March 17, 2022

Intouch Insights From SXSW 2022, Part 2

SXSW 2022

In our first blog recapping SXSW 2022, we talked about the metaverse; about our purpose as pharma marketers to champion science and equity; about the importance of refueling to prevent burnout; and about connection and creativity in the face of isolation and loneliness.  

In the second half of our recap, let’s cover the other three big insights that we gleaned from SXSW this year:  

  • Why “re-perception” might need to be your word of the year 
  • Why duality is such an important concept right now 
  • Why our craft matters so much
Abstract image of a cow


Re-perception means asking questions. It means stepping away from assumptions. It means being willing to take the time and effort to understand something you don’t believe in. 

This was the keynote of Amy Webb’s annually standing-room-only tech trends presentation. Re-perception. To illustrate her point, she showed the image above and asked people to consider the feelings of not seeing it, recognizing what it was, and then not being able to “un-see” it again. (We won’t spoil the illusion, but look up Karl Dallenbach if you can’t figure it out.) Her point was that your perception can change entirely, if you’re open to it, even when the reality in front of you does not. She exhorted her audience to take on re-perception – to continually be looking at ways to see things differently. Are we willing to change what we think of as relevancy? Are we willing to stay open? Are we willing to change our predictions?  

As Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla put it: “The next decade will be a scientific Renaissance combining biology and biotechnology. Diseases that didn’t have solutions will find them in this decade. But we need to go about it differently to see that benefit.”  

What This Can Look Like in Our Work 

Many of us look back to the world of our childhood and recognize problems that weren’t then identified as such. How would the ‘you’ of 2042 look back at today? What do we accept as the current norms of the lives of our patients, or caregivers, or healthcare professionals – that our brands could be more active in helping to change?  

Memorable Relevant Quote 

“Be curious about what it is you want.” – @jvn 


Duality is a concept the human mind is naturally pretty bad at. This is unfortunate, because we need this concept more than ever.  

Humans are bad at acting in accordance with distant goals instead of immediate benefits. They are good at holding one opinion, but bad at acknowledging other opinions thoughtfully. They’re good at defining things, but bad – as we note above – at holding those definitions open for change.  

Duality is an important concept for all our relationships, and especially for us as colleagues, partners, and advocates. The world is complex, and to address the challenges we face, we must be better at partnership than ever before. Nobody wants to hear the words “pivot” or “new normal” or “unprecedented” again, but their overuse speaks to that need: we’re in somewhat uncharted waters, but have to map them. That duality is vital.  

Duality is an important concept for all our relationships, and especially for us as colleagues, partners, and advocates.

What This Can Look Like in Our Work

We can work both big and small: seek to make a wholesale difference with brands and treatments that change lives, but do it by working with advocates and organizations to gain incredible insights and understand the groups that we’re trying to serve.  

Memorable Relevant Quote

“Authenticity is not a destination; it’s an orientation.” – @alokvmenon 


Creating moving, compelling work is not just a joy: It’s a responsibility. We have a privilege to do work that we love, but it matters more than ever.  

In a post-truth age, it’s our responsibility to hone our craft to bring patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals, payers, legislators, the public – everyone – accurate scientific information. That means it’s fact-based, not politicized. That means it’s representative of the real world, not whitewashed. And, that means it’s beautiful, engaging, memorable.  

Creating moving, compelling work is not just a joy: It’s a responsibility. We have a privilege to do work that we love, but it matters more than ever.   

As Rohit Bhargava said, presenting non-obvious mega-trends, we too often forget the value of mastery in the age of instant knowledge. Our expertise matters because it is developed over time. Great pharma marketing needs more than a quick Google.  

Creative collaboration with others matters – talking things through, feeding on each other’s energy. Relationships matter, whether we’re in arm’s reach or on opposite screens. Understanding our audiences matters: As Nancy Isenberg put it, HCPs don’t adopt new treatments because “change is hard, and informative isn’t sufficient.” That’s where we come in.  

What This Can Look Like in Our Work

Panelists from audio media like SiriusXM, Pandora, and iHeartMedia presented compelling statistics on audio (we spend 31% of our time, 4 hours a day, consuming audio, but brands spend 9% of their budgets on it). This is a medium that we can’t shut our senses to; one that requires our imagination. Are we crafting powerful work that stands on audio?  

Similarly, are we crafting mobile-first assets for the 84% of social-media fans who want more health info from creators?  

Pharma marketers make powerful statements. They’re needed now more than ever.  

Memorable Relevant Quote

“Innovation with technology may initiate action, but is not enough to drive the engagement cycle.” – @amywebb, @fti 


Amy Webb said, “I’m not asking you to be ready for everything; I’m asking you to be ready for anything, especially if it challenges your deeply held beliefs.” Perhaps more than any other, that sentence sums up our insights from SXSW 2022 – and our insights for 2022 overall. It’s time to be ready for everything: to work together, in ways new and old, through channels new and old, to bring better medicine to all who need it.   

Authors: Marty Canniff, SVP, Executive Creative Director; John Kenny, SVP, Managing Director, Head of Strategy; Sarah Morgan, Writer & Consultant.