brand in the fifth market, China.


Laura Maness, the chief executive of Grey, and Ajaz Ahmed, the founder and chief executive of AKQA, said in a joint interview with Campaign that the simplification would help to drive faster growth and appeal to their “burgeoning roster of global clients”.


The two agencies employ around 5,500 staff globally and share clients such as The Coca-Cola Company and Volvo.


About 225 people work in the five affected markets and it is understood fewer than 5% – or around 11 employees – will be “impacted” in “duplicative, non-billable or low-billable roles”.


Grey has been part of AKQA for financial reporting purposes since the end of 2020, but the two agencies have continued to go to market as separate brands.


The “strategic realignment” in five markets “enhances AKQA’s capabilities and focuses Grey’s footprint on growth markets”, the companies said.


This is what the changes mean in each market:


• In Australia, AKQA will become the sole brand and the Grey brand, which has operated as WhiteGrey, will be dropped.


• Similarly, in the UAE, AKQA will be the sole brand and Grey Dubai will be dropped.


• In Belgium, Famous Grey will rebrand to AKQA Brussels, where AKQA has not previously had an office.


• In Italy, AKQA and Grey will merge under AKQA’s leadership, but both brands will continue to operate for clients, which include Unicredit – a recent joint win.


• In China, AKQA and Grey will merge in Shanghai under Grey’s leadership, but both brands will continue to operate and serve clients, which include L’Oreal and Nike.


Maness said: “AKQA and Grey have already been working together in these regions and our areas of expertise complement each other perfectly.


“By bringing our teams together, we’re combining the best of both worlds – Grey’s renowned creativity and AKQA’s world-class design and innovation.


“I’m confident that this move will benefit not only our employees but also our clients, who will have access to a truly unparalleled pool of diverse talent and expertise.”


Following the restructure, AKQA and Grey will operate 50 offices – which they call studios – globally. AKQA will have 30 offices in 18 countries and Grey will have 20 offices in 18 countries.


The two agencies said: “There are no plans to integrate any other Grey studio into AKQA.”


A year of efficiency


Ahmed said: “We are proud to partner with Laura’s team and believe the Grey brand has lasting value. Driving operational excellence is core to our mission of delivering sustainable growth and in service of building a leaner, more agile agency to improve our performance and better enable our long-term vision.”


WPP has been making efficiencies across the holding company, most notably with the merger of VMLY&R and Wunderman Thompson to create VML in October 2023, and it told investors at its capital markets day in January that it plans to save £125m through restructuring as well as investing £250m in artificial intelligence and technology.


Revenues from its creative agencies declined 1.6% last year.


Ahmed conceded that creative agencies have been facing “increasing competition” and “different competition” from new and existing players in the marketing eco-system and the rise of AI has brought new issues.


“The way that an agency stays relevant is by increasing the level of innovation and its value-add for its clients, and that’s really what we’re focused on,” he said.


Ahmed described the merger of offices in five markets as part of “a year of efficiency” for AKQA and Grey – a nod to how Meta positioned its global overhaul in 2023 that led to a big leap in profitability.


Asked why AKQA and Grey have not followed VML in going for a full-blown merger, he said: “The easy thing to do is to make one brand but it’s not the right thing to do and there’s immense value in the Grey brand and the Grey leadership team.


“And that’s reflected in the in-bound [interest] we're getting, the opportunities we're getting and the incredible team that's been built under Laura's leadership.”


Grey wants to focus more on global clients


Ahmed founded AKQA in 1994 and he has remained in charge after selling to WPP in 2012. Grey was founded in the US in 1917 and WPP bought it in 2004.


Maness, who joined as CEO in 2022, was upbeat about the changes, saying “I have never been more excited or optimistic about Grey’s future” and claiming its pipeline of client opportunities is “the strongest it’s been in a decade”.


But she said Grey needs to focus more on global clients: “I think there had been an over-emphasis on local clients and local markets, and this really re-positions Grey to super-charge its growth engine and to deliver on behalf of the current base of local clients and to continue to add global clients.”


She went on: “We’re transforming ourselves to grow faster and we have an incredible opportunity to make the most of our collective scale. And this intentional [smaller] footprint [for Grey] is going to create new opportunities for our people, and it will deliver even better results for our clients. The goal for Grey has never been to be WPP's biggest agency. It’s to be the fittest.”


Maness said Grey has already made progress in a number of areas that go beyond headline staff numbers including improving the gender balance and diverstiy of leadership.


“We believe we’re in the business of value creation and we’re also in the continuous improvement business and if you're not changing, you’re not growing,” she said.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

16590: Lipton TTFN.


Advertising Age reported McCann Worldgroup Global Executive Creative Director Pierre—“So Fucking Bored”—Lipton left the White advertising agency to pursue other opportunities. Don’t expect Lipton to land elsewhere in the IPG network as a Chief Diversity Officer.


Remember when former IPG CEO Michael Roth declared the White holding company had zero tolerance for any behavior conflicting with the corporate mission to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion?


Lipton is a poster boy for the hypocrisy, performative PR, and outright lies embedded in the DNA of Adland. People of color who take bold stands for equality are routinely blackballed, blacklisted, and blacked out of the industry. Yet for White people who display cultural cluelessness, exhibit blatant bias, and enforce systemic racism, all is forgiven and forgotten.


McCann Global Executive Creative Director Pierre Lipton Departs


Lipton had been with McCann for seven years


By Brian Bonilla


Pierre Lipton, global executive creative director at McCann Worldgroup and former co-chief creative officer of McCann New York, is no longer with the agency. The news comes five months after Lipton was assigned the executive creative director role.


“Pierre Lipton is leaving McCann Worldgroup to pursue other opportunities. He contributed to many groundbreaking pieces of creative work during his time here and we wish him well in his next chapter,” Interpublic Group of Cos.’ McCann Worldgroup wrote in a statement.


Lipton declined to comment.


Lipton’s departure comes five months after he was accused of making an “inappropriate remark” at an internal agency meeting tied to an initiative meant to teach ways to recognize and eradicate unconscious bias. As a result, Lipton took a leave of absence.


Lipton had been with McCann for seven years. For nearly three of them, he was co-chief creative officer of McCann New York. Before joining McCann, Lipton was chief creative officer at 360i, which has since been absorbed into Dentsu Creative.


“When I came [to McCann] 7 years ago, I did so for the opportunity to walk amongst giants. To be surrounded by and learn from people who were better than I at what I loved doing: making great work for the biggest brands on the planet, and trying to make the world better because of it,” Lipton wrote on his LinkedIn page.


In his LinkedIn post, Lipton listed several brands he worked on at McCann such as Mastercard, Verizon and Microsoft, and gun control activism group March For Our Lives.


McCann lost its Verizon account to Ogilvy last year and recently shut down its McCann 215 agency, which has long held Xbox as a major client. McCann remains the lead creative agency, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.


“I count myself extremely lucky to have connected with some remarkable humans during my time at 622 Third Ave and around the world. I have great affection and respect for more people than I can count, at more companies than I can list, in more cities than I can believe,” Lipton wrote on his LinkedIn. “Thanks to each and every one of you who’ve filled my days with richness, laughs and the drive to do beautifully impossible things.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

16589: Say It Loud…But Not Too Loud.


Digiday Media’s Worklife published a lengthy report on “the hidden damage desk jobs are doing to our ears”—that is, the constant use of headphones, whether for connecting in meetings or drowning out coworkers, leads to potential and serious hearing problems.


In Adland, White advertising agencies would use it as an excuse for failing to listen to diversity advocates.


The hidden damage desk jobs are doing to our ears


By Cloey Callahan


We may be damaging our hearing at work without even realizing it, experts say.


In manual jobs like construction or manufacturing, a loud environment is par for the course. That means there are more protections in place for these workers’ ears, with employers legally required to provide hearing protectants if exposed to sounds over 85 decibels for eight hours.


But people in desk jobs are also at risk, and there are no such protections.


Sure, an office environment itself isn’t as loud as a factory or construction site, but some people wear their headphones for their entire eight-hour workday, which could lead to hearing damage in the long term, experts say. The World Health Organization recommends listening through headphones for a maximum of one hour per day.


People who work from home, or a third space like a cafe or coworking space, may be particularly at risk, given it’s common in those spaces to wear headphones to drown out other noise or distractions.


Charlene Espie is one of those people who has a growing concern for her hearing health. “It’s always in my ears, blasting music – I can’t live without Spotify,” said Espie, founder of Tartan Social, a social media marketing agency. “I’m always getting that ‘volume too high’ warning on my phone and I’m like ‘ah, whatever, it’s fine.’”


She’s only 40 years old but is beginning to notice her hearing decline and has booked her first appointment with an audiologist. “You go through life just doing your thing until you’re stopped in your tracks and need to make a change,” said Espie. “It’s having that intention to make me think twice and take the breaks and not leave my headphones on. It’s a force of habit now, but I need to try to stop.”


But that can be a difficult task, especially when you’re not sure how important it is to focus on your hearing health.


Employers leave hearing health out of the picture


While most employers boast health benefits including vision and dental, they almost always leave hearing out of the picture. According to the Royal National Institute for Deaf People (RNID) around 1 in 2 adults have their eyes and teeth checked, while only 1 in 20 (6%) have their hearing checked.


“What we often forget to realize is that headphones create noisy workplaces, even in those silent offices, where we wear headphones to cut out the sound or to commute,” said Amanda Philpott, hearing health expert and co-founder and CEO of Eargym.


It’s not something that only older populations need to worry about either. Espie falls in the group of millennials who will experience more hearing loss than their parents. According to a study from BMJ, it’s predicted that 1 billion younger people will sustain hearing loss. Other research indicates that hearing loss is 30% higher than 20 years ago.


Blake Cadwell, co-founder of Soundly, says the main reason for that is the younger generation’s use of headphones. Headphone makers are not regulated in terms of volume output, which means they can make it as loud as they want. And while many are being responsible, like Apple which sends a notification when noise in your environment reaches a level that might affect your hearing, it might not necessarily be enough.


And hearing loss impacts productivity too.


“When we start to struggle to hear, we need to pay more attention, and the cognitive load, the listening effort, is so significant that it exhausts us,” said Philpott. “So we start to want to withdraw from those conversations or withdraw from that engagement. We become more isolated and contribute less.”


In its worst cases, it could lead to someone leaving the workforce early altogether, creating an economic impact. “We don’t recognize that a lot of our stress and pain at work is due to the fact that we are in meetings where we are in environments where we’re really struggling to hear,” said Philpott.


Quick tips for concerned workers


One of the first steps is doing a check to see how your hearing currently is. While a doctor is best for that, online tests can give you an indicator of what the doctor might say. Eargym offers a quick test that tells you what your hearing age is, and Soundly has one as well that tests both ears.


And whether your hearing is stellar or worse than you hoped, it’s best to start taking measures to prevent future hearing loss.


A good rule of thumb is to not listen to anything over 85 decibels, and even that is pushing it. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, sounds above 70 decibels over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.


There’s also the 60/60 rule which states that your volume shouldn’t be over 60% and that every 60 minutes you should take a break.


“Certainly five to 10 minutes or enough time to give your ears a rest,” said Philpott. “Go for a walk, make a cup of coffee, take your headphones off for a bit and allow your ears to rest. It’s not quick on and off. It’s giving them a proper chance to recover.”


Also, use noise-canceling headphones over a regular pair.


“It’s not because it protects you from the outside world as much, but because it protects you from not having to turn up your internal volume to a point that’s unhealthy,” said Cadwell.


Say you’re in a coffee shop on a Zoom call. You might need to set your headphones to 90 decibels to just hear the conversation over the background noise. If you have noise-canceling headphones, that is not necessary. Cadwell explains that noise-canceling headphones work by creating a counteractive wave to the outside sound, which can block or stop someone from hearing other noise.


“It’s not unlike mental health or other things where a lot of little decisions are what add up to taking care of hearing health, like okay I’m going to turn it down a little bit or I’m going to take 15-minute breaks,” said Cadwell. “It doesn’t always feel so loud. Your brain is not a great guide on what is allowed and what is not allowed and I think that’s really challenging.”