GSK digital chief strolls Lions Health for inspiration, partner meetups

Flags outside Cannes Palais II at Cannes Lions Health 2019
Cannes Lions Health draws executives from around the globe looking for inspiration and meeting with partners. (Beth Snyder Bulik)

CANNES, FRANCE—GlaxoSmithKline’s consumer health chief digital officer Marc Speichert spoke at Lions Health on Monday, but he stayed to walk the halls and meet with partners and potential ones.

And pick up awards: GSK’s OTC pain med Voltaren won a bronze Health & Wellness Lion award for its “Pain is Drama” campaign. The ad shows people contorted in pain holding their back or neck or other body part with mouths open in agony while an opera score plays, channeling the power and melodrama of those personal pains.

“We look at Cannes as a source of inspiration. We try to balance the meeting with partners with agencies and publishers and spending time in both Palais getting inspiration with all the creative,” Speichert said in an interview Tuesday.

Cannes’ global creativity push fits into GSK’s own strategy to raise its internal marketing creativity bar. Last year, the company rebooted and relaunched its marketing capabilities under MIQ, which stands for marketing IQ. GSK is looking to make creative excellence the anchor for MIQ, with one key goal to drive more creative bravery into its work, Speichert said.

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He pointed to Excedrin as an example of that kind of pushing-the-envelope creative. The “We See Your Pain” campaign this year used social listening, data mining and field research to find specific terms consumers used to describe their headaches, and then translated them into visuals—such as pounding waves and lightning storms inside people’s heads.

“We’ve been really good at doing product-centric ads, but I think the opportunity is really around how do we nail the branding and the more emotional dimension of the ads to build not only short-term impact but also long-term brand affinity and brand recognition,” Speichert said.

Underpinning GSK’s creative strategy is of course, data. Speichert calls it data-driven creative that works to “make the magic happen.”

“It starts with how do we infuse data across all the different elements that feed into a creative brief—defining a strategic target, defining a consumer experience journey, defining the moments that matter—and how all that gets fed by data and that helps unlock really powerful creative ideas,” he said.

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That data strategy was behind the Voltaren and Excedrin campaigns, and it's underway across a variety of GSK consumer brands, including quit-smoking products and the just-rolling-out campaign for Biotene OTC dry mouth products in the U.S.

Speichert came to GSK in 2017 from Google and before that worked at L’Oreal, where he served as chief marketing officer for more than four years.

But he continues to work with Google as a partner. Currently, the two are working on segmenting influencers, using data to determine the right influencers to match with brands, and making sure they are authentic and organic.