Jennifer Mormile’s health media “a-ha!” moment happened, ironically, during one of the few stretches of her professional life when she wasn’t directly involved with health media.
During her nearly nine years at Everyday Health, Mormile saw the organization’s digital operation evolve from a website with “maybe 300,000 users,” as she puts it, to one of the health world’s online behemoths. At the end of her tenure, she was overseeing the company’s HCP and DTC operations and running an estimated 80% of its revenue – just under $200 million per year. But she had started to feel a bit burned out and decided to leave before she soured on the space.
“I’d been talking about health and pharma for so, so long,” she recalls.
After meeting with any number of prospective employers, Mormile accepted an offer to become Condé Nast’s head of beauty. Almost immediately she was taken by the degree of innovation – and even risk – marketers in the category were willing to embrace. “It was a whole new world for me. It felt like there could be a way to bring that kind of innovation to the pharma space,” she says.
Mormile seized the opportunity to do so shortly thereafter. In April 2017, she led the launch of Condé Nast Health, the century-old publishing behemoth’s most aggressive foray into the category to date. Initially, the idea was met with some skepticism, internally and otherwise. “It was like being a startup in this big, big organization,” Mormile says. “There was a lot of ‘Vogue for pharma? No thank you!’”
Mormile was ultimately promoted to chief industries officer, SVP lifestyle division, a post in which she oversees health as well as CPG, home and travel. She brought in Carrie Moore, also an Everyday Health alum, to serve as CN’s head of health.
Healthcare and wellness marketers quickly warmed to CN’s pitch. Prior to formally rolling out the new unit, Mormile did some research and found that one out of every five pieces of content consumed across nearly 30 Condé Nast brands was health- or wellness-related. This, combined with information gleaned from CN’s nascent Spire behavioral-data platform, led Mormile to believe that the company was uniquely positioned to partner with healthcare organizations that had finally started to venture into the new media wild.
She was onto something. In 2018 alone, Mormile reports, Condé Nast added 60 new pharma and healthcare advertisers to its portfolio. It did so in ways that media companies without celebrity cred couldn’t match – like an Allure/Glamour Instagram video in which actor/model Jaime King candidly discussed her battle with endometriosis.
That, Mormile believes, is Condé Nast’s true advantage as it seeks to partner with health and pharma companies: It knows content.
“There’s not a lack of health content, but there’s definitely a lack of good, engaging, leaning-in health content,” she explains, noting that marketers have met with limited success when attempting to create programming of their own. “Pharma is spending endless time and resources trying to do this themselves, but it falls short and isn’t getting people to engage… Even if they’re doing some things really well in print or on TV, it’s not a holistic approach. It’s not consistent across channels.”
But when asked to extol the virtues of individual Condé Nast titles – a question that usually prompts brand overlords to share many, many enthusiastic words by way of response – Mormile instead downplays them. “We’re thinking about it less and less in terms of this particular brand,” she explains. “We kind of do it backwards. We’ll ask, ‘Where are psoriasis sufferers engaging?’ and ‘What is resonating with them?’ Then we can back in to certain of our brands.”
The obvious best fits, in the digital realm as much if not more than print, are Self, Allure and Glamour (for conditions like psoriasis and ones that relate to sexual and mental health). Condé Nast Traveler receives high marks from health marketers for its attentiveness to traveling with common diseases and conditions, while Wired is a favored destination for high-science types.
“We’re able to create compelling stories across brands and across the conditions we’re trying to talk about,” Mormile says.
In the months ahead, Condé Nast’s telling of those stories will involve “leaning hard” into video and experiential programs, she adds. The company’s recently launched health video network should prove a lure for marketers, given its brand-safe environment. “That’s one of the biggest things clients want. You see them pulling some of their YouTube dollars because YouTube can’t promise that,” Mormile says. She pointedly notes that Condé Nast alone is authorized to sell Condé Nast video on YouTube.
Expect CN to continue to present itself to healthcare marketers as one of the few organizations that can “glue it all together,” as Mormile puts it. And look for the company to push its multichannel muscle and customer knowledge as key virtues.
“Back in the day, it was all about WebMD and Everyday Health,” she says. “But as more people participate in the conversations, there’s more in play. It’s about [the media brands and marketers that] understand patients may be suffering from a condition but that the condition is not the only thing that defines them.”
Jennifer Mormile will be presenting at the 2019 HealthFront, presented by Publicis Health Media, on Wednesday July 17, as part of “The Doc with the Dragon Tattoo: From Paternalism to Partnership” panel.