H4B Chelsea’s Christian Bauman on the past and future of healthcare advertising
Christian Bauman is President and Creative Director of H4B Chelsea, the flagship creative agency of Havas’ healthcare division. He is the only person we know whose work is represented in both the Smithsonian Institution and the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.
As a creative director, Christian has always worked in healthcare and never wanted to work anywhere else, guiding major campaigns for clients such as Pfizer, Sanofi, Novartis, Alcon and many more. Outside of work, he’s the author of three novels and a former regular commentator for NPR’s All Things Considered. His work has been featured on Fresh air with Terry Gross, The New York Times and CNN, among others. Christian served in the US Army from 1991 to 1995, including tours in the war zones of Somalia and Haiti.
We spoke with Christian for our Checkup series, where we talk to leaders in the field of healthcare marketing.
Christian, tell us…
Where you grew up and where you live now.
I grew up in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and lived for 20 years in the village of New Hope, Pennsylvania, a small arts mecca about 40 minutes north of Philadelphia. It’s a long drive to New York.
How did you get into healthcare marketing and what attracted you.
I’m a novelist, which is artistically rewarding but not healthy. So I took a job as a proofreader at an advertising agency. One thing leading to another after that.
Something people may not know about the healthcare industry.
You may not know that medical and health advertising is actually the foundation of all modern advertising, including things like the first consistent use of logos and branding as well as concept campaigns. Additionally, some of the greatest New York-based visual artists of the 1940s and 1950s worked in pharmaceutical advertising and helped build the industry, a dynamic that still exists today, with many artists, musicians, and writers like me who have found their place in this field.
A recent project you are proud of.
H4B Chelsea always tries to give back through creative and strategic pro bono work, and this year we supported HealthBodyan amazing organization founded by Dr. Oz that tackles health inequities among adolescents in at-risk communities.
Someone else’s healthcare project that recently impressed you.
Anyone in New York these days knows that homelessness has gotten worse with Covid. I like the pro bono commitment Arnold and his CCO Rich Russo have long had to the Coalition for the Homeless.
A major challenge facing healthcare advertisers today.
A good problem to have: our industry is growing faster than we can recruit it. I encourage anyone who produces creations that sell sugary cereal to give me a call and make the healthy change today!
There’s one thing about the evolution of health care that excites you.
Our customers are largely very conservative and slower adopters, but for very good reason: lives are at stake, so the risk of miscommunication must be zero. That said, we’re doing a better job these days of showing them how to join the social and digital worlds in exciting and useful ways that stay accountable.
How healthcare can attract more creative talent.
I think we need to do a better job of talking to advertising schools about why our industry is a great industry to consider, but we also need to do an even better job of looking beyond advertising schools to people with non-traditional backgrounds (like me) and explaining how they can be useful here.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in healthcare marketing.
It’s easy for me because I already do it: write my novels. But I like the balance in my life between art and business, and I like my job. It’s not one or the other for me.