“Media” has long been part of our moniker here at MM&M – it is, quite literally, the third M of a brand that started its life and remains, at its heart, Medical Marketing and Media – but 2019 marked the first year in quite some time that we attempted to cover it on more than a semi-regular basis. Frankly, we picked a fortunate time to start, given the flood of transformative news during the year.

2019 saw the debut of two industry-specific conferences and the rebirth of one of the business’ venerable players. There were film festivals. There were pitches for health-advertiser love from channels old and new. There was social media and audio and copious volumes of research.

But don’t take our word for it. For the final Third M dispatch before we change calendars, MM&M asked several of the smartest folks in and around health media to answer a few questions about the people and trends that stood out during 2019. Their responses did not disappoint. Here’s hoping for a similarly scintillating 2020.

What was the most important, most welcome, weirdest, coolest or otherwise most interesting trend or event in health media during 2019, and why?

“Publicis Health Media’s HealthFront was one of the most interesting new events to hit our industry in 2019. It was well produced and delivered on a longstanding unmet need in the health media industry by creating a dedicated forum for products and ideas that can drive real innovation and business transformation in health.” – Greg Reilly, EVP, head of customer experience, Outcome Health

“The physicians who embraced TikTok. There are about 20 doctors (as well as residents and medical students) who are using the popular video platform to share health information. A gastroenterologist talks about the latest NEJM article in one video and in the next is dancing down the hospital corridor. A hematologist-oncologist intersperses shirtless videos with mental health awareness. What I find jarring is the juxtaposition of medical topics with the informal nature of the videos. However, I am far from the Gen-Z audience that make up a significant portion of the TikTok demographic.

“The value of the platform for health education was highlighted by Dr. Rose Marie Leslie in September, when she created a video on the dangers of vaping. It amassed millions of views and led to mainstream media attention from ABC News, among others. Clearly these physicians are doing something right, because many of them have gained tens of thousands of followers on TikTok. We’ll be watching.” – Eileen O’Brien, managing director, social media, W2O

“Authenticity. From UX design to chatbots, the bar for creating an authentic experience for the consumer has been elevated this year. Authenticity in 2019 evolved beyond the selection of a credible spokesperson for messaging—it’s about infusing it into every brand attribute, using a variety of elements (e.g., voice and visuals) to create an inimitable and trustworthy consumer experience.” – Tabytha Gil, linguistic insights analyst, Ogilvy Health

“Audio. With the explosion of smart speakers and ear buds and audio-enabled glasses, audio is more and more ingrained in our daily lives. The way people consume and interact with audio is evolving. People interact with it constantly throughout the day, using voice search on their devices and getting information delivered directly via their always-on AirPods. Brands need to capitalize on this and start to consider the voice of their brand.” – Mark Pappas, SVP, innovation, CMI/Compas

“The intensified focus on data privacy. When the GDPR went into effect mid-2018, it was just catching up to address the mass upsurge in personal data, with health data being among the most sensitive. With all-too-common data breaches and increased ethical considerations, health marketers and researchers are having to think critically about the ways that data is collected and used.” – Katy Hewett, linguistic insights manager, Ogilvy Health

“The rise of voice search, which essentially means two things. First, with respect to the voice search queries input via your mobile phone or tablet: There are a variety of differing statistics out there, but most analysts estimate that approximately 30% to 55% of all U.S. search traffic is being driven by voice search at the moment. This means that both your SEO and SEM strategies need to evolve. This is especially so for health, as voice search is already prompting many more long-tail keywords. The specificity of these keywords is an important point to note, with patients more likely to speak complicated clinical search terms rather than trying to type them.

“Second, there is an entirely different type of voice search playing out across AI-powered smart speakers, like Amazon’s Echo or Show, or the Google Home and Nest Hub. In these scenarios, particularly when there is zero UI or no screen, how can a brand take advantage of voice-driven search queries? One can easily envision this working in an unbranded example, but the billion-dollar question is how can branded search results populate in a compliant manner? The entire voice search economy will be a fascinating one to watch in 2020, but make no mistake: Both Amazon and Google are hard at work figuring out a way to monetize this smart search inventory.” – Justin Chase, EVP, innovation and media, Intouch Solutions

“Video has been one of the more talked-about trends for a number of years and will continue to be for at least another few years. The ubiquity of video creation technology, the consumer appetite for video content and a veritable cottage industry of people thinking about and developing new and innovative ways to apply video means we’re still in the early stages of the march of video towards omnipresence. It’s the trend that doesn’t die; it only gets stronger.” – Jose Ferreira, SVP, product and innovation, CMI/Compas

“The focus on awareness, education and support around mental health, from organizational, partnership and consumer perspectives. Second, patient influencers and advocates are driving health actions, and brands started to notice. As for the coolest event in 2019, Healthline Media partnered with wellness advocate Nitika Chopra to create Chronicon, bringing together hundreds of influencers to the first daylong event devoted to people struggling with chronic health issues.” – Ingrid Eberly, VP corporate marketing, Healthline Media

What or who was the 2019 health media organization or person of the year, and why?

“In 2019, Karen Newmark made a tremendous impact on healthcare media in her attempts to shape the image of the POC sector. Working with POC media providers, Karen has rallied pharma and agency leadership by addressing accountability and transparency issues which have overshadowed the strength of POC for the past few years. I fully expect that some of the transparency guardrails born in POC will be adopted in other media platforms.” – John Kenyon, VP, managing director POC, Meredith/Targeted Media Health

“State legislatures. By passing and starting to consider various price and data transparency laws, it has forced the industry to grapple with developing macro-level transparency strategies that adhere to the various state level regulations. In essence, the healthcare industry is being driven to develop a more federal approach to these issues, because a state-by-state approach is unwieldy.” – Jose Ferreira, SVP, product and innovation, CMI/Compas

“Ed Banfe, who has led marketing and brand development as marketing director for Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals’ Acthar brand. In 2019, Ed was responsible for facilitating the introduction and securing the endorsement of actress Selma Blair as a multiple sclerosis advocate. Blair has since driven global awareness for the condition as a passionate spokesperson, which has been beneficial to the awareness and benefits of the drug as well. – Rodnell Workman, chief marketing officer, Health Monitor Network

“The health media person of the year was the consumer. Consumers are pushing for increased privacy controls and completely overhauling regulations such as GDPR and now CCPA, but they also want personalized experiences and smart technology in their homes and pockets. Publishers and agencies are forced to re-think how they collect and leverage data.” – Mark Pappas, SVP, Innovation, CMI/Compas