Healthcare Marketing IMPACT Awards Agency of the Year: The Bloc

“Build with us.” Those are the first words a visitor sees when entering the website of The Bloc.

The New York-based ad agency, which focuses solely on healthcare, has been busy helping companies and organizations build brands and relationships, but it's also created groundbreaking social media platforms in-house for education and advocacy efforts.

In this year's Healthcare Marketing IMPACT Awards competition, The Bloc has garnered nine separate awards, the most of any participating agency. For the depth and scope of its work, The Bloc has been named Agency of Year for the 2016 awards program.

Related Content Read more about the 2016 Healthcare Marketing IMPACT Awards
Two campaigns among the agency's entries especially resonated with the judges, both spotlighting in-house digital enterprises: “Caregivers Speak Up,” which serves as an educational and advocacy platform for those serving in caregiver roles with family or friends; and “HealthAwareNext,” another educational platform that offered a yearlong look at disease awareness.

“With 'Caregivers Speak Up,' we realized that caregivers weren't often thought of as a consumer set,” said Elizabeth Elfenbein, a partner at the agency. “So we looked at creating a community and platform where caregivers could be heard and feel supported.”

She said the idea was born when a colleague had taken on the role of caregiver, a responsibility shared by millions of people nationwide. “It's really an unsupported group.”

The platform, hosted primarily on Facebook, offers content on a broad range of diseases, from cancer and Alzheimer's to HIV, Elfenbein said, adding that the comprehensive nature of the information “really credentialed The Bloc in a unique way because no other agency has such an expertise in caregiving.”

The Bloc Headquarters: New York City

Founded: 2000

Employees: 180

Total billings: $45 million

Healthcare as a percentage of work: 100%

Sectors in healthcare served: Pharmaceuticals, biotech, medical devices, hospitals and health systems
HealthAwareNext focused on raising awareness and educating the public about diseases, targeting a different malady every month. The primary platform was Tumblr, but it also had a presence on Facebook, Twitter and other social media networks.

Content for most months was aligned to a client. March, for example, is national “Save Your Vision” Month, so the information complemented client Regeneron's business. The content highlighted the importance of dilated eye screenings for diabetics.

During the months when there wasn't a match for clients, Elfenbein said the site became “sort of a blank canvas” for the design and content team. Staff members created original content such as posters, videos and social media posts, often targeting diseases that affected their family and friends.

The essential element of all the material available through the platforms—and marketing in general—is effective storytelling. That's especially important in healthcare, said Stephanie Berman, also a partner at The Bloc. “All communication is storytelling, regardless of sector, but in healthcare, you're communicating complicated information that really needs to be shared in a responsible way.

“People are making decisions about their health. They're not always life-and-death decisions, but they could be. It's emotional territory,” she said.


David May

David May coordinates and edits the weekly opinion section of the magazine, including Guest Comment and Letters pages; edits News Makers and Regional News pages; manages and edits recognition programs and special supplements. He joined Modern Healthcare in 1989 and was the magazine's copy desk chief before becoming an assistant managing editor. Earlier in his career he was the copy desk chief for the Daily Herald, a newspaper that covers Chicago's suburbs, and a copy editor at the Telegraph Herald in Dubuque, Iowa. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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