When I and fellow Princetern Cordelia Xie ’16 arrived at the Havas Agency office on Madison Avenue, New York City, we were not greeted with a stern reception desk, but instead a warm welcome from Lorraine Forster, Vice President of Human Resources, complete with bagels and orange juice. Though a seemingly trivial detail, it was reflective of the overall reception we received throughout our Princeternship; a feeling of warmth and appreciation was present for every member in the Havas community. Ms. Forster introduced the overall corporate structure of Havas, an umbrella advertising agency in which we would be exposed to the specific division of Havas Health, which specialized in healthcare advertising.
Over the next few days, we met with the various teams involved in the advertising process, and by the end of our three days we had gained a basic understanding of the complex creation of a seemingly “simple” promotion. Healthcare professionals approach advertising agencies such as Havas with a specific drug or product, after which Havas creates a “pitch,” a presentation to convince the pharmaceutical firm that Havas should be responsible for marketing the drug. If successful, the client will then meet with a strategy team – nicknamed “Strat Farm” at Havas – whose responsibilities include repositioning brands as well as educating audiences about both the product and the issues it raises. One remarkable aspect the strategy team discussed was the need to remember the audience and engage with them on a cultural level; for global brand campaigns, difference concept designs are used for the same product in different countries.
Though I found the work of the strategy team to be fascinating, I learned that their established foundation for a campaign came as a result ofthe partnershipswith the account, creative, and copy teams. While the account team functions as a liaison between the clients and the creative team, the copywriters and art directors create the actual graphics and text of the ad. I was surprised to find out that, unlike consumer advertising, healthcare advertising is much more nuanced and restrained, due to both FDA parameters and the sensitive content displayed. The editorial team has the final say before the final production of the advertisement. Since Havas develops drug promotions for pharmaceutical companies, a medical strategy team works with the marketing team of the client to inform the tone of the advertisement. Perhaps what astonished me most was the almost fastidious wording of healthcare promotions. For example, words such as “superior” needed to be exchanged for “enhanced” when describing a product, due to the subtly different connotations each word retained. Finally, project leaders maintain the schedule and finances of each project involved in a brand campaign.
By the end of my Princeternship, I had a newfound appreciation for the complexity involved in advertising, as each team we were introduced to played an integral role in the promotion process. But there are three highlights of my experience at Havas which deserve particular attention.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of my first day revolved around my introduction to User Experience, a platform through which websites, applications, and other digital frameworks can be created to advertising materials. Joseph Grgic, User Experience Architect, demonstrated the cognitive psychology he uses to design websites; interfaces are created to meet with the psychological limits of humans, and a compromise is always struck between design and usability. Though his “wire frame” layout becomes the blue print for any digital application, he explained that true design is rooted in psychology and information architecture (the art of organizing information most effectively for the user). It was fascinating to learn about both the psychology of design and its implementation in the digital media.
On our first day, Cordelia and I also met with Christine D’Appolonia, Managing Director, who discussed various aspects of the advertising process. For one, she explained that one of Havas Health’s primary responsibilities is to create material endorsing specific pharmaceutical products that could then be used by the corresponding client representatives to market those drugs to physicians. Furthermore, she was quick to delineate between consumer and healthcare advertising. I had no idea that, due to the limited number of products on the market, medical advertising is much more competitive than its consumer counterpart, and that medical ads are expected to comply with FDA regulations to advocate transparency to the patient. It was clear from Christine’s energy and insight that the business of medical advertising is an exciting one, partly due to the constant shifts in medicine and healthcare reform – a fact that, in turn, fascinated me about the industry.
My wonderful experience at Havas would not have been possible without my gracious host Jessica Wey ’07, Associate Creative Director, who not only introduced me and Cordelia to the world of advertising, but whose mentorship and guidance were invaluable throughout. Jessica stressed that healthcare advertising cultivates a unique skill set since it requires a blend of communication, writing, and scientific knowledge. She was also kind enough to present some of her own advertising projects. Looking at our host’s previous work shed new light onto the science – or perhaps even art – of advertising. Most importantly, Jessica showed us how to connect with an audience on a human level despite working with products that could only be described in scientific, technical terms.
During my Princeternship, I enjoyed the fun yet focused environment at Havas. I especially liked the open set-up established for the office, which fostered both creativity and collaboration among its employees. Though the tone of the office space was relaxed, the atmosphere in Havas was fast-paced and energetic, reflective of the dynamic industry of healthcare advertising.
As a biological engineer with a potential interest in finance, I came into the Princeternship hoping to understand more about the “softer side” of product development; while I knew my concentration would prepare me for the technical aspects of manufacturing, I wanted to learn the steps needed to take a manufactured good into the final, marketable stage. Discovering more about the advertising process was a perfect gateway to the business aspect of development, and the Princeternship at Havas Life certainly fulfilled those goals and more. Many thanks to Jessica, Lorraine Forster (who kindly arranged all logistics of the Princeternship), all those at Havas, and the Office of Career Services for providing this fantastic opportunity!