Help a child smile, one wig at a time

“Having long hair is just so inconvenient. So difficult to maintain, to wash, to dry, to style, and oh, please don’t even mention those spilt ends!” While some of us take our long hair for granted, I’m going to tell you how you can make a difference. Yes, your hair, your humble hair, can make a difference.

Two months ago, I decided to part with my long precious hair, with whom I’ve had a very long and memorable relationship. We had our times – we’ve been through exams, graduations, job interviews (then job promotions), holidays, Christmas balls, summer parties (then the subsequent hangovers). We’ve been through a lot, and though I know how much I’m going to miss my long hair, I decided that it’s someone else’s turn to have their time.

To put this into context, here’s what happened:


(From left) The very cute fundraising box; me holding up my ponytail after “the cut”.

Yes, my ponytail is now on its way to the Little Princess Trust – a charity that provides real hair wigs, free of charge, to boys and girls across the UK and Ireland that have lost their own hair through cancer treatment.

Battling cancer is never easy. Treatments are nasty, they can have horrible side effects like hair loss, and that can take a toll on one’s confidence – let’s be fair, as much as I love Jessie J’s bald head (see below; she also donated her hair to the charity), not all of us can pull off this style. So imagine a young girl’s joy when she passes her fingers through her new hair – it’s like a little gift for doing so well and kicking cancer’s butt.


(From left) Jessie J’s bold bald head (I’m by no means THAT brave); a child with cancer longing for new hair.

Aside from just donating your hair for making real hair wigs, it’s also the perfect opportunity to fundraise. If you’re interested, you can order this fundraising pack from The Little Princess Trust, and it’ll tell you step by step what to do. The packs includes leaflets, posters, useful instructions, and a very cute fundraising box (above). You can leave these around your school or workplace, and don’t forget to advertise your good cause and set up your own fundraising page like mine, too.

It’s been an incredible experience. My fundraising target was only £50 to begin with and I ended up raising more than £200. It’s not a massive amount but it’s an amazing feeling to have your friends and family’s support and to know that at least one boy or girl will be a happier child because you’ve decided to do something different.

“So happy, so care-free. It’s the beauty of a child’s heart. She might be ill, but she doesn’t worry. “Nothing is more important than playtime”, she thinks.

Georgina Chan   Senior Account Executive

Tumour Paint

After reading the acclaimed book ‘Do No Harm: Stories of life, death and brain surgery’ by Henry Marsh myself and Rosie found ourselves with a small obsession with both Mr Marsh and brain surgery stories.

Do No Harm is a fascinating journey through a decades-long career of one of Britain’s most eminent neurosurgeons. The book has many virtues. It gives a rarely seen insight into the working life and thoughts of a surgeon (who freely admits to a little bit of a god complex – which he reminds himself to keep in check!), plus if you have an interest in medicine it gives an accessible account of many different types of brain tumours and aneurysms.

Obviously, with this new-found obsession with Mr Marsh we started to do a bit of digging on the internet and Rosie stumbled across a talk he was giving, along with paediatric oncologist Jim Olson. The talk, to be given at the Royal Institution, called ‘Colour and cancer; scorpions and surgery’ was to discuss new research into how to better detect and treat brain tumours. So, along with copywriter Kevin, we went to go hear our new favourite celebrity speak last Tuesday evening.


Just walking into the Royal Institution was enough to make you feel inspired. The building is an incredible one where the walls are covered with images of notable scientists – you just know that discussions which changed the face of science have happened there.

The talk started with Henry Marsh providing some background to his career and gave some of the stories found in his book, including his non-traditional route into medicine. With his charming and oh so very English manner he had the audience caught on his every word and I was a bit worried Rosie would launch herself at him.


When Dr Jim Olson began speaking it was the complete opposite to Mr Marsh. He was exactly what you’d think of as an American doctor, speaking of loving all his patients, becoming part of their families. They were two sides of the doctor coin (although this doesn’t mean Mr Marsh didn’t care for his patients, he’s just much more British about it!).

Then came the showstopper of the evening, Dr Olson presenting his research. The work his lab is doing is at the forefront of more accurately treating a range of cancers and has the potential to change the way medicine is done is this field.

They have discovered ‘tumour paint’, a fluorescent molecule which can attach itself to cancer cells causing tumours to glow under infra-red light.

This molecule comes from the Israeli Deathstalker scorpion. Like all good science the discovery that this molecule could be used in this way was a bit of a coincidence. A different lab was doing a different type of study in glioma cells and the scorpion protein and Dr Olson’s labs were able to see a connection to the work they were doing, so ran with it!

Untitled 2

By having the tumour cells glow it allows surgeons to remove far more of the ‘bulky’ tumour, meaning they will be able to (hopefully) only leave microscopic amounts of tumour which can then be dealt with using chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This means a better chance of the tumour not reoccurring and better survival rates. Aside from the surgical advantages it also allows for more targeted chemotherapy & radiotherapy, as these treatments can be directed at the cancerous cells and avoid the healthy ones.


When the slide changed to one of the serum in a vial the whole room gasped, it looked a bit magical. Ethereal, even. A single vial which glowed bright white.

glowing vile.jpg

Tumour paint is now in a number of clinical trials and Dr Olson’s team are looking for a pharma company to market it (any of our clients reading this?).

Dr Olson ended his talk by showing us pictures of cute little kids – kids who unfortunately weren’t able to be helped by tumour paint but served as a reminder of the types of kids this might be able to help in the future.

Although the focus is currently on certain types of brain tumours and a handle of other cancers (skin, prostate, breast), they’ve also discovered a whole family of these proteins from lots of plants and animals. So, there is the hope that they’ll be able to identify other molecules which will target other cancers and even other brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and Schizophrenia.

We walked out of the talk feeling inspired. Through the whole thing you felt as if you were hearing something that will radically change the way cancers are treated. We were definitely in the presence of greatness.

One comment from Dr Olson stuck with me and strikes me as a great way to approach not only medicine but life as a whole:

Start each day thinking about what you do now that you don’t want to do in 20 years. Then work to solve that problem.

Harriet Cheshire   Account Manager


Vaccine Confidence

Attending the ‘Packed Lunch: Vaccine Confidence’ lecture hosted at the Wellcome Collection was a refreshing OOO (out of office) excursion. It was also an excuse to celebrate World Apple Day as we were each offered a juicy Granny Smith on arrival – some ‘food for thought’.

The host promptly introduced researcher and lecturer  from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine to discuss the Vaccine Confidence Project (VCP), aimed at monitoring the state of vaccine confidence in the 21st century.


Why do we need a VCP?

Pauline expressed that the primary purpose of the VCP is to assess ‘public distrust’ in vaccinations. On a larger scale this project wants to help avoid vaccine programme disruptions, which in the ‘worst case scenario’ have the potential to result in a domino effect of disease outbreaks. The corresponding research paper ‘The state of vaccine confidence’ discusses the issue of low confidence having a negative impact on vaccine coverage. The more we doubt the necessity and efficacy of injections, the less likely we are to vaccinate and due to this we are at risk of shedding a protective layer against certain diseases. This is a phenomenon I had never really considered before and it certainly convinced me of the relevance of the project. The diagram below highlights how vaccinations work to provide us with protection against disease:

image vaccine

So why do people choose not to vaccinate?

Of course, public concerns regarding vaccinations are context specific, differ significantly on a global scale and attitudes vary depending on the different types of accessible vaccinations. But the World Health Organisation (WHO) claims that the main factors relating to people’s ‘vaccine hesitancy’ include ‘misinformation,’ ‘complacency,’ ‘convenience’ and ‘confidence’. Pauline spoke to us about these themes and voiced the most common parental doubts she heard whilst conducting her interviews:

  • “Do we need this vaccine?”
  • “Can we afford it?”
  • “Does it work?”
  • “Is it safe?”

The occurrence of ‘misinformation’ in terms of vaccine safety was a particularly hot topic for Pauline who expressed that ideas can travel rapidly on the internet. It is no surprise that ‘two thirds of anti-vaccine sites are misleading’. According to Medical News Today, 65.6% of anti-vaccine sites claim that vaccines are dangerous, 62.2% that they cause autism and 41.1% that they cause ‘brain injury’. Interestingly, most of these claims used anecdotal evidence and perhaps increasingly we are looking to internet sources for convenient and easily digestible healthcare information. The VCP highlights this gap in communication when it comes to informing people about the benefits of vaccinations and the necessary facts and figures. Why is it that anecdotal stories on the internet or from friends can be so convincing yet the ‘go ahead’ to vaccinate from healthcare professionals appears to be insufficient in persuading us to choose to vaccinate? Margaret Chan general director of WHO comments:

“The days when health officials could issue advice, based on the very best medical and scientific data, and expect populations to comply, may be fading.”

These ‘vaccine hesitancies’ translate into an emerging lack of trust in vaccinations. It seems that it is no longer sufficient for healthcare workers to simply inform us that we need to be vaccinated. We demand to know how necessary it really is and we want to know this in layman terms. It was clear just from sitting in the room that there were several attendees who held strong reservations and posed challenging questions to Pauline about the efficacy, necessity and safety of vaccinations.

I found the session thought provoking and came away with the following reflections:

  • I am now more aware of the positive effect vaccination programmes can have on public health
  • I am however conscious that the session exposed the increasing level of uncertainty, mistrust and lack of information about the benefits and risk of vaccination; an interesting comparison with perhaps 40 years ago
  • Expectations are increasing as the public seek more reassurance and guarantees of the effectiveness and safety of vaccinations; this cannot always be a given
  • There is a need for individuals to take more personal responsibility for informing themselves and making the most appropriate decisions for them and their families
  • There is a significant need for clear, quality information regarding vaccinations, which is easily accessible and well communicated to the general public

Joanna Dorling   Junior Account Executive


halloween blogv2

This menagerie of petrifying Peter Pan-witch-jester-‘Tomato Man’-Powerpuff Girls-fried egg costumes (disappointingly no pizza rat, despite Time Out predicting it to be a Londoner’s favourite guise for Halloween 2015) is of course all in aid of a good cause.
Two good causes in fact – Beating Bowel Cancer and LUPUS UK.
Beating Bowel Cancer 
Bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, with incidence rates increasing by 6% over the last decade. Scary stats, especially when you consider that 2011 saw more than 110 people a day diagnosed with the disease in the UK alone.
Which is why charities such as Beating Bowel Cancer, the support and campaigning charity for everyone affected by the disease, are so important. They’re on a mission to ‘Beat Bowel Cancer Together’, providing vital practical and emotional help – on the phone, digitally and face to face – through the UK’s only nurse-led specialist helpline for bowel cancer, described by some patients as a lifeline.
Their vision of ‘a world where bowel cancer is beaten’ is only achievable with funding for support and campaigning. To find out how you can help, visit
Lupus is an incurable immune system illness, able to affect any part of the body. Major organs can be irreversibly damaged and even mild flare ups can be distressing, having a considerable impact on a person’s quality of life.
LUPUS UK is the only national registered charity supporting people with systemic lupus and discoid lupus, also assisting those approaching diagnosis. 
As lupus is a condition that many people are unaware of, LUPUS UK work hard to raise awareness so that others understand everyday life can be a challenge for sufferers. To find out how you too can help them build a world where people with lupus can live full and active lives, visit

BBC’s James Gallagher visits PLBR

Breaking news: BBC’s James Gallagher

visits PLBR to give low down on making headlines


On Monday the 12th of October a lucky few from across a range of agencies and press offices within the pharmaceuticals and healthcare space braved the lonely darkness of the early morning for a special event.

As we rubbed our weary eyes and revived ourselves over a steaming hot cup of tea in the Admiral room, the atmosphere was buzzing with anticipation.

A celebrity was in our midst.

James Gallagher of the BBC had graced the Publicis offices to give us the inside scoop on life at the BBC’s online health news desk.

He was everything you might expect of a long serving BBC hand, from his inoffensive grey blazer, his neutral tone of voice and his mild mannered charm. He transported us into the life of a health journalist while he revealed the tricks, tips, dos and don’ts for getting your press release featured on the BBC webpages. As you may have guessed, I am the poor soul that must forsake my newly formed brethren and share them with you now:

  • Pitch your story before 09:30am!
  • News is only something that is:
    • a) New (…It’s in the name!)
    • b) Noteworthy – is it interesting, will it mean something to people?
  • You should be able to summarise the point of your press release in one sentence. When you email the press release to the journalist, use this sentence as the subject line
  • Quotes, case studies and sources are like crack to these guys, they add real value to press releases (yes, just like crack does to life)
  • Know who you are pitching to – avoid cringey moments and make sure you know who it is you are emailing, what they do and who they work for
  • It’s all about building relationships, if a journalist knows, and more importantly, likes you, they are much more likely to run your story

The stories on the BBC’s news pages on average, get about 1m hits and health stories average 1/4 million hits, they are as you may say, ‘big in the game’.

So, now that I have risked life and limb to share these trade secrets with you, go forth, and let my legacy live on by making the BBC’s headlines!

Michelle Johal   Account Executive

The Great Office Bake Off

Cakes (and confectionary in general) are not a rare sight in the PLBR/Real Science office. Birthdays, festive periods, post-holidays, or just whenever someone is feeling generous – we can always find an occasion. No day, though, compares to the 25th of September: the day of the Macmillan Coffee Morning.

UK charity Macmillan provides specialist healthcare and support for people with cancer, and each year it organises the ‘World’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ to build awareness and fundraise. The concept, widely celebrated across the country, is simple but effective: bake a cake, enjoy cake with friends/family/colleagues, and donate money for each piece you eat.

This year, all three teams combined baking and eating abilities. As it’s for a good cause, gluttony is encouraged, not frowned upon. And with our brilliant bakers and… consumers, we were sure to succeed. Take a look at our fantastic feast:


By the end of the day, we had raised £165.25 for Macmillan. Surely a great testament to our eating abilities! Well done everyone!

Helen Belben   Senior Account Executive

‘First week done and you’re not fired!’

Truth be told; I felt pretty dam awesome walking to work early in the morning, through the streets of London. I was storming the pavements in my old trusty Doc Marten’s feeling triumphant and purposeful. It’s been rather surreal as I’ve had one month to kill between finding out I’ve got the post in The Creative Lab at Publicis, and starting the actual job. So many a celebration and victory dance has occurred since then but now is the time to knuckle down and prove I am worthy!

Everyone was and continues to be so welcoming and friendly; they have no qualms about receiving questions or queries, regardless of the seemingly obvious answers. I got stuck in straight away with some research into advertising in the healthcare industry. The successful campaigns held a fusion of intellectual communication and emotive aesthetic. My Great Uncle, who has been in the advertising industry for a long time, informed me of the three responses you are looking to meet in any advert; The immediate, emotional response followed by the informed, intellectual response and finally the active response of what we want the audience to do. Emotive, Intellectual and Active- kind of like the ideal process in dating but the one that never happens!

Through out the week I got my brain cells ticking over three creative briefs, all completely different taking into account the audience and the purpose, while learning about medical developments. I’ve been generating ideas, drawing (the industry call it ‘scamping’), playing with Photoshop -(I’m still pretty rubbish so it’s a working progress…)- and writing scripts for animations. I relished the versatility and the opportunity to try things and learn from those around me.

On Wednesday I was treated to lunch with my Line Manager Andy and ‘buddy’ Rosie; I panic-ordered the biggest glass of Merlot I’d ever seen which was quite lovely! We spoke about the Lab and really what I wanted from this process. It is a hard question and I’ve given it a lot of thought over the past month… my final conclusion is pending. I know that I want to learn about the healthcare industry and use word and image to communicate so I’d deduced that I was in the right place! I want to broaden my knowledge of Photoshop and InDesign and experience both the Copy Writer and the Art Direction side of the process. At Publicis Healthcare the offices are open and the roles interlink which is wonderful; In briefing Copy Writers, Art Directors and Account Handlers all join together to create some sort of communicative force field of brief-related thoughts and doodles.

I’ve concluded that the aim of the next six months is to grasp the horns of this opportunity and steer them in the direction of my career prospects, like a goat warrior…

My first Friday finished up with a few beers with the guys sat outside the office, and as I stumbled home slightly tipsy (-tipsy enough to do South Park impressions…-) I thought the last five days had been an insightful warm up of things to come. Or as Andy put it ‘first week done and you’re not fired!’ Begin as we mean to go on!?

Zoe Bishop  |  Junior Creative

The (not so) secret life of a fanartist

I’m the girl in the office who does those weird Japanese cartoon drawings. I’m not a designer, I’m definitely not an ‘artist’. But I doodle a lot, and once or twice a year I dress up in a school uniform and go sell stuff at conventions.


So. I do anime/manga style drawings. Back when I was a kid, it wasn’t something I’d publicise. Now, it’s kind of (I say that loosely) acceptable and quite a few people know what you’re talking about. Some even find it cool (or at least, that’s what they say to your face).

A couple of years ago, I realised that this ability can buy me money* and fame* and so I ventured into the world of conventions. This means getting a table at a nerdy event (I share with a friend) and selling stationery with my fanart printed on it.

What does it involve?

  1. A lot of drawing
  2. Realising you haven’t drawn as much as you’d like
  3. More drawing (furiously)
  4. A short-lived break during the printing process
  5. Dragging everything to the convention centre
  6. Getting stared/laughed at on public transport
  7. Sitting behind a table for 12 hours and trying to smile
  8. Repeat (6) and (7) for 2-3 days
  9. Burn out

Sounds tiring, but there are benefits.

It’s an experience (of course). You meet other fanartists.

It can be entertaining. The best thing is when men want to buy prints of half-naked women. They have tactics.

A big one for me: you can get free food at the end (example: £40 worth of extortionate rice balls).

And last, but of course not least – it’s fulfilling! Who would have thought that people would pay REAL MONEY for something I’d drawn? I may not be an accomplished illustrator, and I definitely have a long way to go before I’m in any way satisfied with myself. Yet when someone wants to buy something, when someone gets excited about or admires your work, and even wants it on their wall, that’s really something.

I bet someone’s wondering this, so: yes, I do cosplay (dress in costume). But you try sitting behind a table for 12 hours in a wig and 5 layers. In summer. So we keep it simple (ie. sorry, no interesting photos, ask another time).


That’s it. My random hobby. I’d like to add that I never took art GCSE or beyond. Just did a lot of doodling! Don’t feel like you have to be ‘qualified’ to give something a go.

PS: if you want to check out my drawings, go here.


Helen Belben  |  Senior Account Executive


I must stop offering people pictures of my dogs

Dogs. A word which evokes a Marmite reaction from people – it’s rare that you will come across someone who just ‘thinks they’re ok’, or who could take them or leave them. More often than not, people will respond to say that they love them, or are terrified of/hate/are annoyed by them. I well and truly fall into the former camp and was delighted to follow the 3,730 tweets for #NationalDogDay earlier this week and all their associated pictures!


I’m currently writing this blog en route home from a long few days in Philadelphia, with jet lag, following a delayed 7-hour flight… I’m feeling all the normal things you would expect with this kind of exhausting schedule, but above all else I’m excited, because waiting for me at home are nine beautiful English Springer Spaniels – eight of which are 9-week-old puppies, the ninth being their mother, Bessie Bear (or Bess, if you’re generally anyone other than me). I promise if you keep reading (or just scrolling) there will be more adorable pictures and a little overview of my life with eleven puppies…


But first – a little about the science… We work in the healthcare industry; where medicine, Pharma, pills and potions dominate. These are all crucial for maintenance of our health and well-being – you would be hard-pressed to find someone who has never taken a medicine of some kind or another – but I would like to look beyond the pharmacological interventions and talk a bit about the psychological and physical benefits animals can bring to a person’s life (if you’re into them!).

I am personally always happier when around dogs, but don’t just take my highly subjective word for it – research can back me up. Studies are ongoing in many areas of medicine to quantify, objectively, the impact animals have on our physical and mental well-being, ranging from conditions such as dementia1 and depression2, through to the role they can play in rehabilitation following chronic conditions3 and in keeping older people active4. They can provide much-needed companionship following the loss of a loved one, and give a great excuse to become fitter or lose weight – there are few more motivating influences than the big, sad eyes of a spaniel looking up at the lead… (but unless you want to be tripped over, I suggest you train said dog to run off the lead, a long way away from you. Trust me on that). A recent article from Scientific American looked at the hormonal releases in the brain from interactions with dogs, ‘increases in β-endorphin (beta-endorphin), oxytocin and dopamine – neurochemicals associated with positive feelings and bonding – have been observed in both dogs and people after enjoyable interactions like petting, play and talking’.

dog on lead

So enough about the science – I think you get it. So why doesn’t everyone just rush out and get a pet?! The challenge, of course, is that living in London, or indeed rented/small/garden-less accommodation anywhere, can squash this; landlord restrictions, increasingly busy lifestyles, long working hours etc. etc. often stand in the way of owning our own animals. But with the advent of novel business ventures such as Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium (I’ve been it’s well worth a visit, there is a cat that you can walk on a harness, at his own request – that’s my friend, right, walking said cat), animals can be accessible to anyone, and I greatly advocate spending some time with them. There is nothing like the unconditional love that a dog, cat, guinea pig… can provide.

I love all animals, but this brings me back to my passion – dogs. A wise person once said ‘anyone that says diamonds are a girl’s best friend, never had a dog’ – not that I would turn down a diamond if offered, of course! I’m lucky enough that I live in the middle of the countryside, in a house with a garden, with a farmer for a husband – perfect conditions for raising little bundles of puppy joy. However, with introducing puppies into the world comes the inevitable heartbreak of seeing them go to new homes, and since last Thursday I’ve seen three of ‘my’ babies head off to their loving new owners (I know they are loving, because I’ve vetted and interviewed them all at length!), and the rest will follow them soon. That doesn’t mean to say that I’ve not become incredibly attached to each and every one of them, with their very individual characters and foibles (if you’re interested, my names for the original 11 of them are Tiggy, Stripey, Dipstick, Badger, Brian, Enid, Missy, Pippin, Tucker Trousers, Grace and Bobby). Unfortunately for my husband, this attachment means that we have to keep two of them (so far) – so Tiggy and Tucker Trousers (he looks like he is wearing a little pair of trousers, in case you were wondering) are going to be joining our family. And if you see me trying to sneak a little squeaky ball of fur into the building, it is as a result of the ongoing campaign from Louise Earley for the rest of the office to share my new pets! (Don’t tell security!).


Victoria Stanley, Group Account Director – PLBR Med Ed/PR


  1. Nordgren L, Engström G. Nurs Older People 2014;26(3):31–8
  2. Enmarker I, Hellzén O, Ekker K, Berg AG. Aging Ment Health 2015;19(4):347–52
  3. Vallet C, André N, Gentet JC, et al. Ecancermedicalscience 2015;28;9:558
  4. Raina P, Waltner-Toews D, Bonnett B, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc 1999;47(3):323–9