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Kai Gait, GSK Global Digital Director interview on innovation in pharma

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This week we were lucky enough to speak to Kai Gait, Global Digital Director at GSK to get our first perspective on things from client side.

Kai is recognised authority in healthcare digital marketing, frequently speaking at international conferences on digital marketing, emergent technology, mobile innovation, social marketing, integrating FMCG behaviours/best practice and more recently gamification. Winner of the coveted PM Society Digital Pioneer award in 2013 and a regular judge at the PM Digital Awards.

 

AH: Would you mind telling us a little about your background?

KG: My background was actually as a research scientist, however I wasn’t a very good one, so moved to marketing to protect the safely of my lab colleagues.

 

AH: How did you get into the industry?

KG: I ran my agency for a number of years where I developed a broad range of skills over many different industry sectors. I was working on several data initiatives at the time and was presented with an opportunity to bring that knowledge into healthcare, which then resulted moving into a Global digital role.

 

AH: Tell us a bit about your company and what you are doing now

KG: I work at GSK where I lead a digital team supporting one of our franchises. We are a small but highly effective team who work with the Global brand teams on their multi-channel plans and deliverables

 

AH: So what does the average week consist of for a Global Pharma Digital Director?

KG: A lot of the week is spent with the brand teams working on their deliverables but then also with the marketing companies to ensure we are developing the right things in relation to their needs. We have to be agile to the demands of the business and we are always working across multiple brands and projects simultaneously.

 

AH: Tell us about a piece of recent work that you are proud of?

KG: We’ve just spent 12 weeks being laser-focussed on several transformation projects. The work has been intense but I’ve worked with one of the best cross-functional teams I’ve encountered in a long time and it’s an honour to have been asked to lead it.

 

KG: Are there any projects you are working on that we should keep an eye out for in the coming months?

We are working on some very interesting projects, which are really exciting. It’s moving us out of our comfort-zone but that’s what transformation and innovation is all about

 

AH: You are known for your innovations at GSK in particular the use of twitter for patient support in a real way.  What do you think is holding back other pharma companies from following suit?  Is their anything agencies can do to help their clients or is this change that must come from within?

KG: The change must come from within. I presented at a multi-company meeting recently where the audience was mainly medical, legal and compliance. When I mentioned a few areas around social media and real-time support, the audience were saying it couldn’t be done. It can be done and it’s being done right before their eyes. It’s not easy to put some ideas in to play, but if you sit down and really think about what you are setting out to achieve, you can find ways to do it. Finding like-minded people with a passion for change internally is always the best way.

 

AH: We know you don’t like to see pointless digital stuff created.  Where do you think the responsibility lies when un-necessary digital stuff is created? 

KG: Most of the time it’s the brief. Ask any agency what the weakest point is an they will come back with that, however it’s a tricky are as some people tasked with ‘delivering a digital project’ might not have the background to understand what is required. I would say the agency has the ability to help the person understand the possibilities and then demonstrate how it adds value. I see initiatives where I question the value and very quickly you can unpick them.

The people we chose to work with are selected based upon their expertise. If I’m not getting what I think the business needs, I’m quite happy switch agencies to ensure we deliver what is expected of us.

 

AH: Do you think the value of good user experience can be lost in this commoditised way of working?

KG: You should never forget the user experience. If you do, it becomes nothing.

 

AH: How do you see the agency and client relationship evolving?  Does the best work come out of a trusted partnership or a carefully pre-defined set of deliverables being briefed out to various agencies?

KG: I prefer partnerships, as the long-term results can be fantastic. There are times where we need short projects, however a trusted partner stands more chance of being at the table for all the discussions. I admire partners who are honest and say it’s not their area and still help us find the right people to deliver. That takes trust from them.

 

AH: We are already seeing that there is a role for digital as the solution rather than just a means of promotion with games going through clinical trials – what do you see the role of agencies in the future of digital health?  Will it be lead by pharma companies/ agencies/start-up companies or a mixture?

KG: It’s a mix. There are more and more start-ups appearing with an interest in digital health and we keep an eye on the external environment. There will be plenty of collaborations and pharma and our traditional digital agencies will need to evolve faster than before.

 

AH: What are your thoughts on Apple HealthKit?  Where do you see this going?

KG: It’s faced some teething troubles over the past few weeks, which haven’t given it the best start. Some of the big tech companies have been here before but as this space becomes more competitive, they may make more investment into it rather than just as a ‘hobby’.

 

AH: Where do you see the next big opportunities for digital in health?

KG: The wearables and self-tracking market is set to grow quite quickly so it will be an area to watch.

 

AH: Where do you look for inspiration?

KG: I spend the first hour of my day reviewing the major tech and innovation sites. I use feedly throughout the day to pull it all together, therefore allowing me to view 50+ blogs and over 400 articles a day. You see a lot of new ideas and news at very high speed.

I also like discussing ideas with like-minded people. Some discussions are crazy but there often comes the seed for an idea or a way of changing how we work.

 

AH: Did Lions Health in Cannes get your attention? Would you consider attending the conference next year?

I said a few weeks ago that one of our projects would be a great entry next year. Let’s see! I think it’s good for people to be recognised for the work they do.

 

AH: You are a regular judge at the PM Society Digital awards, what value do award shows offer to you?

KG: They allow people stand up and be proud of their work in front of their peers and it’s great to see the hard work being celebrated.

Lions Health, PM Society etc. are all great ways to stand up and show what your organisation is doing but recognition is knowing you helped someone find the information or support they needed (sounds cheesy but some of do this based upon experiences we’ve had in our lives)

 

AH: One comment we hear time and time again is for the craft categories where the focus is on creativity and innovation there still seems to be an emphasis from the judges on ROI and strategy – why do you think this is? Do you think these categories need more agency judges?

KG: It can be quite hard for judges who are being mercilessly drilled for ROI etc. within their own organisations, not to take this out to the judging. I’d still look at the strategy and ask how the creative or innovation helped deliver that.

 

AH: How do you balance the need for ROI and innovation?  It came up in a recent debate that while it is important that work, work’s we shouldn’t miss the opportunity to innovate and explore unproven territories.

KG: Not everything has an immediate ROI and sometimes it’s so complex to calculate. If you are constantly being asked for the ROI, then I don’t think the person asking the question actually understand the concept. Take them on the journey and make them excited about the project.

 

AH: Are there other pharma companies you see doing innovative work?

KG: I’m sure there are, but it’s not a sector I actively watch. I watch the other sectors as I see more innovation around me, then I work out how I could do that in pharma.

 

AH: What one thing would you want to say to someone new to the industry?  That you wish someone has said to you when you started?

KG: The industry is under a lot of pressure at the moment and it’s not an easy environment to work in, but for me it is always about keeping the patient at the heart of everything we do.

 

AH: Who do you look up to and why?

KG: My mother started as greengrocer, then went to run a scuba-diving store, but was also an amazing sales and marketing person without even knowing about it. She ran her businesses for years and built real-life, connected communities that people would travel from all over the UK and Europe to engage with. I look back on what she used to do and how and I’m still amazed at what she achieved in a short space of time (including giving a supermarket chain a good beating). She died several years ago after several struggles with her health and this is what motivates me to work in this industry.

 

AH: If you could read an interview on advertising health from anyone in healthcare advertising who would it be with?  And what would you want to know?

KG: I’d like to read about someone external to healthcare and how they see our industry

 

AH: Thanks Kai!