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The COVID-19 pandemic presents unprecedented public health and economic challenges for global society. However, it also provides opportunities to show that new types of collaboration are not only possible, but that they can be implemented very quickly with the focused allocation of resources and expertise. In these uncertain times, prompt access to information is critical to the safety, efficiency and sustainability of the entire healthcare system. The volume of COVID-19 conversation, especially on Twitter, has exploded since the outbreak began, and it is critical for healthcare leaders to be able to cut through the noise, understand the landscape, and make informed decisions. We believe strongly that W2O has a role to play in meeting this need – by leveraging our technology-enabled analytics platform.

We recently became a sustaining partner in the California Life Sciences Association, the state’s largest and most influential life sciences advocacy and business leadership organization, with W2O Group President and Managing Partner Paulo Simas joining the Board of Directors. We’re proud to share the first collaborative effort to come out of our partnership: a unique platform, powered by W2O analytics, that provides a one-stop source of curated COVID-19 information, enabling anyone to track and share the most relevant content and voices about COVID-19.

This platform, COR, provides several “slices” of information that users can explore. The platform is refreshed every 60 seconds and only analyzes posts that mention the coronavirus. It can be browsed through the following lenses:

Coronavirus – Topline, unfiltered posts from all of Twitter about the coronavirus

California – Posts that either: (a) mention a major city, any county, or the entire state of California; or (b) come from handles operated by California state or local government channels

Life Sciences – Posts that either: (a) mention a life sciences company (not limited to or inclusive of all CLSA members); or (b) come from handles operated by a life sciences company

HCPs – Posts that come from handles operated by healthcare providers (HCPs) (i.e., physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, etc.)

Media – Posts that come from handles operated by major media outlets and personalities with a focus on healthcare

We will launch additional features and lenses to the COR dashboard in the coming weeks, including COVID-19 data and preprints being shared by respected researchers and scientists, as well as communications from global and local health officials. So please look for more announcements as we roll these out.

We invite you to explore this new platform and let us know what you think. We see it as an essential tool that will help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus by enabling easy access to the latest information about the pandemic from reliable sources.


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

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A window into how healthcare organizations can connect with key stakeholders at a time of distraction, confusion

For a copy of the W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis, click here

The last month has been nothing short of surreal.

A little more than four weeks ago, the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) was something we witnessed through the lens of our televisions and the internet as citizens across Asia and Europe were struggling to treat patients and manage the spread of a previously unknown virus. Fast forward to today and, in the United States, our entire lives have been upended. Restaurants, bars, stores and theaters are closed, social distancing has become a part of our everyday lexicon, grocery store shelves are nearly empty, the stock market is plummeting, and sports have been cancelled at every level.

We are now restricted to our homes until the rate of the spread of the virus is contained.

While the world struggles with how to deal with this global pandemic, organizations find themselves in a tenuous position. Employees are now working from home, which presents challenges to productivity, effectiveness and confidence as they try to juggle their personal lives with professional responsibilities. Customers expect brands to do more in this environment as the government struggles to provide the services and support necessary to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Given the uncertainty around how far and wide the virus will spread, investors across the United States are looking to turn their investments into cash. Supply chains are being disrupted with fewer employees working in warehouses and normal shipping methods are being disrupted. Customers, concerned about the economy and their livelihoods, are holding onto whatever cash they have.

At the intersection of this new reality, marketers and communicators are struggling to protect the reputation of the companies they work for. What is the policy for a virtual workforce? How will we staff critical functions to better support patients, customers, suppliers, etc. How will we support organizations involved in producing drugs to treat COVID-19?  What will we do for employees with vulnerable family members? What should we be saying to the marketplace that is meaningful?

And so on.

In effect, how can my organization remain relevant in the midst of such a crisis? Being relevant was already challenging with digital channels exploding exponentially over the last 10+ years, the number of audiences they were serving growing at the same rate of speed, greater demand to do more with less investment, and growing competition from all sectors of the market. Even with all that, the primary job of protecting reputation has never been more important – or more challenging. How do you do that, though, while investor sentiment drops, your customers are not nearly as engaged as they were even two months ago, and your employees are dealing with more than they have ever dealt with before?

It is our perspective that, in a social/digital world, companies that are not connecting or engaging with key stakeholders have lost relevance with the people who could shape the brand and move the business. In effect, if you are not relevant, you don’t exist.

The companies that maintain a high level of relevance with their key stakeholders are constantly mindful of closing the gap between what they want to say and what their stakeholders want to hear. Never has that been more critical than during this pandemic.

With that lens in place, we refocused our W2O Relevance Framework, the analytically driven framework that is designed to assess an organization’s and brand’s stakeholder relevance, to address the following:

  • Do we understand our stakeholders in terms of concerns, interests and priorities?
  • Do our employees believe in our premise?
  • Does our positioning resonate with all of our key stakeholders? How?
  • Is the potential value of our business meaningful to media, employees and investors?
  • How relevant are we compared to direct competitors, a few aspirational comparators, and hundreds of other companies?
  • Are people searching for information about our business?
  • Are people engaging with our content online?
  • How are employees rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Do people support our CEO?
  • How are financial analysts rating us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are policymakers talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are influencers, buyer segments and the healthcare ecosystem, talking about us and what are they saying and expecting?
  • Are we ahead of the curve on new thinking?

With the novel coronavirus impacting everyone and everything, now is a critical time for corporations to be actively addressing the above questions with swift and decisive action in order to maintain and increase relevance.

COVID-19 Relevance Analysis Insights

The W2O COVID-19 Relevance Analysis provides organizations with a roadmap to assess the current situation with an eye toward growing tighter connections with the people who shape their businesses every day. What does that roadmap look like? What are the elements that have made companies relevant to their stakeholders as they deal with this pandemic?

In looking at healthcare organizations, we learned:

  • Relevance Now is About Sensitivity, Empathy and Action. The most relevant companies demonstrate these characteristics in both their communications and decision-making.
  • Relevance Strengthens Organizational Confidence. Employees working in a virtual environment tend to question value with the loss of community and networking. Being relevant with stakeholders improves overall confidence as an enterprise.
  • Collaboration is Emerging as a Key Relevance Driver. Companies exhibiting internal collaboration, working with regulators and policy makers, and partnering with philanthropic organizations are viewed more favorably in this environment.
  • Timing and Information Makes All the Difference. What companies say and provide publicly is about when and how they do it.
  • Stakeholders Must “Discover” Policy, Approach to Trust. “Selling” an organization’s narrative will be dismissed as rhetoric or worse.
  • Employee “Value” Must be Reinforced in a Virtual Workplace. As cited earlier, employees are working remotely and may feel like they’re in a bubble. Keeping them informed, interested and connected is critical to reinforcing their value and confidence.

Over the coming weeks, we will be refreshing and sharing our data and insights.

We certainly are living in an incredible time where the world seems to be standing still.  Moving forward as individuals and organizations is going to take determination, perseverance, information and connection.

Staying relevant amid such a turbulent time is not just important, it’s critical, especially once things do return to normalcy and they will.

In the meantime, stay safe and healthy!

Contributions to this content were made by Gary Grates, Chuck Hemann, Stephen Yoon, Marianne Gollub and Daniel Steffen of W2O.


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

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Right now, people everywhere are using social media to cope with isolation (i.e., #stayathome). Overall, the pace of news related to COVID-19 has become so rapid that social media feeds seem the only way to keep up with an ever-evolving reality. As a result, these platforms are so inundated with information, it can be difficult to distinguish misinformation or breakthrough the noise to connect with one another.

Now, more than ever, it is critical for health care leaders to communicate in the most effective ways.

Using MDigitalLife – W2O’s integrated online and offline health care data platform – we zoomed in, filtering more than 124M posts on Twitter related to COVID-19 or coronavirus from January 1 to March 17, 2020 for 330K posts from physicians, advocacy groups, and industry players. We then used our audience map to analyze the specific specialties, geographies, disease areas, and company types who engaged – and, ultimately, tied it all back to the “WHEN,” in an effort to understand the “SO WHAT.”

In a global health crisis that is evolving and advancing at an exponential rate, there is much to learn from the thought leaders and influencers who are engaging in the discussion. Understanding how physicians and advocacy groups are stepping up as leaders in the dialogue; how health care professionals and companies can be more effective in addressing the information and support needs of patient communities; and, what information health care stakeholders need and expect from biopharma and pharmaceutical companies to help them during this time.

Here are nine insights we found from our data:

1. May the real coronavirus expert please stand up? Abundance of expert voices blur out the real-time facts.

Physicians and advocacy groups are using social media to call on their peers, media, and health care leaders to share their perspective on the evolving situation while caveating that they are not coronavirus experts (so that too much stock isn’t placed in an opinion from a non-expert that could quickly become outdated).

One of the first coronavirus tweets (January 2020) from a US physician, a professor of emergency medicine at a major research hospital, said: “Good news is no documented person-to-person spread, and no health care worker cases.”

As another physician put it: “Lots of misinformation about #coronavirus. What can we do? First, if you’re a general #globalhealth person, make it clear to your followers that this doesn’t make you a #coronavirus expert! I’ll start. I don’t know much about this disease.”

2. Infectious disease and emergency medicine experts are not the only one’s engaging – from cardiologists to oncologists, pediatricians and dermatologists – specialists are working to understand the impact.

There are three common questions that the health care community is asking – and certain specialties are more engaged because questions 1 and 2 are especially relevant to their patients.

    • Q1: How do we deliver treatments, with a reduced workforce, through the increased use of virtual visits and by postponing elective procedures?
    • Q2: What risks to our patients can we mitigate by reducing clinic visits? How do we manage the increased risk for severe illness for patients with kidney disease, cancer, as well as immunosuppressed patients?
    • Q3: Should we delay or change certain treatments? How should this be informed based on safety and toxicity data?

In the last 72 hours, conversation has started to emerge around a fourth question: How do we treat a patient with confirmed COVID-19?

3. Community physicians are serving a critical role in effectively sharing hyper-local information.

Initial conversations were focused in “first case” cities or cities with a large research hospital or center of excellence. However, as more communities are affected by outbreaks, physicians are participating at higher levels, primarily focused on overcapacity issues that already exist within their local health systems. These community doctors are also sharing expert perspectives on the response to the crisis from mayors and governors.

4. The health care community is seeking a more open source and transparent flow of information, which continues to increase as we learn more.

In late January, physicians started using social media to demand free access to research related to coronavirus. Journals responded. Seventy organizations and medical journals including New England Journal of Medicine and Lancet made all content free.

“An important thread: access to the latest and best scientific data needs to be open access during an epidemic outbreak such as #nCoV2019 or #Ebola. May warrant alternative ways of $ rewarding them, but in short run, priority needs to be on protecting human life.”

“I see some extremely important #nCov2019 research studies are behind firewalls at scientific journals. Just tried, e.g., to pull one off a Wiley journal today, Elsevier yesterday. IT IS IMMORAL in an epidemic to hide science behind paywalls. Period.”

5. Advocacy groups have been cautious to engage to-date, and although certain disease areas fall outside of the norm, most advocacy organizations have acted as amplifiers of content from public health institutions.

Sixty-two percent of advocacy posts on twitter are retweets, the majority of which are shares of content from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Health and Human Services (HHS), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This may change in response to evolving needs for patient communities in the coming weeks. Notably, over the past week, there has been a shift among advocacy groups whose constituents are most at risk, with many creating or consolidating “verified” content and materials with guidelines for non-symptomatic patients on COVID-19. 

6. It’s important not to dilute the conversation with unnecessary or unhelpful comparisons.

Health care leaders may have done more harm than good by using COVID-19 as an opportunity to address anti-vaxxers and make comparisons to the flu in the early weeks of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Recently physicians have hypothesized: “Please stop comparing #2019nCoV with influenza. Not equivalent – at all. You might as well remind people to stop smoking to save more lives than the coronavirus will take.”

7. Online conversation among industry analysts and investors is still very much in the moment versus thinking about longer-term impact.

To date, the online discussion has been largely focused on pharmaceutical companies and the status or starting of coronavirus vaccine clinical trials. Companies with the most mentions related to coronavirus are (in descending order): Gilead, Moderna, J&J, Sanofi, and Regeneron. There will be more information forthcoming on how the largest health care brands are maintaining relevancy with key stakeholders in an upcoming report scheduled to be released tomorrow.

8. Physicians and advocacy groups are increasingly engaging in a politicized dialogue, and many health care leaders worry about the impact on the scientific dialogue around pandemics.

Continuing to track this dialogue will be critical for health care leaders to understand how to add value to these conversations. For example, discussion around potential economic impact and health care access is likely to drive increased focus on patient access programs.

“There is also a growing partisan divide over how Americans interpret scientific expertise and health policy, leaving decisions about public health vulnerable to the kind of partisan squabbling you hear on cable news every night.”

“As #coronavirus spreads, political support is key but politicization of scientific decisions is dangerous. In @CFR_org @ThinkGlobalHlth I outline past inspiring collaboration and potential for unity against humanity’s common enemy: dangerous microbes.”

9. This is a moment to be inclusive as a health care community.

In response to gratitude expressed toward health care professionals, many physicians and advocacy groups aim to highlight the broader community of health care workers, such as janitors, hospital employees, and everyone who continues to work to address this disease every day.

This report was powered by W2O Analytics & Insights Team. Authors: Meredith Owen, Kelly Moulds, Garrett Bond, Daniel Steffen + the W2O Coronavirus Core Team.

(Note: This report focuses on US-insights. W2O will be sharing regional insights on the online conversation globally throughout March in April.)


W2O’s additional COVID-19 coverage

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Real-world data (RWD), or clinical data derived outside of traditional clinical trials, and resulting real-world evidence (RWE) are increasingly being used to drive innovation across the healthcare industry. The impact of this data is being seen in everything from clinical development to regulatory decision-making to pricing and access to healthcare delivery. The excitement surrounding RWD is equally palpable and seen everywhere from scientific conferences to Silicon Valley’s VCs’ conference rooms. This trend looks to have a long trajectory as well, especially given the FDA’s recent focus on creating standards for and encouraging the use of RWE for regulatory decision-making (see here), and the proliferation of new technology platforms, such as Aetion and Roam Analytics, that make RWD more accessible to various industry professionals.

W2O recently entered into a licensing agreement for full access to medical claims, pharmacy claims and electronic health record data for over 300 million (anonymous) patients in the U.S. Because we take data privacy seriously, it’s important to note that this licensed data is completely de-identified and fully compliant with HIPAA privacy and security rules. When we combine claims and EHR data with other forms of non-traditional RWD that we use, such as social media data, mobile data and search/web data, we find incredible high-resolution views into the clinical landscape. This helps us and our clients better understand why what we see in the lab or in controlled experiments doesn’t always match reality in the real world (big reveal: not all patients and providers make optimal decisions based on the literature, and they are as susceptible to cognitive biases as you would see in any other industry). More importantly, this 360-degree view of the patient population and their care providers gives us much clearer direction on how we, as an agency, can help our clients improve clinical decision-making, patient access and health outcomes.

The commercial applications for RWD and RWE are more established than those for clinical development and regulatory decision-making, and some might even find it surprising that a marketing and communications agency, such as W2O, would use this data across its clients’ commercial activities. But, as former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has repeatedly discussed, RWD provides a crucial missing link between clinical trials and clinical care. By bridging that gap, we’re quickly modernizing how new therapies are brought to market. Specifically, we can now create models of the provider and patient populations that will most benefit from new therapies and procedures using RWD, rooted in clinical trial results, that is far more accurate and actionable than traditional market research could ever be. The fact that commercial, medical and scientific teams can all speak the same data language now is a sea change for medical marketers and communicators, who have just been propelled from a 20th century world of surveys and qualitative interviews to one that looks much more like consumer technology companies, which are successfully using the same first-party data for everything from product development to digital advertising.

We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of how RWD is useful across a broad range of medical and commercial activities. Following are a few ways we and our clients are using RWD today:

  • Clinical trial design: Identifying patient markers in RWD that predict clinical response and adherence, and selecting appropriate outcome measures
  • Clinical trial recruitment: Identifying eligible patient populations, particularly for rare diseases, more quickly so clinical trials are more cost-effective and new therapies can be brought to market more quickly
  • Market intelligence: Understanding gaps between clinical trial efficacy and actual real-world effectiveness for long-existing therapies, including why patients don’t respond to therapies as expected and other issues that affect broad adoption or adherence
  • Audience segmentation: Identifying groups of providers and patients that are high priorities from a communications and education perspective, given their clinical practices, social determinants and unique patient journeys
  • Media planning: Using machine learning to predict clinical practices and preferences given providers’ medical education preferences and media consumption habits
  • Pricing and access: Demonstrating the value and cost of new therapies and indications  to the healthcare system
  • Campaign optimization: Continuously testing whether our pre-launch and post-launch marketing activities are having a positive impact on clinical practices and patient outcomes

Again, we’re just beginning to realize the full potential of RWD applications for communications and marketing. But, even in these early days, it’s clear that we’re quickly advancing from a data dark-age in pharma marketing to one where we’re able to bring innovative new therapies to the market faster and more effectively.


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Privacy and data protection regulations impact the work of every advertising, marketing and PR communications professional around the globe – especially in healthcare and medicine. As the focus on privacy by consumers and regulators continues to increase, W2O’s team is tracking the most important news and changes that directly influence our industry, including the latest on legislation, new privacy technology, enforcement actions, analysis and thought leadership in privacy and data protection.

Here’s the news we’re paying attention to right now.

1. People wary of health technology over privacy issues

Recent research by Kantar shows that privacy and security concerns impact American’s willingness to use health technology. The survey included more than 1,000 adults and showed that while Americans believe that technology can help with their healthcare, only 38% believe there are proper safeguards in place. The findings indicate that adoption of health technology is hindered not by lack of innovation, but by lack of consumer trust.

Main TakeawayAs healthcare and technology become more interwoven than ever, the implicit trust that patients extend to their doctors and their medical organizations is being eroded by the arguably well-deserved privacy scrutiny that other industries are now receiving. Healthcare and medical organizations must think beyond HIPAA and embrace the privacy principles of transparency, choice, and accountability along with data protection and security.

2. Microsoft releases new service terms in response to Dutch GDPR investigation

An investigation by the European Data Protection Supervisor which identified “serious concerns” with Microsoft’s collection of data from Office 365 users has resulted in a change to the Microsoft Service Terms. The new terms and a Data Protection Addendum, which apply to all commercial customers globally, specifically exclude the processing of customer and personal data for the “purpose of profiling, advertising or similar commercial purposes”.

Main TakeawayMicrosoft has chosen to extend privacy tools and rights to all users, and not just European Users for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), or California Consumers for the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). Only four months after they launched new privacy tools in response to GDPR, the highest engagement with those tools came from millions of Americans. Brands with complex global operations should consider Microsoft’s example, including their embrace of privacy as a core principle and the extension of privacy tools and controls to all users, not just those in specific jurisdictions.

3. European Parliament discusses California’s CCPA for adequacy decision

The European Parliament recently discussed whether California could be considered for an “adequacy decision” under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The GDPR allows for the transfer of personal data to third countries where the commission has decided that third country ensures an adequate level of data protection. The question discussed was whether California could receive such an adequacy decision separate from the United States – which currently uses Privacy Shield as a transfer mechanism. The opinion from that group was that yes, the language of GDPR does allow for “territorial” application, and the CCPA could be considered for adequacy – although the scope of the hearing was not to actually determine that.

Main Takeaway Global marketing and communications professionals should be watching developments related to adequacy and Privacy Shield closely, as they govern the flow of data between the United States and Europe. The Advocate General of the Court of Justice has concluded that Standard Contractual Clauses (SCCs) are a valid transfer mechanism, and if Privacy Shield becomes invalidated, SCCs may have to become much more prevalent.

* The opinions expressed in this post do not constitute or represent legal advice. No liability is accepted by the authors or W2O Group for any action taken or not taken based on the information or any associated communications.


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Few marketing communications disciplines have undergone as dramatic a transformation over the last 10 years as paid media. A decade ago, the most dominant form of media was linear television, with brands and agencies alike focused on advertising on cable and local television. Now, much of the content we consume is distributed via programmatic media and over-the-top (OTT) media services. Not only have the types of media changed dramatically, so have the technology and regulations. According to the latest Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, 7,040 different technology solutions are available now for brands and agencies to buy. Ten years ago, we could never have imagined a world governed by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which are fundamentally changing the way paid media is executed.

With great change, though, comes great opportunity. Paid media has never been riper for disruption. Increasingly, the conversation is shifting from “how much do we spend with the major networks in a given year” to “how do we leverage data and technology to reach our key audiences and deliver value back to the business?” This conversation shift is why W2O has rooted our paid media capabilities in being transparent, results-oriented, channel agnostic, global and agile so we can respond to changing market dynamics. These are all differentiators that clients want from a paid media agency partner.

The new conversation advertisers are having about paid media requires a different type of leader – one who understands the old model and how it’s broken and can adapt to the changing environment. At W2O, that leader is Jake Vander Linden, who recently joined the firm after spending the last 20 years at various media agencies. He brings a fresh perspective to building the right paid media activation model for W2O’s clients. We asked him to share his perspective.

Tell us about your background in paid media.  

I have an atypical background for W2O, which is great because this is a place that welcomes different backgrounds. I’ve spent most of my career at big holding company media agencies supporting clients in the consumer-packaged goods, automotive, travel and luxury, and beer and spirits industries.

I spent nearly eight years working in Asia – in the Philippines, China and Singapore – and then in Berlin before returning to New York about five years ago. I have provided communications planning as well as strategy and agency and account leadership. In everything I’ve done, I’ve enjoyed building things, whether opening a new office or building a team for a new client win. I love pitching new business and have been part of some remarkable new client opportunities.

I most enjoy, and have been most successful at, stitching together various capabilities or parts of an organization to make the product bigger than the sum of its parts – such as analytics and media or content partnerships.

What trends in paid media activation should W2O’s clients be paying attention to?

One of the biggest trends – and this is by no means a “new” trend – is personalization at scale. As an industry, we’ve been building the infrastructure to handle identifying and messaging to the right consumer, at the right time, and in the right way for a while now but it’s not really been applied as a lead strategy. Rather, it’s been a nice element below traditional media like TV. And that’s been easy to defend – most measurement tools, especially for CPG – are biased toward big, blunt force instruments like television.

At W2O, we have a unique opportunity for our clients to build a very addressable and response-oriented paid media system on top of our robust analytics framework. This type of innovation  can have a sizable impact on a communications plan.

Additionally, we have lived in an epoch of continuous fragmentation for years, and there are many incidental trends that create new opportunities to connect with audiences and build relevance – from podcasting to voice search and sonic marketing to technologies in digital health.

Increasingly, paid media is serving as a silo buster. Communicators and marketers alike are buying different forms of media. How do you see paid media serving as an integral part of the overall paid, earned, shared and owned media ecosystem?

Paid media can’t exist only to amplify content. It’s often one of the larger line items in a marketing budget and creates the biggest opportunities for an audience to see a brand or message. Specialization is important, but the reality is that audiences don’t consider silos when they are experiencing a brand or product or service.

I think it is particularly attenuated in healthcare. The information we deploy has much more gravity to peoples’ lives as it is used to inform important decisions so it’s imperative that we are linked up and consistent.

At W2O, paid and earned/social integrate closely, and we make sure our processes, briefing documents and reporting are consistent. I think we’ll see more patient-centricity even if our audience is a healthcare provider, and a deeper strategic understanding of the audience journey in communications as a way to prioritize and build plans across paid, owned, earned and shared media.

Paid media activation has become a very tech/data driven discipline. What is the interplay between technology and data, and the need to balance the opportunity to creatively explore reaching our core audiences?

There are a couple different ways to think about the tension between creativity and technology. Many articles have been published in the trade press about how we’ve lost our way as an industry by prioritizing creating versions of banners rather than focusing on creativity. From my experience, the demise of the Big Idea has been greatly exaggerated. I can’t think of a recent experience that didn’t prioritize content over distribution. And that’s fine as long as the idea is media agnostic and we have the flexibility to execute in a way that reflects what we know about the audience.

To reiterate what I said before about the audience journey, for many of our clients, we need to understand the practical nature of how audiences are making decisions and what content our PESO plans need to deliver. A lot of what we do begins with search, but we also need to make sure insights from our data analysis inform the creative idea upfront, so the creative outputs are that much richer.

What similarities and differences have you seen in paid media activation between the U.S. and other markets? 

The biggest difference is the speed of innovation. The U.S. is a very cautious market whereas many ex-U.S. markets, particularly in Southeast Asia, are very quick to identify opportunities to test and scale. Some of it is cultural, but it’s important to remember that the size of the U.S. means that mistakes can be very costly.

Overall, all media are local. Local customs, insights and language skills must be prioritized and leveraged. Relationships are fundamentally important when activating anywhere.

What’s a fun fact about you that you’d like people to know?

I’m an identical twin.


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The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) comes into force in January 2020 (with proposed regulations released not long ago), and it gives California consumers and businesses both new rights and new obligations.

W2O recently held a webinar, moderated by Larry Dobrow, Senior Editor at MM&M, to discuss the Top 10 things organizations need to know about the CCPA.

Following is a recap of our recent webinar on the topic. You can also view the webinar recording here, or watch it below.

1. The CCPA applies to California residents. Specifically, it applies to “every individual who is in the state for other than a temporary or transitory purpose.” Most legal experts are assuming this means a resident as defined by the California tax code, although it’s not stated explicitly in the CCPA. There are a few possible methods of determining residency that organizations may consider, including using an IP address or a third-party verification service. Some organizations are simply treating all Americans as if they were California consumers.

2. Employees are mostly exempt – for now. In a last-minute amendment, CCPA has exempted all employees, job applicants and vendors of organizations subject to the CCPA until January 1, 2021. While organizations still must disclose to consumers the categories of information they collect, they do not yet have to respond to other requests such as requests to delete their personal data.

3. Not all businesses are subject to the CCPA. Only for-profit organizations that do business in California are impacted. The CCPA does not apply to government or non-profits. Also, at least one of three thresholds must be met – an organization must either exceed a gross revenue of $25 million, handle the personal information of 50,000 or more consumers / households / devices, or realize 50% or more of revenue from selling personal information.

4. The CCPA has new notice and disclosure requirements. Generally, this means that most organizations must update their privacy policies to include descriptions of new consumer rights, and disclosure of the categories of information they collect.

5. California consumers have new rights to their data. This includes the right to know what data is being held, what data is being sold, the right to request deletion of their personal data, and the right to opt out of the sale of their data. Those rights must be explained in an organization’s privacy policy, and businesses must enable direct consumer requests via a toll-free number, web form, email address and other methods.

6. Businesses must respond to consumer requests in a timely manner. Requests to know what personal data an organization holds and requests to delete that data must be acknowledged in 10 days and acted upon in 45 days. Requests to opt-out must be acted upon “as soon as possible” but no longer than 15 days.

7. Businesses must provide a specific opt-out of sale mechanism. That mechanism is prescribed by the CCPA to include a “Do Not Sell My Personal Information” link conspicuously displayed on the website, and a webform where a consumer can make that request.

8. Identity verification requires careful attention. Consumer identity must be verified, and the best case scenario is to use a secure customer account to do so. In the absence of an account, the regulations provide specific criteria. For example, requests to know categories of information must match two data points, requests to know specific detailed information must match three data points, and the consumer must provide a signed declaration that they are who they say they are. Verification for requests to delete personal data depend upon the sensitivity of that data.

9. Businesses using third-party information must ensure notice was provided by the source. Any organization using the data of a California resident that it did not collect directly from the consumer must either contact the consumer directly to provide notice or obtain an attestation from the source that notice was provided at the time of collection.

10. Collecting data from minors requires opt-in consent. The CCPA adds special rules for minors. The data of anyone under the age of 16 can only be sold with opt-in consent, or with the consent of a parent or guardian for anyone under 13 for both the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the CCPA.

Bonus – 11. Privacy is good for business. Beyond simply compliance, privacy is now a key competitive differentiator. As privacy awareness has grown, consumers are actively seeking out brands they trust. Having a reputation as a business that protects consumers’ personal data will clearly differentiate a business from its competitors. When individuals know that their data is being used only in ways they expect, and in service of their best interests, the result is increased trust, loyalty and engagement.

While that trust is important in all industries, it’s particularly critical in healthcare. Delivering on the privacy promise at every stage of a relationship with a doctor and patient builds the trust required to make healthcare decisions – ranging the gamut from prescribing/taking a new prescription medicine to inserting/being implanted with a pacemaker or other life-saving medical device.

Healthcare and pharmaceutical companies must take proactive measures to build robust data privacy programs across every interaction and ensure that their audiences are aware of these steps. With marketing and communications now reaching so many patients and healthcare professionals, and with patient preference and marketing having a large impact on prescribing decisions, data protection and privacy has become one of the primary methods of building trust.

In addition to gains in audience trust and engagement, comprehensive data privacy and protection programs result in a plethora of other benefits. These include a reduced risk of data breaches, increased shareholder value, more desirable M&A positions, and higher operational efficiency, among others.

If your organization hasn’t yet embraced privacy as a fundamental value, now is the time to take action. The CCPA is the direct result of an increase in the public’s awareness, and it’s just the beginning. Multiple states have their own privacy bills coming soon, and a new and more robust ballot measure in California for 2020 is already being promoted for signatures. Organizations that take action now will be far ahead of their competitive set, winning audience trust and gaining market share.


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Privacy and data protection regulations impact the work of every advertising, marketing and PR communications professional around the globe, and the focus on privacy by consumers and regulators continues to increase. W2O’s team is tracking the most important news and changes that directly influence our industry, including the latest on legislation, new privacy technology, enforcement actions, analysis and thought leadership in privacy and data protection.

Here’s the news we’re paying attention to right now.

  1. German Data Protection Authorities Create Fine Model – The German Datenschutzkonferenz (DSK), Germany’s joint data protection body, recently released a new model for calculating fines associated with the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The model is quite complex, with 24 pages of official explanation, and is likely to result in more frequent large fines near the top end of GDPR limits.

    Main Takeaway – While it is not yet clear if the high fines under the DSK model will be considered proportionate, large corporations that process large quantities of data – and particularly those that process sensitive data – should ensure their data protection and breach response programs are as robust and complete as possible.

2. Google Moves to Acquire FitBit, Raising Privacy Issues – Google’s multi-billion-dollar acquisition of FitBit will give it access to a variety of new personal health information. Google has stated it will not use Fitbit data for targeting ads, and privacy advocates are expressing concerns that the data could be used for other purposes. This acquisition will also likely increase federal and state regulators’ scrutiny of Alphabet for potential antitrust violations.

Main TakeawayGoogle has caused numerous privacy concerns over the last decade, due to excessive tracking and exposed data, which has eroded consumer trust. Brands that embrace data privacy and protection principles are building trust and getting ahead of their competitors. Marketers should consider data privacy a fundamental component of their key value proposition.

3. Another Federal Privacy Bill Proposed – A new federal privacy bill proposal from two California House Representatives would lead to the creation of a new Digital Privacy Agency to enforce rights. The bill, in some ways similar to the GDPR, would give consumers rights of access, correction and deletion. It would also prohibit the use of third-party data to reidentify individuals, and bar the use of “private communications” such as email contents and web traffic for advertising.

Main Takeaway – Multiple federal bills from both sides of the aisle have been proposed recently to consolidate existing federal laws and override the burgeoning number of different state laws, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act, but none have proceeded beyond the proposal stage. Brands and marketers should be prepared to deal with a patchwork of state-level privacy laws until federal legislation is passed.

* The opinions expressed in this post do not constitute or represent legal advice. No liability is accepted by the authors or W2O for any action taken or not taken based on the information or any associated communications.


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W2O recently hosted our second annual, Marketing Science Summit. The purpose of this event is fairly straightforward: to create a space for pioneers in the market research, social analytics and digital marketing fields to share the latest trends in marketing science, with a focus on the healthcare and tech industries.

From leveraging to data to the evolution of AI, there were plenty of key learnings from this year’s summit. I summed up the five that stood out to me below.

1. In healthcare, we’re dealing with data that isn’t really clean, nor does it connect easily.

Liz DeMatteis, Chief Marketing Officer, Aetion made a great point about this notion. She highlighted that the quest should not be perfect data, but rather the perfect understanding of the imperfections of the data. Imperfect data can still be used to fuel effective decision making

2. There have been significant advancements in Artificial Intelligence over the past decade.

From robotics to voice recognition, AI has continued to rapidly develop according to Tom Mitchell, E. Fredkin University Professor of Machine Learning and Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University. What we always wonder about is whether or not those advancements will slow? The reality is that the advancements in machine learning and AI are only going to accelerate the continued innovation in these areas.

3. Digital data can be used effectively to understand physician behaviors.

We can all agree that digital and social information serves as a really effective data source. However, in order to truly understand physician behavior, we need to triangulate multiple data sources. Audun Utengen, Chief Executive Officer of Symplur noted, it’s important that we don’t overly rely on a single source of data when we’re making decisions.

4. Usage and data collection is still in its infancy.

We still have varying stages of maturity with data, the data doesn’t always connect very easily. Additionally, we consistently are getting more and more data, there are new decisions that can be made with the data, there is new legislation and other key factors. Once we solve one potential issue another pops up, so it’s important we work together to solve these challenges.

H/T: Joerg Corsten, Global Medical Information Leader of Roche

5. Data can fuel creativity.

We at W2O talk a lot about following the data to get to the point. While we advocate and practice for data driven creativity, one point that’s worth accentuating is that data is a guide, it isn’t a vice. Thank you Ellen Gerstein, Director of Digital Content, Pfizer and Mary Michael, Vice President, Patient Advocacy and Stakeholder Management of Otsuka, for highlighting that point.

That’s a wrap for the 2019 Marketing Science Summit! Thank you to our speakers and attendees for making this event a success, we look forward to seeing you next year.


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