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Advertising Health | Healthcare Advertising agency news and gossip

Elizabeth Elfenbein, The Cement Bloc tells us to never get comfortable. Stay restless.


Elizabeth Elfenbein is a creative partner at The Cement Bloc, since joining in 2007, she has been instrumental in building the consumer, multichannel, and relationship marketing teams, and has overseen the launch of integrated campaigns that mine the latest social media and digital platforms. Elizabeth led the launch of the first social media platform for women with metastatic breast cancer.

Prior to joining The Bloc, Elizabeth worked across multiple sectors with clients as diverse as Citibank, MetLife, and The Wall Street Journal. Most recently, she was Creative Director for the Consumer Healthcare Practice at Wunderman, responsible for the AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Novartis, Shire, and Weight Watchers business. Several initiatives she led were recognized by the industry as best in class.

Inventing and experimentation is at Elizabeth’s core. She recently founded the company Happy Fuel LLC. Happy Fuel is a microblogging social network that helps people live in the happy by giving them a fun, simple way to store, gauge, and fuel their happiness forward.

Elizabeth has also been named to the Health & Wellness jury of the 2014 Lions Health awards, part of the prestigious Cannes Lions awards.

We spoke with her recently.

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

EE: My love of beautiful design in every aspect of my life began at a very young age. I originally went to the Pratt Institute to become an interior designer. I learned not long after graduating that whether I was communicating on behalf of a bank, airline, news channel, or medication, everyone is a consumer. They simply consume information differently.

I’ve spent my entire career working across multiple sectors, multiple customers, and multiple channels; however, my current focus is in the health and wellness sector. I feel very lucky to be in a business that I love and could pursue as a long-term career.

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

EE: We’re proud to say that The CementBloc is the most awarded healthwellness communications company in the United States. I believe that “The good create. The great innovate.” At The Bloc, we focus on brilliant ideas and on finding white space to be innovative. We are not afraid to be and to do differently.

A few years ago, we launched, a thought leadership publication that focuses on insights, strategies, and intelligence in the healthwellness space, and the first publication of its kind in our industry. We will be rebranding our platform, which will launch in April, to address the future of our industry. For the past 4 years, we’ve hosted a major event during Internet Week New York to help bring health and wellness into the digital age and to showcase our innovation at The Bloc. Every year’s event has built upon our learnings from the previous year, from “Driving Influence in the Health and Wellness Space,” to a live real-time, “Social Experiment,” to last year’s “Launch of a Happiness Experience.”

This past year, however, it was time to take our innovation to the next level—to create “products” as opposed to ideas or campaigns. Toward that end, we discussed how could we “hack” life? In other words, how could we bring the authenticity and lessons of everyday life into the products we create?

It began with a general understanding that we could actually help make the world a happier place, which, in turn, would make it a healthier place. With that premise as our guide, we launched Happy Fuel, a microblogging social network that helps you “live in the happy.” The invention of Happy Fuel has been very important because it showcases our eagerness and ability to innovate as an organization. We looked from the outside in, recognizing that happiness has a direct correlation to health and vice versa. And Happy Fuel has the ability to become a driver for the wellness side of our business. 

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

EE: Happy Fuel.

The Gross National Happiness Quotient is at an all-time low and here was an opportunity to make people more aware of their own happiness—and happiness in general—as well as to do something about it. After researching the subject we recognized an unmet need that we could fill—the need to change “living in the moment” to “living in the happy.” A slight pivot of self-awareness could be life altering. At the same time, research suggests that there’s a direct correlation between happiness and healthiness. We looked at the world we live in today, which seems to be dominated by social media. Yet social media at its core is very functional because it’s all about sharing. What seemed to be missing was the happy, aspirational side of things. So we saw an opportunity to think differently about social media, and to create a new kind of media. Consequently, “happy media” became a reality, where you would take the conventions of social media and filter them through a prism of happiness.

And that’s how Happy Fuel was born. Happy Fuel gives you a fun and simple way to store, share, gauge, and your fuel happiness forward. There’s both an iPhone app and web app with a happy wall and dashboard. By focusing on happiness and how it relates to social media, we have seized the opportunity to make the world a better place while driving overall healthwellness.

AH: Should healthcare advertising still be regarded as separate from the wider advertising community?

EE:  No. It’s advertising. It’s communicating with a consumer. This consumer may be a doctor, a nurse, or someone whom is taking care of a patient. But at the end of the day, they’re all consumers whom are consuming information differently. And even though we have different regulations, it’s still our job to create big, powerful ideas that grab our customer’s attention and drive a particular behavior.

AH: Do you consider yourself as someone who works more in advertising or more in pharmaceuticals?

EE:  Advertising. I hate labels.

AH: Do you think we sometimes use regulations as an excuse to create work that doesn’t live up to standard consumer advertising?

EE:  I don’t. But others do. (I worked on the Citibank brand for 4 years where I had to create mini ads on buckslips and statement inserts with loads of regulatory copy on them.)

AH: What is the single change you’d like to see in the advertising industry this year?

EE: Adopt social media for real. A Facebook page is not social media. Social media is not going anywhere, so why not leverage it to our benefit by creating and igniting niche communities.

Down the road: Connect wearable technology to emergency medical records. Although wearable technology is in its nascent stages, imagine if we could take this activity-based technology to truly create meaningful behavioral change. It would have the ability to effect health on a national and global scale.

AH: Where do you look for inspiration?

EE: Everywhere.

AH: What one thing would you want to say to someone new to the industry? Something that you wish someone had said to you when you first started?

EE: Never get comfortable. Stay restless. And always think big and execute even bigger.