DAS Healthcare, Publicis Worldwide, SapientNitro, and a Digression About Vending Machines

Diversified Agency Services -- The Healthcare Division


Wednesday morning the consultants got a taste of the healthcare ad world, thanks to the kind indulgence of DAS Healthcare.

DAS stands for Diversified Agency Services. It manages Omnicom's holdings in a number of disciplines, meaning attendees got to sample a number of agency/PR offerings at once.

I spent most of the morning at procurement meetings, which ran concurrently. (I'll blog about those later.) But I'd hate for you to miss out on the DAS stuff, so I scoured the bus on a quest for somebody who'd distill the session and provide a thoughtful view.

Enter Johanna McDowell of the Independent Agency Search and Selection Company in South Africa. In this video, and amidst much in-bus revelry, Johanna goes over trends in healthcare advertising, each attending agency's specialty and her overall feeling about the presentation.

A handful of points:

  • Healthcare grew 3% in last year as opposed to a decline in other areas of advertising.

  • Stronger focus on preventative medicine as opposed to cure medicine.

  • DDB Health applies same insights it would in DDB Brands, closely measured, natch.

  • CDM World agency focuses on ethical medicine, communications and doctors. Transitioned from mainly a print/TV company to ideas-driven.

  • Fleishman/Togorun: The latter's got a strong medical presence throughout the world; Togorun focuses on communicating to professionals with creative material.

Lack of knowledge about healthcare advertising and healthcare ad professionals in general means this sector is a huge growth opportunity for search consultants. So dig in at your leisure.

Here's the skinny on the other firms we visited Wednesday.

Publicis Worldwide


Publicis Worldwide has French roots, and generally tries sticking to them by plugging la difference: an experience of exceptional creative performance.

The team is tentatively friendly. You get the impression they're likable but only after you cut through a veneer of formality.

The company's raison d'être is "Changing the convo with contagious ideas." They dig the word "contagious" -- I'm guessing somebody took a stand and decided "viral" has become too commodified.

CEO Susan Gianinno and COO Richard Pinder of Publicis Worldwide in the USA and Publicis Worldwide, respectively, walked us through changes in the agency. Something that stuck out was the branding issue: Publicis Worldwide, the agency network, is mistaken for Publicis Group, the holding company, all the time.


Gianinno herself had to correct somebody about it at least twice over the course of the day.

Apart from that, Publicis Worldwide's growing much the way a very large agency does: with a focus on vertically integrating the ever-varying needs of longtime clients. For example. Publicis Entertainment, a full-on production house, was recently launched after one expressed a casual desire for more longform advertising.

Some of the work:


  • Vicks - "Breathe Life In"

  • TGI Friday's "Here's to the Partymakers" manifesto, which also incuded a fictional character called Woody who encouraged users to become fans of his Facebook page in exchange for free hamburgers.

  • "I pledge allegiance to my breasts" for Yoplait.

  • A really cool app called Sit or Squat, which locates toilets, for client Charmin. Confuzzled? No worries, view demo.

When asked to describe Publicis' culture, CEO Joe McCarthy of Publicis New York said the agency is more creatively-driven, aggressive, entrepreneurial and eclectic -- that is, it's trying to bring more dissimilar people in.

In the BRIC markets:

  • Brazil's enjoying the best results in 10 years but has a weak digital force. Publicis is working on remedying that.

  • Russia -- economy's down 35%, but Publicis is only down 15%, mainly because most of its clients are foreign. "If you've got a Russian company, we've got a few agencies to name," one of the executives quipped.

  • China -- robust, but agencies had a tough time this year.

  • India -- just bought a third arm in Mumbai, working on dispensing more dollars there.

After that, some girls came in with wine and we got to disperse for cookies, as well as festive lunchbag-style grab bags filled with things like Publicis-branded mugs, paperclip holders and mousepads.



At some point in the evening, managing director Kika Samblas of Grupo Consultores in Madrid said, "You never really know where to place them."

For a lot of brands that kind of ambiguity is horrors, but SapientNitro's made good with it. I don't know what last year's presentation looked like (though CCO Gaston Legorburu jovially admitted there were technical issues), but this year it all went down in the IAC Building, where a 150-foot screen breathed vivid life to the company's manifesto.

Here's a shot of Hervé foregrounding a background of stars, prior to Gaston's ascent onto the soapbox.


It merits saying that Sapient was behind those incredible touchscreen Coca-Cola sample machines that so seduced me and other Cannes attendees this year. Last night we revisited those machines, which can apparently be retrofitted into existing beverage-vending units.


We also got to see what else they can do: create a funner movie ticket-buying experience (and even reserve your snacks!), put products in context, and provide 360-degree panning views of a place, as well as the ability to zero in on a product or ad and get more information about it.


The machines serve as content, creative, an engagement experience and -- crucially -- a source of information literally at your fingertips.

They're also self-explanatory. At Cannes, few people had ever seen this technology applied to vending machines, but after a few tentative seconds, they knew almost intuitively what to do. A lot of this has to do with well-thought-out design, but you still go through a learning process (poking around to understand how it responds), and that process is a positive experience.


At no time does the unit not respond, even if it doesn't do what you expect. There's never a point where you'd like, "Gar, that's not what I wanted" -- every engagement point is constructed with the intent to delight and teach.

Okay, I'm gonna stop gushing about vending machines now. Overall the presentation was entertaining and well-received; the big walk-away lay in knowing Sapient isn't interested in being defined as an agency, or anything else. What it cares about is pushing technology forward in a manner that enables a brand's core message to rise to the top, like cream, and meet users halfway.


After that came dinner, a catered and nametagged affair during which Sapient Nitro employees were interspersed with our group. My seat buddy's name was Donald Chesnut and we talked about books, movies, and dogs.

Seatmating breaks barriers. Here's a post-dinner shot of AdForum's Philippe Paget with Sapient's Jane Barratt and Joey Wilson, who said I should visit the Miami office sometime because there's lots of couches:


The vibe was celebratory in part because of the recent Nitro acquisition, announced just this summer. Nitro's ad network includes Mars, Volvo, Nike and Foot Locker.

The story goes that Gaston met up with the Nitro folks and, after a few hours, burst out with a line like, "We're not there without you, and you're not there without us. We complete each other."

(*Collective coughs, outright laughs*)

This is Sapient's fourth year presenting, so the consultants saw the company blossom into what it is today. That's probably at least one reason for the good feeling that permeated the night -- but really though? It's just a nice group of people that doesn't talk relentlessly about "creativity." They create environments that make you feel okay about being curious and touching stuff.

Frankly, that's the best way to learn about a new technology -- or a company, or, well, a brand.
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