Healthcare agencies intensify college recruiting tactics

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Kristine Brown first met Rich Levy, FCB Health's chief creative officer, in 2014 during her last quarter as an advertising major at the Savannah College of Art and Design, when she was at the beginning of the dreaded job search.

Before meeting Levy, Brown had never considered working in healthcare advertising. It wasn't on her radar, she said. That lack of awareness is one reason why several years ago Levy began to participate in college speaking tours during which he visited university campuses with the goal of educating students about their misconceptions of the healthcare advertising industry.

“Right away I could tell Rich was invested in me,” said Brown, “which was something that really spoke to me because I hadn't felt that from any other agency.”

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Now in her fourth year at FCB Health in New York as a copy supervisor, she works with Candice Park, an art supervisor at the agency, on a program called Bold Beginnings that they developed with Levy to make sure other young creatives understood their career options in healthcare advertising.

Now more than ever, healthcare agencies are using a range of tactics like social media campaigns, apprentice programs, and hands-on internships to recruit young, innovative talent and teach the skills their companies need to thrive in an industry that is quickly changing. These methods can give agencies the opportunities to show the creative, fun, and vibrant sides to an industry often considered to be boring.

Sudler & Hennessey, a WPP Group agency, last year launched an eight-week apprenticeship program. During the first half of the program, apprentices spend time in a classroom environment where they learn about the healthcare and pharmaceutical  industries and about the work that S&H does.

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During the remaining half of the program, apprentices sit with staffers and begin to work on client projects. At the end of the term, managers review the apprentices, examining their interests, and where they would thrive if offered a full-time position — which typically, most apprentices are, said John Marchese, managing director at S&H.

He added that the program doesn't eliminate potential job openings but rather it adds jobs in parallel.

“It works as a vehicle to bring people into our system who otherwise wouldn't have considered this field,” Marchese said. “It has allowed us to open up our reach to new and unique talent.”

Bold Beginnings is the name of FCB Health's social media-driven marketing campaign for recruiting and onboarding young talent.

“We also use Instagram to gauge students' interests in us,” Levy said. “For example, whenever we have events, we hand out Bold Beginnings swag and tell students to post pictures with the #BoldBeginnings hashtag. That way we can see what they post, how creative they can be, and as a result we can take higher interest in them.”

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Levy had been trying to figure out why healthcare agencies had a hard time finding creative talent right out of college. During the 2013-2014 school year, he surveyed 225 college seniors and presented the findings at the Cannes Lions Health International Festival of Creativity. His research found that about 82% of university seniors said they would only work in healthcare advertising if they had no other options.

He also discovered that students' perceptions about the healthcare industry were strongly driven by their professors, and that's why he began to go on the college speaking tours. In addition, FCB Health in 2016 started to partner with portfolio schools like SCAD to create curriculum that teaches healthcare advertising as part of the portfolio class. In 2018 they will be partnering with a student advertising competition, making it the first time that the brief they give out will be a healthcare assignment.

“The college recruitment process is by no means one size fits all,” said Christina Hines, talent acquisition manager at FCB Health. “We are more interested in investing in smaller numbers to get the talent we want.”

But that's not the only way agencies are recruiting young talent. Earlier this summer 100 interns across the 15 agencies that make up Havas Health & You planned, organized, and executed a carnival-themed fundraiser to support Save the Children, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of children. The fundraiser collected enough money to sponsor 12 new children, in addition to the 40 children the agency is already sponsoring.

“We like to showcase our nonprofit work, and we notice a great desire among our employees and interns to be very involved,” said Shazzia Khan, global chief of staff and chief talent officer at Havas Health & You.

Many agency leaders believe that millennials are interested in doing good in their work, and that might be another way to attract them to the world of healthcare advertising.

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 Klick Health, an independent agency, has also focused on volunteer and nonprofit work. It allows their employees to give back through the Klick it Forward program, said Lori Grant, Klick's president.

All employees are rewarded with a donation credit for work well done and are able to donate that money to a charity of their choice. “We don't just passively donate, we actively get involved,” said Grant. “We have also sent ambassadors to countries like Rwanda, Ecuador, [and] India, and many more to do volunteer work and really get our hands dirty.”

Since the majority of Klick's hires are referrals, the company focuses more on creating a culture that people want to work for. “Places like us where innovation is part of the core, you can be expressive of your creative genius, and your voice can be heard,” she said. “That's the kind of company people are gravitating toward.”

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