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Press Release
15 January

AbelsonTaylor Launches ICONS.HEALTH™, a Content Channel Exploring Innovation at the Intersection of Healthcare and Technology

Innovators and Entrepreneurs from Health-Tech Startups to Global Corporations Provide Insights in Casual Conversations about Serious Topics


CHICAGO, Jan. 11, 2019 — What do Microsoft, Aetna, Twitter, IBM, Ogilvy Consulting, Biogen and dozens of healthcare startups have in common?  All appear in discussions about issues at the nexus of healthcare and technology in™, a new video series produced by AbelsonTaylor, the world’s largest independent healthcare advertising agency.

Developed to capture compelling ideas that often arise during casual conversations at conferences, Icons.Health features unstructured discussions among entrepreneurs and innovators from divergent organizations about new and exciting trends in technology and their application to healthcare.

Unlike other content channels, Icons.Health is nonscripted, nonpartisan and nonpromotional. The conversations are extemporaneous, without a moderator and with no preconceived points to make.

“We like to capture conversations among people from different company sizes and industries,” said Mitch Apley, vice president and director of broadcast/print production at AbelsonTaylor. “We’ll have at least one senior exec from a scrappy startup versus a traditionalist, established professional at a big company. We can get unexpected dialog between someone who’s starting an innovative idea and someone at a big pharma company.”

The idea for Icons.Health originated in 2014, when AbelsonTaylor began engaging with the healthcare startup community through a partnership with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Hacking Medicine group. After participating in a Grand Hackathon at MIT and co-creating healthcare content several years in a row for the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) festival, Apley and his colleagues noticed an interesting pattern – while official content was compelling, the most thought-provoking conversations seemed to happen in the hallways afterward.

The concept for a pilot program documenting these conversations took shape during a spontaneous brainstorming between Apley and Joel Witmer, an AbelsonTaylor cinematographer and editor. Looping in creative director Noah Lowenthal, the trio presented the concept for Icons.Health to the agency’s executive leadership and got approval to pursue the project.

The first opportunity to capture conversations came at SXSW in March 2018, where, between official sessions, the agency caught dozens of speakers on camera. “We discovered that small startups have the audacity to try to change healthcare and large tech companies have the obligation to try to change healthcare,” said Lowenthal. “That juxtaposition creates some fascinating content.”

Encouraged by their success, Apley and Lowenthal traveled to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity in June 2018 to capture additional extemporaneous conversations. From a custom-built studio on the main conference floor, they filmed exchanges between thought leaders from a wide range of organizations, including Microsoft, Adobe and Aetna.

The raw footage from both festivals was edited into more than 40 videos that, according to Apley, document exchanges between “the emerging community of health-tech startups and the monoliths of healthcare that court them.”

Among the topics and speakers in the current Icons.Health lineup:

  • Discovering somebody who cares, 280 characters at a time

Mary Ann Belliveau, national director of health and wellness at Twitter, and Terrie Livingston, senior director of U.S. medical at Biogen, discuss using Twitter to create virtual support groups that improve the patient experience.

  • Using augmented reality to change reality

Ritesh Patel, chief digital officer for health and wellness at Ogilvy Consulting, and Doug Gould, partner executive at Microsoft, discuss how AI and gaming can help engage patients and change behavior.

  • Your Zip Code may matter more than your genetic code

Eric Gertler, chairman of U.S. News & World Report and CEO of Ulysses Ventures,talks with Garth Graham, president of Aetna Foundation and vice president of community Health for Aetna, and Angela Radcliffe, general manager of clinical trial solutions at PulsePoint, about using data to improve patient health.

  • What if fair balance is actually unfair to patients?

Jeffrey Castellano, global executive creative director at IBM, and Anthony Reeves,managing partner of ReevesJones, discuss ways of making fair balance more user-friendly.

  • Can technology be empathetic?

Chris Duffey, strategic development manager at Adobe, and Lexi Kaplin, chief product officer at conversationHEALTH, talk about how AI can lead to more personalized medicine.

The entire library of videos can be found at Icons.Health. Additional conversations will be filmed at upcoming major conferences. Industry leaders who would be interested in participating can contact


Read more about Icons.Health at MM&M magazine.