The new unit, called BCW WHY, is led by Lee Gazey (pictured), who joins BCW as managing director and UK board member. Gazey was previously global chief executive for health at research and strategy agency Hall & Partners.
WHY sits within BCW's UK healthcare business, which has 45 employees. Some existing staff have moved to the new unit but now the aim is to recruit specifically for Gazey's team.
Gazey told PRWeek WHY's focus is to understand how people really feel about issues relevant to clients' products, using behavioural science disciplines such as linguistics and semiotics to "uncover hidden meaning" in research. The idea is to go beyond the kind of insights usually obtained via 'rational' answers.
Gazey, who reports to Catherine Keddie, BCW's group managing director of healthcare UK, said the pharma industry is "very demanding of innovation" among agencies.
"The idea of being able to bring in a product or a service which helps get to a hidden understanding or insight into why patients behave as they do, how they think or feel as they do – and doctors as well – opens a real opportunity for us, because as it gives a commercial advantage in a setting where everybody asks the same questions."
He added: "We can bring in the WHY experts to help work on existing business, but we act as a standalone business unit as well."
Rebecca Grant, UK chief executive of BCW, said the launch is part of a particular focus placed on creativity and innovation at the agency over the past two years. "Healthcare has been one of the most successful areas of the business and it felt like a natural time to look at what more we could be doing.
"I feel this is more and more of what's actually going to make a difference, so for us to offer this capability and this expertise to our clients feels incredibly rich and fruitful. These are the questions clients are asking us – it isn't about 'rational' anymore."
Last year the agency launched BCW NeuroLab, which uses neuroscience to help gain a deeper understanding of why audiences think, feel and behave the way they do.
Last month PRWeek reported that BCW had merged its London corporate and public affairs practices and named Nick Williams group managing director of the new division, along with a raft of senior promotions.