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Q&A: Kathy Delaney, Global Chief Creative Officer, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness

Kathy-delaney

Kathy Delaney is the Global Chief Creative Officer of Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness. In 2014, Kathy served as President of the Health & Wellness Jury for the inaugural Cannes Lions Health festival, celebrating life changing creativity in healthcare, wellness and sustainability.

AH: Please tell us a bit about SSW.

KD: Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness is the leading marketing agency specializing in consumer health and wellness. Known for its innate understanding of consumer health trends that influence purchasing, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness’ mission is to inspire and promote change by unearthing the universal human truths living in every brand. And to be the foremost creator of ideas that move people to actively promote well-being and live healthier lives.

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

KD: Our work for Crossroads Community Services is very powerful, and very near and dear to my heart. It’s a pro bono campaign that aims to raise awareness and reach potential donors for Crossroads, a NYC-based nonprofit that helps the homeless and hungry. The first phase features street art by Mike Perry along with a whole host of volunteers who raised their hands to help. The second phase will highlight the health benefits of giving to others, centered on research that shows measurable mental and physical benefits from performing acts of kindness. It’s been very successful so far and continues to pick up speed. We’re excited to see where it’s headed.

AH: What do you love most about the work you do?  

KD: What I love most about the work I do is the same reason I got into health and wellness communications in the first place: the ability to use creativity and emotion to move people to action. People need to feel something to do something. I love making people feel something through the power of creativity.

AH: Your work has been featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent advertising collection. How did that come about?

KD: The work was a campaign for a lingerie brand. Instead of displaying model perfect women’s bodies in that unrealistic way that is so alienating, we showcased the beauty of the lingerie. It appealed to women’s romantic sides by accentuating the sensual qualities of the lingerie and allowing them to imagine what it would feel like to wear it. The “no, that’s not for me, I look nothing like her” factor went away and women were able to imagine themselves looking fantastic in it.

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

KD: Keep an eye out for the next phase of Crossroads – we are continuing to do a big push for the remainder of this year. We’re also working on a unique website initiative for one of our brands that will help people find lost pets. Anti-Gun Violence is another area we will be exploring and pushing on this year.

AH: Your must have felt honoured to be selected to chair the Wellness jury the first ever Lions Health in Cannes. How was the experience?

KD: I have been a judge at Cannes before, but in this first year of Lions Health, my perspective grew bigger. As President of the Health & Wellness Jury, I saw firsthand how more and more marketers are driving positive change around the world. One of the biggest takeaways was that sometimes you have to start small to create big change. Our industry typically celebrates the big world-changing ideas that do good for the masses; but sometimes the most effective, life-changing idea can start with reaching one human being and connecting with them in an incredibly personal way. The Mother Book, which won the Grand Prix, is a great example of this.

AH: Were you surprised the USA came home with nothing? How do you respond to Richard Levy and Laura Schoen suggestion that the USA didn’t get a fair chance at Lions Health due to the strict FDA regulations and the lack of understanding of the US restrictions amongst the judges?

KD: It wasn’t all that surprising given how heavily regulated our industry is in the U.S. This indicates that we have got to come up with new ways, beyond the :90 TV spot with :45 of fair balance, to connect with people and get them to take action regarding their health and wellbeing. We as marketers need to encourage pharma companies to start doing other things, on larger scales like Crest and Kellogg’s, who are out there having amazing conversations about health and wellness. Also, the U.S. did not come home with nothing – they did take home a handful of Lions. But nowhere near enough. Hopefully this was a wake-up call to clients and agencies alike that we need to rethink our approach.

AH: Were you surprised by the strength of work from Brazil / Singapore / Japan?

KD: Definitely not. These regions are total hotbeds of creativity. I love the bravado with which they approach their work. Yes, they are less regulated than the U.S. and that helps a ton. But there is a real fearless attitude that both clients and agencies seem to share in these regions that I find admirable. 

AH: Consumer agencies did very well in Cannes this year, with Leo Burnett picking up the Network of the Year prize. Do you think one day we will stop having specialist health agencies?

KD: It’s a good debate, and one I’ve discussed with Nick Colucci, President & CEO of Publicis Healthcare Communications Group. I don’t think the pendulum will swing that far, but what those verticals look like will certainly broaden. I believe traditional pharma agencies will become much broader, more holistic health and wellness specialists – at least the smart ones will. They have to go the way the world is going.

AH: Did you leave Cannes with any new strategies, ideas, etc. that you are excited to take back to your agency and explore for yourself?

KD: I left feeling so inspired and ready to challenge every brief. What we have to keep asking ourselves is what is it that clients want the world to feel about their brand and how can we go beyond the regulated TV spot to create experiences for consumers that make them feel it.

AH: What work stood out most to you this year?

KD: I really loved Leo Burnett’s work for the Mimi Foundation, called “If Only for a Moment.” Together they gave 20 cancer patients a unique makeover experience that would empower them to feel carefree. The patients were invited to a studio where they got their hair and makeup done without being able to see themselves during the transformation. A photograph then immortalized the moment they opened their eyes. This discovery allowed them to forget the disease, if only for a second.

AH: Do you have a favourite story from the festival?

KD: My favourite story is from my time in Cannes after the festival was over. On my last day there, a group of us ventured to La Colombe D’or restaurant where artists back in the day used to go and barter their paintings for meals. We were sitting just inches away from Picassos and Matisses and other beautiful pieces of artwork that legendary artists created before they were even known. Talk about creativity! It was mind blowing.

AH: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

KD: You are only as good as your last idea. Also, my grandmother had a great saying, nothing is ever as good or as bad as you think it is right that second.  It reminds me to try to stay grounded and look deeper at things. Try being the operative word.

AH: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry? 

KD: Lead with your heart and know that choosing to work in the health and wellness industry is a noble choice. Of all the things you can use your creative and persuasive skills for, using them to make the world better in small and big ways is significant.

AH: Thanks!