June Laffey is creative director of the McCann Healthcare group of companies in Australia, and Gary Pattison is the managing director.
In the year they have been working together McCann Healthcare has been recognised as the most awarded healthcare agency in Australia, and forms part of the most awarded healthcare network worldwide.
How did you get into the advertising industry?
June: After finishing my degree, I moved into a London squat and spent six months knocking on doors offering to work for free for any agency that would have me. It was time to leave the squat when the “tenants” burnt the staircase to keep warm and my dad turned up unexpectedly and was attacked by a fellow squatter – a Spanish speaking heroin dealing dwarf who thought dad was a policeman.
Australia seemed like a good next move, so three weeks later I got on a plane and I scored my first job at a small shop within days of landing in Brisbane.
Gary: After graduating, I landed a role in the account service department of McCann Erickson, Manchester, UK. After a year I needed to escape developing radio ads for supermarkets and double-glazing firms and so looked back into my high school days and remembered I was always a bit of a science geek. So with this in mind I stumbled into the world of healthcare communications in the mid 90’s.
Why did you want to work in healthcare advertising?
June: When you work in healthcare, you learn a lot about suffering and the human spirit. What we sell is hope – the ability to make a meaningful difference to lives.
Day-to-day work can be challenging, funny, intellectually challenging and frustrating. There are so many layers of approval, medical directors, industry codes, blahdeblahdeblah – good job I like a challenge!
Gary: I am a healthcare geek and the challenges in healthcare communications are so varied and diverse it makes every day a day you can find a new way to connect with your audience, through fresh and surprising creative, clever use of technology, knowledge and education initiatives – whether we are talking MRSA infection, osteoporosis or erectile dysfunction.
When/where did you first meet? How did you start working together?
June: I met Gary at a Sydney coffee shop after he sent me an email when I was in Brazil trying to work out what I wanted to do when I grew up.
Gary: I had crossed paths with June a few times as she was the founder of the now hugely successful BRAVO! Australia healthcare awards show. I needed a CD to tear up the rule-book and lift the creative bar.
June is a unique hybrid having held senior creative roles in mainstream and healthcare agencies, and being the most passionate creative I have ever met I knew she had to join us.
What were your first impressions of each other?
June: Gary looked to me like an English rugby-playing schoolboy in a suit. He struck me as a straight-shooter, brimming with integrity, and a bloody good bloke. (He is.) He obviously also “got” good creative – and wanted to push it.
Gary: So I knew she was an amazing creative who lives for brilliant ideas, but once as we began to work together closely I also discovered she is brimming with integrity, honesty, humour and class – we need more of this in advertising.
What are your strengths/Weaknesses
June: Gary’s great strength is my weakness. He’s got a brain the size of a large bucket, and it’s filled with all sorts of heavy-duty medical guff I wouldn’t understand in a gazillion years.
Together we’ve got a combination of business and creativity, a mutual respect of each other and an understanding of what the other has to do. I like to network. Gary likes to work. He’s a brilliant bloke – and I feel blessed to work with him.
Gary: June has a creative brain that never shuts down. The more difficult the challenge, the more restricted the brief – the more determined June is to create something that knocks you around, stops you in your tracks and makes you think.
She has a huge passion for all things health – whether that be medicine, diet & fitness or mental wellbeing. She also understands that the health of a creative business like ours relies upon the creative department constantly pushing everyone outside of their comfort zone (clients, suits and planners), looking for something fresh, unexpected and surprising.
We have a great understanding and partnership – I think a CD and MD have to work together perfectly … sort of like Batman and Robin, or maybe it’s more Morecombe and Wise.
June: Phil Brown – the Brown in Curtis Jones Brown – a legend.
Gary: Mark Worman – the guy who dragged me kicking and screaming from the UK to Australia. He’s just about the cleverest guy in healthcare.