Nov 17, 2015

The culture of a winning advertising agency

Culture is one of those words often discussed but rarely understood. I spend a lot of time with prospective employees looking to grow in their careers, and one of the most commonly asked questions is, “What’s the culture like?” Oftentimes, what they’re really asking is, “How fun is your company?” I delay answering that question until later in the interview, not because I want to avoid answering the question, but because as the interview continues, my hope is that interviewees will be able to answer the question for themselves. After all, culture in its purest form is a manifestation of intellectual achievement regarded collectively, not how many happy hours we have a month.

It’s true that every company does, in fact, have a unique culture. And not every culture is right for every person. At Navicor, our culture is built around one premise: We are the best at marketing and communicating the benefits of oncology companies’ products and services. We are an eclectic community of talent ranging from scientists to artists and just about every varietal in between. But what ties us all together is a common passion for transforming patients with cancer into survivors. This sentiment may seem a bit ambitious; you may be thinking, How could a healthcare-advertising agency possibly help with patient survival? And that’s where it comes back to culture. Our founder, Garnett Dezember, once said to me during my interview when we were first building this company, “I never had the intellectual rigor to be a scientist, or the skills to be medical oncologist, but I realized my talents were in marketing, so I made it my life’s mission to leverage my skills to help patients with cancer.”

At that moment, our culture was born.

10 years later, each of us in management have similar quotes. When speaking in larger forums, I’m asked, “Why only oncology?” I simply respond, “Because not everyone who works within pharmaceutical marketing can or should work on oncology-product promotion.” Look at it this way, if a clever television commercial for toenail fungus cream persuades you to ask for the product by name and it fails, no big deal—you’ll go back to your doctor and ask for a different prescription. Decisions like this in oncology are a matter of life and death. It’s important that we tell the truth yet still break through all the clutter so that an oncologist will remember the benefits of the therapies we promote.

Oncology is a collection of over 200 diseases, and there are over 400 new products in development. And, despite all these breakthroughs, we are still a ways off from cures. The patient populations are growing, and the number of oncologists are shrinking—they are overworked, overwhelmed with new information, but doing everything in their power to promise their patients the best possible solutions. We make it our mission to ensure they are aware of their options, aiding in an informed selection.

Steve Jobs said it best: “We don’t get a chance to do that many things, and everyone should be really excellent. Because this is our life. Life is brief, and then you die, you know? And we’ve all chosen to do this with our lives. So it better be damn good. It better be worth it.”

Everything we create at Navicor is a manifestation of intellectual achievement. And every employee is a creator of brilliance; therefore, our culture will always be fulfilling. And regarding the interviewees’ question—“How fun is Navicor?”—well let me say this: If you love what you’re doing, it will never feel like work.

Now, let’s go to happy hour!