How can pharma grab attention in the streaming TV era? Visual storytelling, says Evoke KYNE creative head Brett

Strong visuals have always been a key ingredient in pharma marketing and communications. Without them, important health information—and audiences—can be lost amid complicated science and data.

But powerful visual storytelling is even more critical now in the age of pandemic-induced Zoom fatigue and endless TV streaming options, said Colleen Brett, who was recently promoted to executive creative director at health communications and public relations agency Evoke KYNE.

“Think about all that’s available to us on Netflix and Apple TV, and how savvy our consumers are right now. If we can’t keep up with the visual bar that’s been set by those platforms, I don’t think we’re going to get much traction,” Brett said in an interview. 

When she looks back on some of the year’s best pharma campaigns, for instance, Brett finds many of the standouts incorporated sophisticated cinematography to drive home their messages. 

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She pointed to Argenx’s “Mystery to Me,” a documentary series about patients living with the rare neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis. It swept three categories in the 2021 Fierce Pharma Marketing Awards, including best online film or video.

“The beauty with which this was shot—it really pulled you into the personal patient stories that help make them real,” said Brett.

Another visual stunner was Teva’s unbranded film “Hairspray” about an older man who takes a hairdressing class to help him style the hair of his ailing wife. 

“Try watching that one without crying,” Brett said. “It’s so beautiful. And that nonlinear way of storytelling where we’ve come in in the middle, and then the curtain is pulled back on what’s really happening—it’s just so emotional.”

Brett’s emphasis on artful imagery isn’t surprising given her background. She holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design from the College of New Jersey and studied at the Lorenzo de’ Medici Art Institute of Florence, Italy, according to her LinkedIn profile, in which she describes herself as “a creative director with the heart of a designer.”

“I love sweating the artsy details as much as I love ironing out the strategy,” she writes.

Aside from more cinematographic storytelling, Brett sees the marriage of creative and technology as another big industry trend to look out for. Simulators that help healthcare providers understand what it’s like for their patients living with a disease can build empathy and help pharma connect with an audience, she said.

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“Everybody lines up [at conferences] to experience it because it's cool and it's different and it's interactive,” she said. “To be able to actively feel what they’re going through just changes the way you look at patients.”

An Evoke insider with more than 20 years in the creative business, Brett previously served as the firm’s creative director and senior vice president before the company elevated her to the executive leadership post.

In the new role, she’ll oversee creative design, branding, animation and video development for the firm’s healthcare and pharma clients, the agency said in announcing her promotion last month.
For now,  her top priorities are growing the creative team and encouraging her clients to push creative boundaries. Expect more visual storytelling in upcoming Evoke campaigns under Brett’s watch, too.

“I think there are times when creative in pharma gets a bad rap. People assume it’s so stringent that it’s boring,” she said. “What we’re doing at Evoke KYNE is really thwarting that stigma. It’s fun here. We’re doing cool stuff.”