From left: C. Marshall Paul, Scott Cotherman and Ken Begasse Sr.
A pharma research forefather. An agency builder. A “guy you wanted in the room.” This year’s Medical Advertising Hall of Fame inductees are a professionally diverse and richly worthy trio.
C. Marshall Paul
When some people think about pharmaceutical advertising, they focus on the art that conveys the science. Marshall Paul devoted a 50-year career to taking that notion a step farther—by conveying the science behind the art that conveys the science.
Indeed, asked about his greatest professional achievement, Paul responds, “Proving the value of advertising. Proving that advertising works.” He then adds why this was—and is—so important. “You could actually get away with a fraction of the detailing if you had [sales] support promotion, because that promotion magnifies the effect at a fraction of the expense. That drives ROI.”
Paul’s career actually started in banking but he quickly gravitated to marketing. “The biggest growth was clearly in the pharmaceutical industry, so I interviewed at a number of companies.” As he tells it, he almost blew his Merck interview: “They were telling me what they were doing and I blurted out, ‘You can’t do that!’ To this day, I have no idea where it came from.” As it turns out, that was the exact right response: A week earlier a statistician hired by Merck had told the company the same thing.
| “My interest was in the findings and the research, and all of that being used to make the industry more efficient.”
– Marshall Paul
After a few years as a market research analyst for Merck, Paul spent 17 years at IMS as director of market research and president of its communications division. In 1982 he became co-owner of Healthcare Communications, Inc. with Mahesh Naithani, eventually becoming president. When HCI was sold to ACNielsen in 1997, Paul served as president of ACNielsen/HCI, eventually exiting the company in 2010.
At HCI Paul led efforts to develop a promotion research model that would serve “the triad”—agency, manufacturing and service sides—of the pharmaceutical marketing industry. First he successfully revived the Media-Chek journal readership audit, the bedrock for future HCI products. This was followed by the launch of Postest, a syndicated study designed to measure campaign awareness, product recall, message retention, believability and relevance among target audiences. Next was CTS-2000, which documented sales response to pharmaceutical promotion. These services combined to provide rich databases and establish “norms” by therapeutic class, type of product and budget level.
Even after the Nielsen deal, Paul continued to expand the breadth of these and other offerings. Media-Chek and Focus readership audits were merged, CTS-Pretest was developed to predict the performance of newly created ads versus current ads and the Physicians’ Media Usage study was implemented to help pinpoint the sources of information preferred by medical practitioners.
Paul’s most important contribution may be that he helped prove the ability of less expensive forms of promotion to magnify the effect of the more costly forms. “My interest was in the findings and the research, and all of that being used to make the industry more efficient,” he says. “If being nominated helps communicate that message, then it means a great deal.”
Scott Cotherman once declared that if he could have any superpower, he’d choose X-ray vision. To the numerous industry folks who already rated his visionary powers as otherworldly, this may have appeared to be a somewhat superfluous wish.
Cotherman is best known for the 27 influential years he spent at Corbett Accel Healthcare Group, 15 of which he served as CEO. “During this time he continuously reshaped the agency to reflect the evolving needs of clients, employees and the changing healthcare environment,” says Robin Shapiro, president and chief creative officer, CAHG.
| “People tell me that at age 57 I’m too young to be retired. I tell them that there are no old account guys in advertising.”
– Scott Cotherman
Cotherman himself is more philosophical about his impact. “I attended a seminar at the University of Chicago around the time I became president of the agency. A statement was shown on the screen: ‘When the velocity of change in the industry exceeds the velocity of change at the agency, then the end is near.’ That became my mantra,” he says. “If we had more leaders who similarly embraced this call to action, we would not have as many vexing problems facing our industry and, perhaps, the world.”
True to that thinking, Cotherman continued to adapt and grow CAHG. He led the expansion of the agency’s global footprint by aligning with TBWA/WorldHealth, becoming chairman of a network spanning 48 offices in 36 countries. During his tenure the agency enjoyed 13 years as AOR for Abilify and was involved in landmark recent launches like Sovaldi and Harvoni.
Cotherman was born into a pharmaceutical family. His father was a rep for Smith, Kline & French Laboratories (today’s GlaxoSmithKline), while his mother worked in human resources at Eli Lilly. As a student, Cotherman benefited from teaching methods that encouraged progressive thinking and rewarded risk taking. During independent study weeks, Shapiro says, “He would put on his suit and tie to accompany his father on sales calls to physicians, pharmacists and hospitals.”
Cotherman was a persistent and enthusiastic supporter of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication and played a fundamental role in galvanizing the group to challenge statutes banning the marketing use of prescription data by pharma companies. During his three-year tenure as chairperson of the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame, he broadened its mission and diversified its membership to better reflect the needs of the industry. He also founded the FJC Health Marketing Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships to students of healthcare advertising, and KidConnect, which attempts to raise awareness about healthcare advertising as a career.
Having retired from CAHG at the end of 2014, Cotherman remains an adviser to healthcare leaders, an angel investor in early-stage companies and a mentor to entrepreneurs through the Chicago-based incubator MATTER.
“People tell me that at age 57 I’m too young to be retired. I tell them that there are no old account guys in advertising,” he says. “The exit strategy usually consists of being booted out the door late in your career because you are too old or perceived to be obsolete or too expensive, or otherwise being carried out in a body bag due to stress … I am going to have one heck of a birthday party when I turn 70.”
Ken Begasse Sr. (Lifetime Achievement Award)
Ken Begasse’s career in healthcare spanned 37 years before his untimely death from lung cancer in 2010, when he was 60. He started his career in respiratory therapy, establishing and leading the Respiratory Therapy Department and Pulmonary Lab at Greenwich Hospital. In 1978 he transitioned into sales of hospital monitoring equipment.
| “He helped us all to dream in our strategy, to push the boundaries of what could be done.”
– Ken Begasse Jr., about his father.
A chance encounter with a colleague introduced him to medical advertising and, after joining the small agency Kimmich & Company in Norwalk, Connecticut, as an account executive, he never looked back. After more than a decade at Kimmich, Begasse joined Sudler & Hennessey and went on to assume senior positions at Lowe McAdams, Nelson Communications, CommonHealth and MBS/VOX. Ultimately he became CEO of Concentric Pharma Advertising, an agency co-founded by his son.
While his career was successful, possibly his most notable achievement—and the one of which he was proudest—was the mentoring and development of young talent. “He helped us all to dream in our strategy, to push the boundaries of what could be done, not to settle on the obvious or the easy-to-sell strategy,” says Ken Begasse Jr. “He would rather lose a pitch with the right strategy than win a pitch with a strategy that couldn’t work.”
Adds Concentric partner Michael Sanzen: “It didn’t matter what problem we were trying to solve—‘Senior’ was the guy you wanted in the room. He possessed such an acute understanding of this industry that he could conceptualize wildly innovative solutions built on sound business principles. And he paired this talent with an unrelenting and infectious optimism, the likes of which I’d never seen. It was inspiring.”