Note: The I AM GPH podcast is produced by NYU GPH’s Office of Communications and Promotion. It is designed to be heard. If you are able, we encourage you to listen to the audio, which includes emphasis that may not be captured in text on the page. Transcripts are generated using a combination of software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print. Subscribe now on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play or Stitcher Radio.
EP51 Omnicom Health Group with Mary Pace
Vaibhav Srinivasan: My name is Vaibhav Srinivasan and a part of the "I AM GPH" podcast series. I will be talking about the different career options in public health, specifically in healthcare communications. Our first guest will be Mary Pace, the Senior Talent Acquisition Partner at Omnicom Health Group. In our episode we talk about what Omnicom is, how to merge your creative side with healthcare, their work in the healthcare industry. Their ad at the Superbowl and current openings at Omnicom for the summer. Now let's listen to our conversation with Mary. All right, so, well thank you for joining us today the Mary. Well, why don't you tell us about your role in what you do at Omnicom Health Group.
Mary Pace: Yeah, of course. Thank you so much for having me here today. Just to start out, a little bit more background OHG, simply we are the largest global agency network. We've about 19 different companies under our umbrella, all of which focus on pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing. We have those bigger blockbuster names like I'm sure you've heard of Pfizer, Viagra, I'm sure everyone's heard of that. So we do all of their marketing materials on both. We're also at the other end of the spectrum where we handle a lot of possibly rare disease that may only hit about 10 to 15,000 people per year. So we really tried to do any type of marketing materials towards doctors, nurses, physicians, patients, and my role as a Senior Talent Acquisition Partner, I handle all the recruitment across those 19 different agencies. So whenever we have an open position, whether it be entry level, mid level, STP and above, that's what my team handles.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. Wow. It seems like Omnicom does a lot. 19 groups. That's pretty crazy.
Mary Pace: Yes!
Vaibhav Srinivasan: How many countries?
Mary Pace: So we are actually globally right now we have about 55 different offices worldwide. About 155 clients. We are in Europe, we are in Spain and Montreal. We just opened a new office in India.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Oh, Nice!
Mary Pace: Costa Rica, and then most importantly, which I think is, we just opened one in Tokyo.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay, Wow.
Mary Pace: So I'm definitely dying to go actually see our HRO is there right now. So Tokyo is our newest office.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That's amazing. That's it seems like you guys are growing and expanding to every country there is.
Mary Pace: Yeah, truly. I mean I've started with Omnicom about four years ago, back in 2015 and we had eight agencies under the umbrella. So as you can imagine just in four quick years we've kind of been monopolizing the space. But you know, all with great, amazing new agencies and partners to get the best healthcare advertising out there we can.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Right. Wow, that's amazing. So here we like to talk about the intellectual trajectory and what experiences brought you here from one area to the next. Do you mind telling us how you got into the healthcare field, specifically how you got into...what drew you towards Omnicom?
Mary Pace: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I went to college for Sociology and Communications. So if you asked me about five years ago, if I'd be a pharmaceutical rep or a recruiter, I'd probably say, "I have no idea what you’re talking about," but much like anybody else, I just need to get my foot in the door. I had some great internships, you know, I came from a great school, but it's all about experience. So I actually ended up taking a more of an admin role at Omnicom Health Group. So I was an Admin Coordinator and in that role I was able to support multiple different disciplines. So I helped with HR, I helped with account services, the medical team, and just kind of found my niche in HR. I just felt like that was, you know, what brought up my personality where I worked best. And luckily, you know, after about six months of doing some rotations and exploring, an HR Coordinator role opened up. I applied, you know, internally got the job and here I am today, four years later, definitely I, you know, climbed the ladder. So I would just say if anything it's, it's just to get your foot in the door. I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to kind of start as an admin cause then I got to choose really where I felt I belong. So yeah, it was just kind of one of those luck of the draws. But just putting myself out there and being able to show the company what I was able to do.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Wow, that's amazing that you, I think it also sends a good message and for people to try out different things and shouldn't hesitate to try different things. Especially going from admin to coordinator to like HR and actually finding out that's what you like.
Mary Pace: Yeah. I think in school, I mean you're drilled into having kind of this one pipeline. This is one path and I think that's great for some people. Of course, if you want to be a doctor or you know, whatever it may be. But I do think it's definitely a good idea to explore other opportunities because there's so many transferable skill sets out there. And again, like HR, I probably wasn't fit the mold back in college but right here I am today. So definitely pushed people to explore as much as they can, especially in this time after graduation. Being younger in your 20s you have the energy to do it. And I have friends that are nearing their thirties and they're making career changes at the moment. So it's never too late to do that.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That's really cool. So being part of Omnicom and healthcare marketing, communications is a huge part of this organization. So, having 19 groups working in 55 countries, how does Omnicom do it? How were they able to achieve it? What are the various modalities they're able to put out the best material?
Mary Pace: Yeah, that's a great question. Honestly it comes down to technology, technology, technology. Given that we are not only in healthcare but we are extremely creative agencies. So it's very important for us to be very collaborative. And what I mean by that is, you know, account services who is constantly talking to our client. They can't run without project management, who are handling the timelines. And then we can't work without the timelines to work with creative. So every single person has a seat at the table, which I think is what I really admire about the company, no level is too big or too small or doesn't have enough work to do or can be tapped on the shoulder. So I think with technology and given that now we're, we're going into such a remote world, technology's got to be it. We tap into everything from Zoom to Webex's. You know, we're starting, you know, company iPads, you know, all having your own teleconference line. We just introduced Slack about a year ago, which has been amazing. Kind of like a mini AIM for workers. And they also have video call on that. So I would say it's just staying in touch constantly. But technology is probably, you know, what's really gotten us to where we need to be, especially with our West coast clients, our Pacific-Asia clients, our London clients. So constantly being able to stay in touch.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. So you said everyone has a seat at the table. Could you tell us who exactly are at the seat at the table?
Mary Pace: Yeah, of course. So what I mean by that is I just think that every discipline and level is extremely important. I mean, when I was a coordinator, I was constantly told you are the glue that holds this team together. So even coming in with six months to a year of experience, you have just as much ability as well as I mentioned a seat at the table as an SVP, your work is just as important and that's something that OHG really stresses. So I would say that, you know, and again, we have editorial, which at some companies may fall back in the wayside or they're sitting there doing InCopy and Adobe and marking up certain pieces and they're kind of in the back end. But without them we wouldn't be able to reduce that to our client. So what I mean by everyone has a seat at the table is everyone's collective efforts make everything possible in order to give our clients what we need.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay, that's amazing. So what are your projects usually like? Do you, being a big agency, you must be working on multiple projects at the same time. And especially working with people in the Pacific Northwest and just like communicating through WebEx and Zoom. So how do you go about planning that you primarily focus on international projects and projects here within the U.S. or are there separate teams? How does that work?
Mary Pace: Yeah, so you know, it really will vary like for instance say for Pfizer say we have a few different indications. One, you know, one brand might actually have their U.S. and global business and one brand might just have U.S. business. So it definitely will determine, you know, what team you're on. But as far as more of those projects, it's all you know, baseline. What I mean by that is, you know, say for instance we have had a drug for the past four years. Majority of that, you know, those handlings will be done. It'd be launched, it'd be, you know, on the market and we're just kind of handling, it might be a banner ad or email. We've also drugs that have never been brought to market before. So they are, we're launching these drugs, you know, we're bringing them to market, we're telling healthcare professionals, "Listen, you need to get this drug in the hands of those who need it." You know, we are bringing it to conventions, we're bringing it to other clients. So I would say it's every project and client's going to have their own timeline. So it will differ. But as far as more of the global and U.S., it's just going to be dependent on that.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. So is it, you don't necessarily work with the drug companies like Pfizer? Do you like you work with, I know consumers and various agencies, right?
Mary Pace: Yeah. So we, so we do work directly with the client. So that would say, so an account executive or account services, they're really the main liaison between the client and the agency. But what we'll do is each brand, so since it's a Viagra might be one brand, like Humira can be the other Ninlaro can be a third. So each brand is going to have their own sets of clients and their own needs. And so once we, say for instance we're working with Viagra, so we've got it to market, it's all over all the commercials, now we're reaching out to healthcare professionals saying, "Hey, you need to use this drug." And then we're equipping them with the knowledge they need to know. Then enabled them to go to the patient and say, “Hey, you should really be using this.” So we're kind of that liaison between Pfizer and the doctor and then the patient. Yeah, so
Vaibhav Srinivasan: So not just a direct communication between Pfizer and the patient. So you guys have the intermediate.
Mary Pace: Yeah exactly. Yep. And then of course just handling all the marketing materials that we can get our hands on.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Right.
Mary Pace: Yeah.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That's amazing. Sounds like a lot of work.
Mary Pace: Yeah, It's we're multi-channel like can be print, digital
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Right.
Mary Pace: A newsletter, a brochure, a doctor's office. It could be a commercial. We actually had, which is one of my favorite things since we've been there, is about three years ago Xifaxan we were the first ever pharma company to have a commercial in the Superbowl.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay! Wow, That is amazing!
Mary Pace: Which is really cool. Yeah. So if anyone out there has ever seen, it's called Xifaxan and it's a gut guy. It's kind of like a pink larger guy, looks like intestine. So that was a really big one for us.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Yeah. What's the name again for our listeners to?
Mary Pace: Xifaxan.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Xifaxan.
Mary Pace: Don't ask me to spell it.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: I'm pretty sure if they just type up "faxan Superbowl"
Mary Pace: Yeah.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: It should pop up. Oh, that's really interesting. So Omnicom helped with that?
Mary Pace: Yeah. Oh yeah. We did everything from start to finish.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That's amazing.
Mary Pace: We won that business we brought it to, it went from you know, a RX 500 to market and then went to yeah the Superbowl ad. So I think that was one of our biggest wins as far as a creative move.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Well yeah, that's amazing. Are you looking at having more Superbowl ads in the future?
Mary Pace: You know, I think we hope every client's gonna be different. You know, we work so heavily with the FDA, we have certain restrictions, but I think that was just like I said, a little bit more of that nontraditional that we've done. But it was very well received. I mean, we were trending on Twitter, so I think that was one of our big, you know, big breaks if you will over the past few years. But it was, yeah, it definitely a big win for the team.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Well it sounds really great that you're doing nontraditional ways of marketing, especially in healthcare because it's very difficult to talk about these kinds of things that make people understand. So, yeah.
Mary Pace: 100% yeah. And I think with healthcare, I mean, there's a ton of passion that goes behind healthcare, which I think is why we succeed so much. And I just, you know, again, you always have to think of ways to kind of do that nontraditional thinking. I wouldn't say it's as far as guerrilla advertising, but just always pushing the creative envelope and that's why we focus a lot of our time and efforts on the creative side just because that will kind of take us to that next level.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That's amazing. So now when you get into work, can you just tell us like any ritual you have or something you like to do the moment you go to work or you sit at your table?
Mary Pace: Yeah, it's so funny. So I honestly, the Omnicom Health Group is my family at this point. I mean it's been four years. It might not sound like a lot of time but I think you know, it's half of my twenties and so it's just the people that completely and utterly make this job for me. I mean we are with these people 40 plus hours a week. So if any advice to anyone: find a real home. You don't want to be miserable, you want to be working with people you like. But for me every time they come in the morning everyone's like, "Mary! Mary Pace! How was your night? How was your weekend?" So we're just really supportive in that sense. I actually came back from a trip from Europe and I had notes all over my screen being like "I miss you, welcome back." So I, what I really try to do too is cause I think, you know, we're all human. We're all going to have certain things that are happening in our lives, but I've made it kind of a ritual for myself to kind of leave that baggage at the door. And the minute that I walk into the office, I'm only going to bring positivity. What's going to help my direct reports and help me enable my boss to see what I'm able to do. So if anything, just kind of being happy as I can be. Of course there's going to be times where we're all going to want to kind of freak out for a minute, but it just always being positive and being really open with my team. You know, we really believe in real time feedback, so there's nothing that's hidden under the rug. You're not finding four months later in, you know, in a meeting that something happened. So I think it's just openness and personality and just kind of, you know, the people that really kind of bring everything together for me at least.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: That sounds really nice. It sounds like the culture at Omnicom is also very close-knit and you guys strive to work with each other and...
Mary Pace: Absolutely.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Put it out in the open. No inhibitions. Just be upfront with each other. So that's really nice. I think today, especially culture is a big part of every organization.
Mary Pace: Oh my God, 100%. I mean I even I talk to candidates all day long and that's my job. And my favorite part of selling a certain position or Omnicom is the culture itself. Like I mentioned, it's the people. It's the versatility. It's the options that you have. You could touch, you know, I talk to our fellows all the time about this. You can touch one minute, you're touching a rare disease the next your touching oncology. The next is a therapeutic area. You're always constantly learning and kind of, you know, taking that next step. So it's truly an amazing place to be. Always levering up, always have that next opportunity. And I feel as far as you know, even senior leadership, I've never felt so supported in a role I mean I've had other jobs before Omnicom Health Group, but that's one thing that our leaders do a phenomenal job. They're super involved in the day to day. We're in an open floor plan, so they're not stuck away in offices. They're right up front. They've open office hours, some of our president's will send weekly updates, what's going on at the agency. So a lot of transparency, which I think helps alleviate kind of that certain things you can run to at a company, whether it be cattiness or not great communication. So I think that's one thing Omnicom does a fantastic job at.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Right and you mentioned fellows, this is part of the Omnicom Healthcare Group fellowship? Okay.
Mary Pace: Yeah. So the fellowship program, I mean we've had it around for about three years now and which is, it's a great program. It's definitely evolved just a bit. What we did the past three years is we had folks advanced degrees. So MPH's woot woot. We also added some pharm D's, PhD's and they had an opportunity to join an agency. We understand that you don't know the advertising side of the communication side, which is totally fine. That's why we're able to teach you that. I can't really teach someone an MPH to get a degree, but what we do is have them come in and they'd actually rotate through three different disciplines and they'd have the opportunity to go through account services, which I mentioned. That's really the liaison between the client and the agency. They'd go through creative. We always need creative. So if they wanted to be like medical writers or copywriters. And then lastly go through MSA, which is Medical Scientific Affairs. And then after that first year concludes, they then choose what discipline they felt was best aligned with their background and their interest. And in the second year they'd go in and become like a subject matter expert in that discipline. So kind of again, just a way to get your foot in the door, get experienced on your resume and really see what healthcare advertising is all about. Like I mentioned, things do turn to change quite quickly in the advertising world. So right now we've kind of tweaked our program where we're really focused on more of that creative and medical writers. We know, I mean, I talked to MP just quite a bit and they're phenomenal, but they do have this creative side that tends to be a little bit stifled in their classes or internships, rotations, whatever it may be. So we're kind of hoping to tap into that more creative side just a bit and bring on a few more copywriters into the network.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Wow. So not just for the people with a straight MPH, but those all to have a creative side can be able to express themselves through this.
Mary Pace: Yeah, exactly. I think it's a great opportunity for anyone out there.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Right.
Mary Pace: If you have a blog, if you've done any type of like poetry or you might have a journalism background, I mean this is a great opportunity for you and also to any other MPH's, do you kind of want to stay to more the say the account side or more of that strategic medical side? There's always opportunities, it just wouldn't be more like a fellowship program per se. It'd be more of like a full time opportunity.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: So this fellowship also allows you to discover what you're interested in, like yourself, like how you went through different like through the admin and then to HR, just trying out everything, just a bit, trying to find your fit. And then in the second year you can just go full throttle into that.
Mary Pace: Exactly. Yeah. And like I said, I feel like I'm a pretty good example of what can become of that. So I'm an extreme firm believer that this is really a great path to to go into. And I think, you know, advertising's new and it's probably something that a lot of MPH's probably didn't even think they can have a career in. So I think it's just definitely, I mean, as much as I try to do just get the word out there, we're always inviting folks that they want to come to the office, meet a few, speak to a few copywriters themselves or strategy folks, see the environment, see the culture. See if they can picture themselves there. So yeah, it's definitely a great opportunity. We're really excited to have it and even more excited to kind of roll out this new copy fellowship.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Oh, a new copy, is it?
Mary Pace: Yes.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Apart from the existing fellowship?
Mary Pace: So yeah
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay.
Mary Pace: It's kind of evolved into more of this copy fellowship.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay, nice.
Mary Pace: Yeah. So our hope is, like I said, get those creative folks in there. If you have any creative bones in your body definitely reach out.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: And does entail medical writing apart from copywrite or is it just strictly?
Mary Pace: Yeah, so I would say it's more, every agency is a bit different. Some might be med ed, some might be a little bit more HCP focus, which is Healthcare Professionals. Some might be patient. So I always say, technically we are pharma so there's going to be a lot of medical in there, but some folks look at their titles as just editors. Some look at copywriter, some look at like medical writer. So I would say, but it would be a good mix of copy and medical writing.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. Well that sounds really interesting. I don't, I haven't heard of anyone who actually does that. Like focusing completely on copywrite, especially in a fellowship.
Mary Pace: Yeah, I mean it's definitely something, completely honest we've had a talent shortage. There's copywriters are so hot right now. I mean they are crazy on the market and if you really say there's 150 copywriters out there, but maybe only about 50% do pharma. So this is a way for us to really homegrown talent give you the tools that you need, set you up for success and then put you on that path and obviously hope to retain you. So yeah, we're kind of looking at as a different, I would say it's more of a long term play than it would be a short term play.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. Well that's good to know. People who have a creative side also have positions available in the medical field as well.
Mary Pace: Yes, 100%. Oh my gosh. Anyone out there wants to be a writer, you come knocking on my door.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Well that sounds amazing. What advice would you give MPH students who are about to graduate? How can they set themselves up for success in this line of work?
Mary Pace: Yeah, absolutely. I mean I think there's some really easy things to do. I get this question quite a bit, but I think it's actually quite easy for someone to differentiate themselves from somebody else and it's simply always start, do your homework, you know? I mean I have a lot of students that are interested in I think excited with the opportunity, but when I start to ask them questions like, "So, have you gone on our website? Do you know what Omnicom Health Group does?" Even bring up like mentioning an agency in our conversation or maybe you saw a creative reel on one of our websites, really digging in and doing your homework so you can make yourself more sellable. Like I said, it's going to be tricky because we don't expect you to have the advertising internships or the communications majors or minors. But I think if you throw yourself into a little bit more data and you can kind of show that to the hiring teams or to a recruiter that's really going to set you apart. 'Cause I think a lot of people have those generic cover letters or just kind of plugging playing company names and then maybe like the position. And I think what we do all day is stare those resumes and those cover letters. So it's very quick to see who's actually has an invested interest. So I think one word of advice is just truly do your homework. I mean at this point you're already doing it. You're in, you're at one of the greatest schools in the country, you're in an amazing grad program. So that aside, I don't think you can do much more, but it's really just kind of honing in on, one, where do you want to be and how badly do you want that? And then two, take any of those transferable skills. Kind of like I talked about, like if you have a blog or you have a journalism or your in a journalism club or whatever it may be, and being able to express that to be able to sell yourself. Because like I said, we're always looking for unique ways to find talent.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Oh well I think that's very important, especially when it comes to the cover letter and resume. Cause otherwise it becomes very generic. And like you said, it's so easy to spot it. Like, having a template,
Mary Pace: You could have like a 3.9 and be phenomenal on paper. But if I read your cover letter and it's all like, "I'm so excited for the position of blank" and then half the time they write like Omnicom Group, Omnicom Health, They don't even have the right name. So it's just those little details that can really set you apart.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. Well is there anything I didn't ask you that I was, you were hoping I would ask about?
Mary Pace: No, you know, I just think that and I think this is such a phenomenal way. I'm so excited that you guys asked me to come over. I think this opportunity, again, probably, people don't know that it exists, but we're here, we're in your backyard. We have offices in Midtown, we have offices in Soho, New Jersey, of course around the world, other cities. So if you have any inkling or what is this industry side, what is pharma, what is advertising? Definitely, definitely explore it because I took a chance on myself. I don't, I didn't think I'd ever be in pharmaceutical advertising and I will never truly look back. It's been an amazing four years. I'm so excited for what the future holds and I love to give someone else the opportunity to kind of take that same kind of steps and flourish. And then I'm telling you we've hired six MPH's over the past two years and they are killer. I mean the feedback I received from EVPs, presidents, I mean it's phenomenal work. And just to show that's six success stories and we'd love to have some more.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Well thank you so much for coming in and talking to us about Omnicom Health Group, about the 19 agencies and just going out and exploring, especially through the fellowships that you mentioned. I think is it still open right now?
Mary Pace: Yeah, of course. The private fellowship is definitely still open for those that might not be graduating this year. We have internship opportunities as well. Yep, We hire close to about 50 to 70 interns per summer.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Wow. That's a lot.
Mary Pace: So yeah, so a lot of opportunity there. And then of course, you know, if you're looking just for more of that straight shot, full time position we have a number of those as well. And this is a great time. Anywhere between mid March to mid April to start applying for those jobs to start end of May, early June.
Vaibhav Srinivasan: Okay. Well this is amazing. So to all those who have a creative side and who are thinking about going into healthcare communications, definitely do check out Omnicom Health Group. Seems like they have fantastic internships and fellowship positions available. So thank you so much for coming in.
Mary Pace: Thank you guys.