Ángel González has spent nearly 40 years in advertising. He began his career working for multinational consumer agencies before moving to the health sector, serving as the CEO of Publicis Healthcare Madrid and co-president for Spain.
In 2009, Ángel decided to take the step of starting his own company, Ideagoras, an international social media agency specializing in health, and which has provided its services to the likes of GE Healthcare, Bayer, Danone, GSK, Merck, MSD, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Solgar, Lundbeck, and others.
In this interview, he shares his motivations, his vision of the industry, his approach to advocacy branding in this sector, and why his agency has always focused on constant learning in every area related to the intersection of technology, branding, health, creativity and innovation.
The true essence of social media
Ángel begins the interview by endorsing the recent statement from his friend, Alexandra Fulford: “too many pharmaceutical companies continue to use social media as another public relations instrument to advertise their institutional and CSR activities, instead of using them as powerful engagement tools”.
For Ángel, this statement is a reality that entails the loss of great opportunities for the industry, “especially now that the sector is trying to find the light and the way to reformulate how it engages with its professional healthcare clients, a need that has been further accentuated by the consequences of the pandemic: the new BANI (brittle, anxious, non-linear and incomprehensible) scenario”, he contends.
He notes that the industry’s social media can also work to cultivate the relationship between the sector and health professionals and patients. And taking that approach is as easy as going back to the true essence of social media, says Ángel, restoring authenticity to the relationship by combining three pillars: listening, dialogue and interaction. “The same spirit of the agoras (public squares) of ancient Greece. Create a brand through socialization, which also entails exposure and risk-taking, and not through sales pitches from your own playbook, which only makes the social media narrative of your audiences diverge from yours”.
According to Ángel, it is true that communication in the pharmaceutical industry is highly regulated, but this can’t be an excuse for paralysis, an innocuous social narrative, the automation of discourse and interaction, the use of mere intuition as a strategic guide and the lack of authenticity that is too often exposed to the audience through the use of social media. “This extracurricular regulation, which unfortunately is sometimes imposed on projects, stems from fear and also mediocrity”, he notes.
Intelligence and data at the service of social marketing in health
Ángel emphasizes that having a clear policy on audience intelligence is critical. “With Audiense Insight, we are helping our clients to do social branding by intelligently managing social data, which provides key information to determine the ‘permanently moving snapshot’ of the conversation market and your position in it as a brand. Knowledge to design a differentiating strategy, implement it and adjust it based on the impact of your actions and those of your competitors. Constant social data information”.
According to him, by accessing, processing and analyzing this data, they come to know the social audience and achieve a detailed profile of the buyer persona that includes: criteria for brand influence, psychological aspects, conversation volume, description of their biography, relevant social platforms, affinities, etc.
Question: You have spent many years in health advertising and communication. In terms of marketing, what has changed since your early years in the industry?
Answer: “Stop Just Marketing …Start Socializing!” is the Reggie Bradford quote that I always mention to define the paradigm shift in health marketing in the last thirteen years.
Pharmaceutical companies can no longer establish relationships with healthcare professionals through their sales force alone. Nor can they ignore communicating with the new patient who wants to be proactive in managing their health. That is why social media branding helps to establish and maintain more people-centered and valuable relationships over time. In addition, it allows pharmaceutical companies to connect with their audiences by behaving like any other member of the community, participating in existing conversations and promoting new ones (that interest your audience, naturally) until they achieve the desired brand advocacy: when doctors – or patients – interact organically with your content and embrace it by sharing it or discussing it with their peers.
Q: What drove you to create a health social media marketing company almost 13 years ago? What were you looking for that you couldn’t find in what other agencies offered?
A: In the second half of 2008, this category didn’t even exist in this sector in Spain. And that was the good news, since I envisioned an exciting professional project: start a business by helping to define a new way of building people-centered connections between health brands and individuals through social media marketing. And keep in mind that the great world financial crisis was starting at around that time. But, again, that was the moment, because it’s true that behind a crisis lies opportunity. I also wanted to create something new that filled me with excitement, and also independence, freedom, something transcendental I could share my dreams through. And I had it in front of me.
The stars began to align: the democratization of internet access, the emergence of social media and its pioneering users in the health sector – who already then were doctors and patients – the great impact that simple negative or positive mentions in the conversations of empowered individuals on emerging social media platforms already had on giant brands.
The visionary number one thesis of the 1999 The Cluetrain Manifesto that “markets are conversations” was starting to come to life.
Obviously, wrong decisions in many areas have been a part of this journey. But that’s what helps you learn, correct and iterate. To advance, you also have to falter.
Q: For us, 2021 is the year of audience marketing. For you, what role does audience intelligence play in campaign planning and execution?
A: You can’t plan social media goals or define a strategy without relying on intelligence obtained through analyzing audiences. Data is also decisive for monitoring the performance of your activities, detecting trends and generating new ideas. We need the data, which are indisputable facts and not sterile words based on intuition or personalities.
Audience intelligence is also essential for developing social content (talk like your audience does or you’ll be lost), defining the best time and context to publish, establishing how to interact with your community, evaluating KPI’s, doing non-stop competitive analysis, conceptualizing and making graphic and multimedia creative pieces, planning paid media activities that yield a good qualitative – perhaps the more important of the two – and quantitative return. It is also essential for making social media work in conjunction with other communication activities.
Q: With the imminent disappearance of third-party cookies, creativity and audience-first marketing are at the heart of the solution. Do you agree?
A: As consumers, I think we are fed up with the intrusive digital marketing activities associated with cookies, or with orchestrated paid media on networks without a data intelligence base, for the sole purpose of hitting engagement or follower targets.
Branding has to evolve from interruption to invitation. Marketing on social media, and in particular organic activities, has to grow from this principle.
Q: Brands are looking for agencies that play a more strategic role (and not just a tactical role, as has been the case), something that has been more linked to consulting firms. What does this change in attitude mean in the day-to-day running of an agency? How do you at Ideagoras deal with this new paradigm?
A: If as an agency what you want is to “run away from the herd”, avoid being a simple commodity while also aspiring to be respected (or even admired) by your clients and by the market, then you have to make a clear difference. And playing a strategic and advisory (mentoring) role with your clients is key. This is not an easy task and is based on mutual trust and respect.
Q: How does Ideagoras integrate the various technologies and goals into the services it offers its clients (taking into account the concept of technocreativity: it’s not about using the latest tech hype, but about adding value through an invisible technology)?
A: Our value proposition is that we know how to support our clients to build brands with a much more human character through technology: brands that listen, that share, that interact with their audiences and that invite them to collaborate and co-create.
Brands that as they evolve, can now come across the great opportunities offered by exponential technologies such as AI, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, sensors and connectors, voice interaction, robotics etc.
We do our best to keep our operating system up-to-date – incessant learning about how technologies are rapidly transforming the way brands engage with their customers.
The future is exciting and extraordinary. And I always say that it’s better to be an agent of change rather than a mere observer. This will also make you stand out.
Q: As for your tool box, what are some of your favorite platforms in your stack?
A: Since most health conversations are confined to Twitter, we have historically used Symplur Signals. Other social listening and intelligence tools of a broader nature that we have relied on have been Awario and Buzzsumo.
For six months we have been working with Audiense Insights, which complements its social web data services with other intelligence tools such as Meltwater, IBM Watson, Onalytica, and others. Audiense also monitors Instagram, which is another key social network for health.
The use of Sprout Social as a content scheduling and interaction monitoring tool also gives us a lot of social marketing intelligence and data.
Q: If you had a magic wand, what would you add to round out your audience intelligence stack?
A: It would be great to find really good social intelligence tools for monitoring other networks, such as Facebook or LinkedIn (aside from their native analytics data), in as much detail as Twitter. Logically, the closed nature of these networks and their commitment to the privacy of their users make this impossible.
Or finding them also for dark social platforms like WhatsApp (the number one network in Spain) or Telegram. The very nature of these networks and their privacy also makes this impossible. We all know that doctors and patients are there. Just like we also know that there are many medical sales reps who communicate by this method with their clients, even if it is prohibited for legal and regulatory reasons. But WhatsApp channels for institutions or by therapeutic area do exist, and have all the necessary legal blessings of some large corporations. And by the way, these are channels whose click-through rate and reading time are higher than those of other social networks (as long as the content is relevant, of course).