Publicis debuts HealthFront with industry-specific take on Upfront and NewFront media events

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Publicis Health Media's HealthFront in New York this week looks to replicate success of TV Upfronts and digital NewFront events. (Alpha Stock Images)

Publicis Health Media aims to bring a marketing staple into pharma and healthcare with a media buying confab—its new HealthFront—launching this week.

Styled as a take on the traditional Upfronts for televison and the newer NewFronts for digital media, the Publicis event looks to create the same kind of dealmaking marketplace for the pharma and healthcare industry.

Publicis' HealthFront, slated for Tuesday and Wednesday in New York City, differs from the other efforts in that it’s open only to Publicis clients, partners and invited guests. This year's attendees number 400. But the agency is open to broader collaboration in the future.

Colan McGeehan, chief investment officer at PHM, said he could see a future HealthFront where Publicis would host an anchor presentation. At the TV Upfronts, for instance, networks each unveil prime-time lineups and shows for media buyers to preview—and, the networks hope, ultimately buy time for advertising clients.

The same goes for the NewFronts, where large digital content providers showcase programming for ad sales.

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Publicis’ inaugural HealthFront will play out over two days with a different theme for each day. The first day is focused on disruption and technology, while the second focuses on branded content both in digital and TV, said McGeehan, who joined Publicis in January with a TV and publishing background. The second half of day two will focus on social influencers from Gen Z to millennials, he added.  

Publicis’ pharma clients will attend, including GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Biogen, with some slated to speak as well. And an unidentified woman will lead a pharma company participating in a session called “Badass Women in Healthcare.”

The idea originated with PHM President Andrea Palmer and accelerated this year as McGeehan joined the agency.

“We saw this as a big void in the market. You have Upfronts for almost 60 years now, and the NewFronts approaching 15 years—and all of those are great—but the thing that’s missing is the fact that there’s never been a healthcare event taking into account the different ways of conducting business, whether that’s for patients or physicians, versus a strictly consumer play,” McGeehan said.

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The event also includes an innovation challenge, the PHM Disruption Garage, with four finalist presenters who'll be judged Shark Tank-style.

Judges for the Tuesday afternoon event include TV and lifestyle personalities Martha Stewart and Dr. Mehmet Oz, Google Health exec Ryan Olohan and Samsung digital health vice president Natalie Schneider. The winner will get $1.5 million worth of goods and services, McGeehan said, including business consulting, creative strategy, media buying and planning and placements.