In this talk, Russell Goldsmith and Zuleika Burnett, Executive Director, Creative and Innovation at Havas Life Medicom, update the talk they gave at Cannes Lions in 2019 on the ‘Power of the Spoken Word and benefits of podcasting for healthcare marketing’, which they presented to the team at Havas Health & You in the US.
Power of the spoken word – Podcasting for Healthcare Marketing from Audere Communications on Vimeo.
The session features clips from two csuite podcast interviews:
- Haiyan Zhang, who was Innovation Director, Microsoft Research at the time of the recording, talks about ‘Project Emma‘ and the wearable device initially created to help a specific person suffering from Parkinson’s, Emma Lawton, to compensate for the intentional tremors in her hands
- Praful Akali, Founder & MD of Medulla, and Pooran Isarsingh, a terminally-ill patient from India at the time of recording, who sadly passed in 2019, discuss their campaign ‘Last Laugh’, which won a Cannes Lions award for the The Indian Association of Palliative Care.
They share updated stats on podcast listening, and crucially own research, carried out on our behalf by Yolo comms, where we look at how many UK listeners are listening to healthcare podcasts, the topics they listen to and why they listen.
They also talk about BBC’s ‘You me and the Big C’ and give their thoughts on why it’s built such a loyal community of listeners, plus share an interview with healthcare podcaster, Petra Velzeboer on why she thinks her listeners listen to her mental health podcast ‘Adversity to Advantage‘
It’s quite sad to think that, in today’s global society, we still need awareness days to remind the world of the need to stand up for people’s rights. However, whilst that is the case, then ‘Human Rights Day’, observed on 10th December every year , is extremely important and a day that everyone should better understand and support.
The date commemorates the day on which, in 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which they followed up by passing a resolution, in 1950, inviting all States and interested organisations to observe that day of each year as Human Rights Day.
The UN says that “Disrespect for basic human rights continues to be wide-spread in all parts of the globe. Extremist movements subject people to horrific violence. Messages of intolerance and hatred prey on our fears. Humane values are under attack.” The organisation calls on people to take a stand for rights and stand for more humanity asking them to “Step forward and defend the rights of a refugee or migrant, a person with disabilities, an LGBT person, a woman, a child, indigenous peoples, a minority group, or anyone else at risk of discrimination or violence.”
But it’s not just at international government levels that important cause-led campaigns are a priority.
Earlier this year, at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity – an event attended by around 11,000 delegates from close to 100 countries, representing all parts of the creative communications industry – a recurring theme in many of the award-winning campaigns was that of having a purpose in your company’s marketing communications.
For example, one of the multiple award winners at the Festival was a campaign called ‘Fearless Girl’, created for New York investment firm, State Street Global Advisors, which involved the commissioning of a statue of girl of around 12 years old, that was placed directly opposite Wall Street’s Charging Bull sculpture.
The campaign was launched to tie in with the first International Women’s Day after President Trump’s inauguration in the US with the aim of promoting Gender Diversity, whilst raising awareness of State Street’s ‘SHE’ fund, which invests in businesses with female executives, among financial communities. According to Pablo Walker, President of McCann Worldgroup Europe, although the initial idea was to place the statue in Wall Street for just one week, it has proven so popular that they now hope to keep it there for at least one year.
So why should businesses be concerned with such issues?
Well firstly, companies with a higher purpose, beyond making a profit, tend to make more money! Simon Caulkin reported in the Financial Times about a survey titled “The Business Case for Purpose”, by a team from Harvard Business Review Analytics and the EY Beacon institute, which declared that “those companies able to harness the power of purpose to drive performance and profitability enjoy a distinct competitive advantage”. He added that Jim Collins and Jerry Porras found that between 1926 and 1990, when studying a group of “visionary” companies, i.e., those guided by a purpose beyond making money, they returned six times more to shareholders than explicitly profit-driven rivals.
This begs the question, why might that be the case?
According to Sherry Hakimi, founder and CEO of Sparktures, “a purpose mobilises people in a way that pursuing profits alone never will. For a company to thrive, it needs to infuse its purpose in all that it does. An organisation without purpose manages people and resources, while an organisation with purpose mobilises people and resources. Purpose is a key ingredient for a strong, sustainable, scalable organisational culture. It’s an unseen-yet-ever-present element that drives an organisation. It can be a strategic starting point, a product differentiator, and an organic attractor of users and customers.”
Jo Alexander, an Associate at On Purpose said that “Organisations that put people, rather than profit, at the heart of their business are successful because they understand what motivates people: a shared sense of purpose and our desire to form meaningful relationships.”
On Purpose offers a year-long Leadership Programme in social enterprise, through a combination of work placements, formal training and coaching. Associates build their skills and sector awareness to harness the power of business for good. Alexander added “A work environment that allows employees to fulfil both of these needs can unleash their collective potential in a way that traditional organisations, that view their people as being simply motivated by money, status and power, cannot.”
Hakimi goes on to say that when a company demonstrates an authentic purpose, consumers feel a connection to the products and company. They will choose the authentically purposeful company’s products, even if it’s not the cheapest offering.
This may be the case for consumers, but does having a purpose impact the business buying process too? The language industry serves as an interesting case study in this respect.
There are tens of thousands of Language Service Providers (LSPs) offering translation, localisation, transcreation and interpreting services to clients across the world, and so finding ways to differentiate themselves in such a competitive industry can prove difficult.
However, according to Tenesoya Pawlowsky Santana, CEO at CPSL, an LSP with offices across Europe and in the US, understanding the nature of a company’s clients and business fields is part of the process if an LSP is to offer quality language services to its clients. In fact, in many cases, CPSL is closely aligned to the vision and corporate philosophy of its clients, and Pawlowsky Santana believes that clients are more likely to choose a provider that understands their company spirit in addition to providing first-class language services. Indeed, this is a theory backed up by buyers of language services. For example, Patrick Nunes, Global Communications Manager at Rotary International said that, whilst there is no official question about an LSP’s CSR activity in Rotary’s RFPs, the topic is something he personally wants to hear about when talking to them, whether in a formal or informal setting.
Whilst Nunes will not sacrifice attributes such as cost and efficiency in any supplier’s pitch, understanding their CSR activity could make a difference to him, particularly if it’s in line with Rotary’s vision too.
This was a view shared by Franck Schneider, Digital Communications Manager at Hôpitaux Universitaires de Genève (HUG), who is also responsible for sourcing translation. Given that HUG cares for many migrants, whilst cost and quality are again important factors in understanding the offering of potential new LSP suppliers, Schneider said that not many of those he has met put CSR forward as an argument for choosing them, yet he would view it as an important one.
Many companies on the buyer side will espouse particular values or have their own CSR programme, according to Jonathan Bowring, former European Localisation Director at Canon Europe who now acts as a consultant to the language industry through his company Riversight. According to Bowring, “Canon operates a philosophy of kyosei – ‘living and working together for the common good’.” He explained that this encompasses society and the environment, both local and global, including the treatment of suppliers and even competitors and said that “buyers with strong value systems in place may seek to build supply chains which reflect those values, although this is often mitigated by the commercial realities of offshore pricing and the priorities of their procurement function.”
However, in Bowring’s experience, LSPs made relatively little noise about their CSR programmes, if they have them, other than a mention on their website of support for Translators Without Borders (TWB), a charity that helps non-profit organisations overcome communication barriers, increasing access to critical information and services in times of great need, achieved through a global network of professional translators. But he said that “the values of a supplier have wider application than a CSR programme”. For example, Bowring wants to know how LSPs treat their own suppliers and translators. Do they make a point of paying them fairly and on time, or are they exploited as the lowest in the food chain? He said that “the treatment of staff is another values indicator: an LSP once lost my prospective business by boasting to me in its sales pitch of the long hours regularly worked by its staff.”
According to Alexander, “Purposeful organisations are moving beyond CSR, which is often viewed as an initiative that is bolted onto ‘business as usual’; instead they have progressed to having a purpose that is central to and effects every part of their business. This transition naturally happens when people in an organisation feel strongly about WHY it exists.”
So perhaps a more important reason for an LSP, or any business, to have a purpose is the impact it has on its own employees and, as Bowring puts it, “for the health of the organisation itself.” He said that “Millennials tend to be interested in a holistic employer which lends meaning to their work. Having a corporate purpose beyond simply generating wealth may appeal to them and to others, for instance those addressing midlife questions of how to “give something back”. CSR can be highlighted in recruitment to attract the type of employee who shares the company ethos.”
Allison Ferch, Programs Director at Globalization and Localization Association agrees. She said that “CSR or similar could be a selling point for an LSP when they are trying to attract or retain talent. Certainly, many employees can and do appreciate a company culture that embraces social responsibility and demonstrates that in concrete ways.”
Pawlowsky Santana takes a similar view, adding that “it is proven that employees at responsible companies are happier than those at companies that pay any heed to this.”
That’s certainly the case for CPSL’s Vendor Manager, Cristina Pera, who said that the company’s community involvement with TWB makes her feel proud to work for CPSL and more connected to the company.
As well as supporting TWB, CPSL also works with First Hand Foundation, an entrepreneurial foundation dedicated to changing the lives of children and families around the world through innovative health and wellness programming. Pawlowsky Santana explained that, in both cases, the company is very fond of the work and programmes. Moreover, in the case of First Hand, CPSL also happens to know the team behind the organisation, so it trusts and relates to what they do.
According to Shanna Adamic, Senior Events Manager for First Hand Foundation at Cerner Corporation, the US supplier of health care information technology solutions that set up the Foundation, they rely on the support of Cerner’s relationships, like the one they have with CPSL, to help fulfil their mission. “It’s not just about fundraising, it is about understanding that giving back is in our DNA and Cerner has provided a way to do so through First Hand Foundation. Companies like CPSL and their involvement with First Hand are essential to our growth!” she said.
In terms of TWB though, Pawlowsky Santana said that CPSL supports them because it appreciates that they have become the voice of those more vulnerable in our society. “TWB is doing a terrific job with humanitarian international causes, and now also helps and supports the refugees, a task we really respect and one we are also very sensitive to” she said. As a sponsor of TWB, CPSL provides annual funding for the organisation, but also seeks to collaborate further where possible, for example, in the field of interpreting.
The generous contributions made by TWB sponsors are vital to ensuring the sustainability of the organisation’s core operations and programs. However it’s the willingness of supporters to go the extra mile that its Founder, Lori Thicke welcomes. “Often LSPs that have extra capacity will offer project management support, helping to translate hundreds of thousands of words. We have had LSPs train our project managers, and also help fill the need for hard-to-source languages such as Rohingya, a current urgent need for the response to the refugee crisis in Bangladesh,” she said. Thicke added that of course the fun based fundraising activities that LSPs organise are important, but getting supporters interested and involved in this important work is great to see and it also helps to raise awareness of the importance of language agenda.
Pawlowsky Santana believes that that developing CSR policies and running businesses in a more sustainable way is beneficial for all sort of companies and that, naturally, it has a positive impact on corporate reputation. However, for her, it is about more than that. She believes that “We all should contribute to building a more sustainable world. Even the smallest of office-based businesses can make substantial changes to benefit the environment.”
This article was written on behalf of our client, CPSL
Earlier this week I attended PR360 and have come away truly inspired thanks to the team from Hotwire who were in the networking area showing off Virtual Reality technology. They had a VR headset on their stand, and were giving delegates the opportunity to try it out by watching the Clouds Over Sidra film that was produced last year for the United Nations.
I grabbed the opportunity to try out the technology whilst John Brown, Hotwire’s Director, Head of Engagement talked me through it.
It was the first time I’d ever experienced VR and all I can say is ‘wow’! It really is hard to describe what it’s like, but if you watch Mike Butcher’s reactions in the video of him trying it out whilst interviewing the producer of the film, Socrates Kakoulides, for Techcrunch, you’ll see how easy it is to get lost in the VR world and wrapped up in the emotion of that film in particular. [Download VRSE‘s app to view the film.]
Seeing this film and chatting to Emma Hazan, Hotwire’s Deputy UK MD (and previous guest on show 4 of my csuitepodcast series) has really inspired me to gen up on this area of video. Embarrassingly, I don’t even refer to VR in the ‘Using Video in Social Media’ workshop I regularly run for the PRCA and other clients – this will now change by the time I host my next session!
I feel I have a bit of catching up to do on this topic, but have been truly inspired by what I’ve seen.
Emma talked to me about how VR is perfect for the travel industry – imagine being able to walk around your hotel, look at the bar area, the pool, and check out your room before you book. We then chatted about other industries that could benefit, and of course, whilst agreeing that the Porn industry would no doubt lead the way, how about the Property market, especially high end sales for overseas investors. No need to visit the £1m+ apartments, just look around with your VR headset and then send your deposit – deal done!
This is my new favourite topic and so if anyone has some good case studies they want to share with me to include in my future workshops, please do get in touch.
Having recenlty returned from a Christmas family trip to Disneyland Paris, it was no surprise to read that the theme park had been reported to have received a €1 billion bail out a few months ago.
Don’t get me wrong, we had a great few days away and there is, without doubt, a magical feeling you get when you walk through the entrance, which is still the case for my 17 and 14 year old too. However, the park looks tired and clearly shows a lack of investment and it’s therefore no suprise to read that it’s been losing money for years.
I can’t pretend to know how to run a theme park, nor do I have any idea of the cost of building rides and maintaining them, but here are my ten very simple observations as to where that huge investment could be spent to help restore my faith in the Magic Kingdom.
- It’s time for Michael Jackson to Beat It
In Discoveryland you will find what’s described as ‘A fantastic 3D film relating the adventures of Captain EO, alias Michael Jackson, featuring a rhythm-packed musical soundtrack and a whole host of dazzling special effects’
This film was made in 1986. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever produced on a per-minute basis, averaging out at $1.76 million per minute and starred the biggest pop sensation directed by the guy that brought us Star Wars. It didn’t get any better. But what does that mean to kids of today? Michael Jackson sadly passed away over five years ago now and I understand the reasons that this attraction was brought back to the park as a tribute to him, but it’s time to move it on. The film couldn’t look more dated and the ‘dazzling special effects’ look so basic compared to what we’ve come to expect with films such as Avatar and Gravity its almost embarrassing to watch.
- Did they not wanna build a snowman?
Wandering around the park are of course the famous five of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy and Pluto but you’ll also spot the likes of Chip & Dale and … Mr Smee. Where are the new heroes like Olaf, the snowman who stole the show in Frozen? Disney need to stop living in the past. The choice of characters you can meet still seems to be based on the ‘trying to live your childhood through your kids’ theory.
- Time to update the rides, Savvy?
I get that Pirates of the Caribbean was a ride before it was a blockbuster film, but would most kids going to the park know that? So when you get to the ride, it makes no sense to me and must surely be huge disappointment to many not to see any reference to Captain Jack Sparrow. Time to have a facelift.
- The not so Fastpass®
‘You can save time with Fastpass’, except that when you read your small print, ‘you may only have one Fastpass ticket at a time’ and despite Disney Hotel guests being able to enter the parks early, the Fastpass machines don’t open until 10am. So choose wisely which one you want, because within minutes you are already only able to get into that ride say about an hour later. By the time you have then used your Fastpass, the next one you try to use isn’t available until about 2-3pm, after which you’ll be lucky to get another one. The system simply doesn’t work
Disneyland Paris has had over 14.2m visits in 2014, and almost every one of those must have been taking photos just as we were. So with the amount of pictures that were no doubt being uploaded to social media, the park could be trending online pretty much every day if they simply offered free wifi throughout it, which is not currently available, and perhaps ran competitions encouraging you to tag your photos with a hashtag where the best photos won Disney related prizes.
- Figaro Figaro Figaro
Far be it from me to tell Disney how to sell product, but I do find it odd that you come off a ride, say in Fantasyland, such as Pinocchio, and in the store you can buy a Lilo and Stitch toy. I may have a vested interest in this one as my favourite Disney character is Figaro, Mister Geppeto’s cat. I know, an odd choice out of all the characters there have ever been. But my point is, would there not be more chance of selling more product if, when you finished the ride you could perhaps buy a bigger selection of toys from that particular film? After all, there are stores all over the two parks and in the Disney Village area where you can buy all the other stuff. FYI, there was no Figaro on sale, and surprisingly, neither could we find a cuddly Olaf.
- Early Starts, but not for all the workers
Guests of the Disney Hotels benefit from being allowed into the park earlier than the general public, which is great, if all the rides were open. But they are not. For example, we made a bee-line for the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Walt Disney Studios, but that didn’t open until 10am, so instead made the long walk back to the main park to go on Space Mountain, except that ride had ‘technical problems’ and was therefore closed at the time. Unlucky I guess, so instead we went to the Buzz Lightyear Laser Blast, but by 9.30am, it was already at a 30min queue, and of course you couldn’t use a FastPass at it was too early! Open all the rides and make it a true benefit to the guests to get up early.
- These are not the rides you are looking for
Disney paid over $4bn for LucasFilm, so I get that it wants to see an ROI out of Star Wars. But still having the original Star Tours simulator, which like the Captain EO film, is almost 30 years old, is just simply not worth queuing for, when your time can be better spent on amazing new and original rides like Ratatouille, which opened earlied this year. Star Wars also seems an odd choice to show on the screens in the Videopolis area which, despite having a stage, had no live show on it. Instead, across the screens they were showing clips from the animated series Star Wars Rebels. This seemed strange, especially at Christmas time. Surely kids would prefer to see the songs of Frozen playing whilst they are having their lunch, or something from Mickey’s Christmas Carol. I don’t have the stats, and haven’t done the research, but I can’t believe too many kids under 10 would get excited by Star Wars Rebels whilst at Disney.
- Interactive Queuing
We were lucky in that the longest queue we had was 45mins, but the timing of many queues were shown as 70 minutes or more. So how hard can it be to make that time pass a little faster by giving something for you to do whilst standing in the freezing December cold. The impressive ‘Crush’s Coaster’ ride did get it right by offering a local wifi link enabling you to download a game onto your smartphone, which certainly helps. So why can’t they do something similar on all the rides, or why not have screens above the queues showing scenes from the films, or the characters walking along the queue giving the kids a chance to take a selfie with Snow White, for example. How difficult could that last one be?
- Disney on-demand
And finally, when you do crash out in your room, why not offer the chance to watch a Disney movie of your choice on your TV. I’ve never understood why, in this age of Netflix, which does indeed have Disney films on it menu, why the Disney Hotels don’t offer an on-demand service of all the films available to show.
So there you have it. My 10 simple marketing tips (and I had plenty more) for the people at Disneyland Paris on where to start spending their billion Euros.
In summary, as I said, we had a great time away, but perhaps Disney need to take a leaf out of their own song that has driven just about everyone mad in 2014 and that I can’t get out of my head since returning from my trip:
“the past is in the past! Let it go, let it go.”
Theories suggest that the myriad of global languages might one day die out – spelling the decline of translation and localisation services. But for now, these businesses provide critical support to CROs engaged in trials, although technology is changing the stakes.
The 50th Drug Information Association (DIA) conference that took place recently in San Diego, California, encouraged delegates to ‘celebrate the past and invent the future’. But by inventing the future, could we be consigning ourselves to the past?
Invention is what drives the human race forward. It is what sets us apart from other species and brings with it untold benefits. Yet, for some, invention also creates fear for their own basic needs – there is concern that new technologies, for example, will replace their jobs and livelihoods.
This dilemma is, of course, nothing new. Some 50 years ago, when the first-ever DIA conference was being planned, the same concern was highlighted on the cover of LIFE magazine (July 1963), with the headline ‘Point of no return for everybody’ stating that ‘Automation’s really here; jobs go scarce’.
However, according to industry trend-spotter and futurologist, Magnus Lindkvist, the ‘will our jobs disappear?’ question is not necessarily something that should be tied to technology, but perhaps more to the underlying economic climate of the time. Lindkvist believes that, while technology will replace the jobs that are highly repetitive and consist of boring tasks that can easily be automated, it can also be viewed as an enabler and empowerer. So it may be accused of stealing some jobs, but other roles will emerge in its wake.
One such industry that has seen huge changes over the last 50 years is that of translation and localisation. According to applied futurist, Tom Cheesewright, the emergence of tools such as Google Translate could see a lingua franca – a bridge language – begin to emerge. He takes the view that as new words are created, they will spread like memes across the connected globe, becoming established in each language before local equivalents can be created.
But could we ever see a future where, if aliens landed on our planet 100 years from now, they could find us speaking only one language, Human? This is Cheesewright’s prediction, arguing that technology – in particular, the internet – is helping to break down the barriers, such as language and currencies, that once divided people.
He says that, just as disruptive finance businesses like PayPal have made the movement of money across borders easier – enabling everyone to forget what currency their partner was dealing in – languages will follow the same path.
Similarly to national currencies, Cheesewright believes that different languages will disappear from our daily lives over the next century. While they will not stop being used altogether, as technology abstracts us away from the complexity of translation, we will begin to forget that such great differences ever existed.
Exciting? Far fetched? Whichever way you look at it, it could be worrying for a business that services the CRO sector by supplying translation and localisation services. The implication is that such companies might become obsolete.
However, Gary Muddyman, Chief Executive Officer of Conversis Medical, is reassured that Cheesewright’s prediction means there is still a market for companies such as his, for the short to medium term at least. This confidence is, in part, because of the industry’s ongoing focus on emerging markets such as the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, where the population is expected to reach 598 million by 2050. More than 1,000 different languages are spoken in Africa alone, and it is estimated that up to 7,000 languages are spoken around the world.
A recent white paper published by Quintiles stated that, while the MENA region (excluding Israel) currently hosts only about 0.4% of clinical trial sites and patients, its percentage of global clinical trial patient-related R&D spend could increase by a factor of 8-10 in the next decade – building an annual market of around $1 billion.
Translation and localisation therefore becomes a vital part of the clinical trial process. As Ann Van Dessel, Head of Global Clinical Operations at Janssen Research & Development, explains: “It is very important that we provide high-quality translations so the information is understandable and clear for patients participating in the study. As required, we submit the translations to regulatory authorities and independent ethics committees for review. These steps help ensure patients have appropriate information to guide their decisions.”
Muddyman also believes that, while the process of converting content from one language to another will get more automated, it will never completely replace humans. “Things will evolve, they will change, and faster, more accurate, effective and cheaper translations will always be the challenge. But humans and machines will continue to co-exist, and I think we will continue to have a viable business for the foreseeable future,” he says.
Tahar Bouhafs, Chief Executive Officer of Common Sense Advisory, agrees. “Machine translation can be used as a pre-translation step to help speed up the work of human translators, but there is no evidence that the technology will ever eliminate the need for human editing or translation.” Bouhafs adds that: “No information publisher can afford the business risk of unedited machine output. The financial and brand damage that ensues from mistranslation is already a significant liability, even with fully vetted human translation.”
Matthew McCarty, Senior Director, Health Engagement and Communications at Quintiles, thinks that use of language is only part of the challenge when localising information for a clinical trial, all of which is vital to help accelerate the study’s timeline. The visuals used in patient recruitment materials, for instance, can be just as crucial in ensuring the right image is used in context of the cultural characteristics within the region you are working.
He uses differences in healthcare in the US and India as an example: the latter is much more about a relationship with your doctor who may have looked after your family for years, compared to what could be seen as the competitive nature of how medical advice is provided in the US.
But what of the future of language and translation services in particular? Muddyman disagrees with the notion that languages will continue to die out and that global communications will become homogenised. In his view, technology will allow us to protect and evolve minority languages, like many of those spoken in certain MENA countries. However, Cheesewright states that “the intermediaries will come first, who will insulate us from each other’s languages, seamlessly translating one to another”. Of course, technologies will only get faster and more nuanced as the inexorable, exponential advance of computing power continues.
There is, however, room for optimism. Lindkvist believes jobs will simply evolve. He says there will be fragmentation of roles that will include specialist translators within the medical industry. Such a move has already been taken by Conversis, which has recently employed a scientist, Dr Mark Hooper, to oversee translation projects specific to the pharmaceutical market. This optimises workflow by ensuring that medical terminology is translated correctly – something that machines can only do a certain percentage of, and that human translators would, understandably, not be aware of, being language experts rather than medical specialists.
Dion Wiggins, Asia Online CEO, believes it is ‘smart’ of Conversis to have recruited Dr Hooper. He said that having someone who can optimise the workflow and understand the issues is key, as that will then enable you to do things you would otherwise not be able to do. It’s the same reason he brought in Professor Phillip Koehn as his company’s Chief Scientist. Koehn was the 2013 European Patent Office European Inventor of the Year Runner Up with his advanced method of automated computer translation.
With all this thought about how technology can improve our lives, it is also important to remember how new inventions come about. Lindkvist uses the example of the aeroplane. He explains that for a long time in the late 1800s, we tried to make machines fly by imitating birds – but, of course, the flapping mechanical ‘wings’ did not work as they were unable to generate the lift required. It was only when looking at other dynamics that the likes of the Wright Brothers started to see progress, eventually leading to their first flight in 1903.
Lindvkvist therefore says that when we ask the question whether technology can do human activity ‘x’, we are usually posing the wrong question. Arguably, it does not need to be done in the same way. So, in terms of translation, perhaps we should stop trying to teach machines to ‘flap their wings’. Lindkvist also reminds us that some of our most valuable discoveries, particularly in the pharma industry, are the results of mistakes or by-products, citing penicillin and Viagra as two classic examples.
While the pharma industry cannot afford any mistakes, Lindkvist makes an important point that language is often about interpretation and ensuring we engage the audience who is reading or listening to us. McCarty stresses, for example, that when Quintiles prepares materials for adult patients in a clinical trial, it aims for a reading age of 10-12 years old so as not to exclude people. Similarly, it would not look to make its visuals too scientific as otherwise potential patients will not understand them, which would ultimately impact on patient safety.
But it is not always about literal translation, as Angela Radcliffe, Vice President and Director of Clinical Trials at Vio Global, advises. She believes that localisation is just as important in the delivery of a project; without foregoing quality, this can mean a difference of millions of dollars to the pharma company developing a new drug. You cannot translate conceptual nuances, she says. Similar to McCarty’s view, Radcliffe makes the point that we need to take account of cultural differences when presenting information in different territories.
One area where this is becoming increasingly important is social media, where consumers – in particular, patients or sufferers of diseases – look to pharma companies for immediate information. Radcliffe says that while the public may tolerate some mistakes on social media, the pharma industry simply cannot afford to make any. According to Van Dessel, the important message her company’s founder, Dr Paul Janssen, gave was “the patients are waiting”.
She adds: “That sense of urgency inspires us to get our medicines to patients, regardless of where they are, as fast as we can. Bringing a medicine to market faster can have a significant financial impact for our company, but what is most important is the difference it can make in the life of a patient.”
According to Wiggins, at present 50-70% of machine-translated documents will not be changed by humans, but to get to a point where humans are not needed to translate at all, we will need machines to understand and think. At the moment, machines learn patterns and then repeat them.
Automation is a must for companies translating huge documents. One of Asia Online’s clients has 1.1 billion words translated every day, and Wiggins predicts that leading language service providers to CROs, such as Conversis Medical, will soon be translating more content in one year than in the previous five years combined.
However, even as technology develops over the next 30-50 years, Wiggins still believes humans will do a better job in many areas – machines will not out-think a human. In addition, Muddyman agrees that companies like his will need to evolve with better segmentations and analysis of the roles of humans and machines in their processes. It may therefore be some time before Cheesewright’s prediction of one global human language comes true.
This article first appeared in International Clinical Trials, November 2014.