The Bloc prides itself on its status as an advertising agency: a female-owned, fully independent agency working on healthcare creative that produces a lasting effect. To ensure meaningful and successful results, the agency partners with clients that ignite a passion in the team and build trust over a common goal.
As the 2019 Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards Agency of the Year, these partnerships are what have brought The Bloc to the forefront of healthcare marketing.
Each campaign from The Bloc begins with a unique strategy that marries insights into customer needs with the appropriate attitude to deliver the message, according to Brit Till, executive vice president and executive creative director. The agency’s mission—Be great, do good—not only drives their work, but their partnerships as well. According to Till, The Bloc’s clients are also working to be great to do good, and that’s what helps make this kind of synergy over a brand possible.
Pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. came to The Bloc to help communicate the effectiveness of the VAQTA hepatitis A vaccine to physicians while trusting the agency to delicately navigate the current debate over vaccines. After reviewing a clinical trial in Monroe, N.Y., a city that was plagued with hepatitis A outbreaks, The Bloc chose to convey the impact of effective immunization through storytelling.
The trial’s results tell the story of the vaccine's success with nine years of follow-up. But the agency looked beyond the numbers to the narrative of a suffering community with a highly effective solution at hand. The result was a film that provided a human connection to hard, clinical facts and experienced viewer engagement three times the industry average, based on analytics from the host site.
“It was challenging to figure out how to tell that story in a way that was respectable, but also spoke to the benefits of the vaccine,” Till said. “It was a way to front vaccine hesitancy indirectly, just by focusing in on one story that happened to be a clinical trial with 100% efficacy, which is not something you usually get to say.”
As the agency’s first documentary of a clinical trial, the VAQTA vaccination campaign opened doors for the team as to how to bridge the gap between hearing the facts and witnessing their effects in a real environment.
“It makes you realize that every clinical trial has a story behind it and has people who volunteer to participate,” Till added.
The desire to drive a shift in perception carried over to another client, Greenwich Biosciences. The company’s prescription cannabidiol (CBD), Epidiolex, treats rare and severe forms of epilepsy but faces stigma because of its connection to the cannabis plant. According to The Bloc CEO Jennifer Matthews, Epidiolex marketing has centered on distinguishing the brand from medical marijuana altogether and focusing solely on competing in the anti-epileptic category.
“There are huge perceptual and mindset challenges for this category right now,” Matthews said.
To gain the trust of physicians and customers, The Bloc decided to offer full transparency into the manufacturing process—something almost unheard of in the pharmaceutical industry—with the Growing Innovations campaign. The campaign is viewed via virtual reality goggles that take the viewer on a firsthand journey through the manufacturing steps, from greenhouse to lab to bottle, to ensure they confidently know exactly what’s in each prescription.
One month after the launch of Growing Innovations, net sales of Epidiolex totaled $4.7 million, nearly doubling the forecast for the period.
“(The brand’s) approach from the beginning has been answering that community’s need from the very development of Epidiolex,” Till said. “When you tour their facilities, they have portraits of the people who participated in the clinical trials all over that inspire the workers.”
Epidiolex has also provided The Bloc with one of the portraits to hang in the agency’s office.
“You feel inspired and driven to do your best every day when you’re working with a company like that,” Till said.
The success of these campaigns—just two of the five that The Bloc received recognition for in the 2019 Healthcare Marketing Impact Awards—is highly due to the entire team’s commitment to drive change, Till said.
“When you work in health, there’s always a purpose,” he added. “There is a day-in and day-out sense of ‘what I’m doing matters,’ and being able to articulate that and build upon that and drive that is what makes this so rewarding.”