Three Independent Agencies Prove Collaboration is Possible at SXSW 2016

As the leaders of three prominent independent healthcare agencies, we have tired over the years of hearing how networks collaborate together for their clients, implying that an independent can’t do it. Earlier this month, we launched a major initiative at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSW) in Austin that disproved that notion. Privately, we never thought it was true.

In mid-December, the three of us had a notion of doing SXSW differently. In a fit of creativity (perhaps, but not admittedly, fueled by alcohol) we agreed that collaborating on an activity at SXSW might be the best way to make waves.

What ensued was a series of discussions designed to find that perfect way to create some headroom in the raucously competitive environment of SXSW. Finally, sometime in January, we found it! Each of our agencies has clients that deal everyday with managing a variety of different chronic illnesses. There are definitely similarities in the problems and concerns those chronic illness patients encounter. Why not try to find some solutions?

We partnered with an organization that loves the idea of making healthcare better, MIT Hacking Medicine. With a philosophy that one should “Break it down, Build it up, and Make it better,” we felt like we would have a process that could drive interest and real change at SXSW.

The idea quickly gained traction within our industry. We attracted some high-quality panelists from healthcare, and a pharmaceutical company was so impressed with what we were planning that they agreed to support our efforts financially. Not bad, huh?

The three-day event began by introducing the problem. Each of our agencies has been doing our due diligence to address the problems associated with chronic illness. On day one, we exposed panelists to these thoughts, broke them down using MIT Hacking Medicine’s approach, and then identified core problems that can be worked on. On day two, we hacked these core problems with proposed solutions. And on day three, we discovered what stood out in a “Barracuda Bowl” where important decision-makers from pharma and venture capital evaluated the thinking of our participants.

“Team Health Bracelet” won both the “Best Mental Health Hack” category and the “Best Digital Health Integration Hack” category; “Team Virtual Nurse” also won in two categories: the “Best Patient Lifestyle Hack” category and the “Best Patient Portal Integration” category.

We discovered that not only can independent agencies collaborate—we can experiment with new ideas, push boundaries and attract thought leaders who want to change the status quo. The 2016 MIT HackMed Health House at SXSW is proof of what we can do together.

  • Jay Carter

    Jay Carter is Senior VP and Director of Strategy Services for AbelsonTaylor. Jay has worked for 31 years in the medical advertising industry, the last 28 at AbelsonTaylor. He’s had the pleasure of working with some of the finest minds (and hearts) in pharma. Along the way, he’s developed a passion for championing health brands to clinicians and consumers, and championing the medical advertising industry as a worthwhile career.

    • Kerry Hilton

      Kerry Hilton is Partner and CEO of HCB Health. Kerry started HCB Health in 2001 after creative leadership roles in several interpublic agencies. Kerry’s creative philosophy is arrestingly simple—images speak volumes, and helping people is the emotional connection that drives our healthcare clients’ most vital brands.

      • Robert Palmer

        Robert Palmer is EVP, Managing Director at JUICE Pharma Worldwide. His extensive DTC and HCP pharmaceutical experience is supplemented by his years in the CPG and financial services categories. He specializes in digital and video strategy as well as segmentation and database marketing strategies and tactics.