CANNES: Building brand experiences rather than above-the-line ads is often a better way for pharmaceutical and healthcare brands to reach people, due in part to the category's extreme complexity.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Bruce Henderson, chief creative officer of Jack Morton Worldwide, suggested that the nature of the category makes it particularly suited to brand experiences. Warc subscribers can read more in Jack Morton Worldwide's four principles for pharma marketing.

The pharmaceutical landscape is incredibly complex with huge, global companies, such as the agency's client AbbVie, operating in up to 170 markets, each one with its own policies and healthcare culture.

Data from the World Health Organization cited by Henderson suggests that 20-40% of the money spent on health around the world – tens of billions of dollars – is wasted on inappropriate tests and treatments.

"Offering experiences and guidance as people move through their healthcare journey is vitally important because there are so many constituents," Henderson said.

"You're talking to insurance companies, you're talking to pharma companies, you're talking to doctors, you're talking to caregivers. And the consumer actually has a breadth of information."

For Jack Morton Worldwide, this means sticking to the agency's four "brand experience principles" - be human, be useful, invite participation and build community - using these to inform any solutions the agency offers the client.

"Brand experience is an attractive place to play now but also due to advertising proliferation messaging is not as effective as it used to be, so experience becomes more important," Henderson added.

As an example, Henderson cited recent work from the agency and also work from AbbVie, including 'Voices of HS', an international online community for people suffering from a serious skin condition that often left sufferers "disgusted" with themselves.

"People trust more and are more open to hearing from people they know or people like them, than from brands," Henderson explained. "I found that case really moving. Many of these people had never met another person with the disease."

Elsewhere, AbbVie's Health Beacon was launched to solve a major problem suffered by many pharma brands: that patients often did not comply with courses of treatment.

It solved this problem with a data-collecting needle disposal box that, via a beacon, monitored whether or not participants were keeping up to date with their treatment.

This work, for Henderson, exemplified how experiences, not just messaging, can help healthcare brands. "It's an absolutely brilliant, great way to use data," he added. "They're rolling it out around the rest of the world."

Warc subscribers can read a full report from the Jack Morton Worldwide and AbbVie presentation in Jack Morton Worldwide's four principles for pharma marketing.

Data sourced from Warc