“Data is the new creative” sparks tiff and 5 more things you missed at a digital pharma conference

One of the most notable things about the digital pharmaceutical sector is that it’s accepted and is now a valid part of pharmaceutical marketing.

The impact of having so many tools to track consumer and physician behavior online, and to see how consumers view their products on Twitter and Facebook and other social media tools has been something of a boon to pharmaceutical companies who can put that data to work to create more personalized campaigns. But the way it was presented in a trend seminar didn’t sit well with some.

That’s just one of the interesting things that went down at the Digital Pharma East pharmaceutical digital marketing conference in Philadelphia this week. Another was a move by one seminar to open with an altered cover of “Blowin’ in the Wind” articulating the challenges of digital marketing and close with the Gangnam Style video, were among the surprising highlights of the event. Here a few of the more surprising statements, observations and case studies highlighted at the event.

A tiff about data eclipsing creative marketing’s importance. A couple of the pharmaceutical trends highlighted in one presentation were about the increasing use of data to quantify consumer behavior, which also has a lot of implications for how healthcare professionals and pharmaceutical companies try to reach them. Part of that means marketers can develop more customized campaigns for the target audience of a particular drug or medical condition. That didn’t sit too well with some of the attendees who interpreted the point made by Jay Goldman, the senior vice president of innovation at Klick Health, as data has replaced creative, which was the wrong conclusion to make, he said. “Our point is [advertising/marketing] is no longer about brilliant and creative execution; it’s about brilliant and creative execution resting on a solid data foundation. We didn’t have the same data capabilities that we do now. Data underlies everything in the digital realm.”


Stop using your website as a selling platform. Peter Dannenfelser, director of Janssen Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing for North America, and Zoe Dunn, a principal at Hale Advisors, made the point that companies have access to much more content that can be better used to reach patients. Bill Drummy of Heartbeat Ideas in a separate presentation also called attention to the issue: “How much effort do we put into a website with no demonstrable return on investment?” Galderma Laboratories, a drug company, worked with the National Rosacea Foundation to launch a website and Facebook page: Rosacea Facts. It is designed to call attention to the problem that the condition is frequently misdiagnosed as acne and a lot of people aren’t familiar with it. The Facebook page includes a public service announcement video by actress Cynthia Nixon from the movie and TV series “Sex in the City”, who has the condition. Users post their experiences on the website and share information. “We’re not stopping the conversation,” Drummy said and pointed out that the campaign was much cheaper than TV. But it should be pointed out that I could not view Nixon’s videos on the website. It comes across as a helpful public service.

Be daring. It might be one thing for a pharmaceutical company to develop a drug that addresses a condition like low testosterone, a condition which affects a pretty big chunk of the population. But how do you reach a market who probably doesn’t like talking about the condition, let alone acknowledge that they might have it? Drummy pointed out that the challenge before the marketing team was starting a conversation that had to be balanced in a way that engaged audiences without making them feel insulted or embarrassed from an authority figure. Early assessments concluded they wouldn’t appreciate the message coming from their partner or even a doctor. It came up with a video commercial that ran on Sports Illustrated’s website that balanced humor with information and a call to action.

Computers can be more effective than TV at reaching the consumer audience. At a time when marketers have to compete with smartphones and TV as consumers surf the Web, Drummy made the case that commercials can be more effective on computers than other mediums. For example, most people record TV programs on DVR and race through the commercials when they can. But with online channels like Hulu, a Web-based selection of TV shows, there is no way to opt out of the commercials. Internet advertising tends to be much cheaper than TV. And with the amount of time people spend on their computers at the office or at home, companies stand a better chance of reaching them there.

Digital health marketing company launches coffee table book. I wouldn’t associate a digital health marketing agency with print, but for Klick Health’s 15th anniversary, it came out with a really thick coffee table book. In addition to a profile of the 15-year-old independent agency, the book also highlights pharmaceutical trends highlighted by Goldman. It’s also launching an app for the presentation in the next couple of weeks.

It only takes one person with a SCUD missile to destroy a project. This could apply to any industry, really, but it came from a digital pharma social media panel discussion. So many people need to sign off on initiatives before they are executed like the regulatory and legal teams, such are the risks of incurring an angry letter from the U.S. Food ad Drug Administration. Alison Woo, Bristol-Myers Squibb’s director of social media, said it underscored the need to involve all of the critical groups early and often as partners instead of seeing them as a hurdle. Articulating the challenges of pharma digital marketing, GSK Global Digital Services senior director Jeremy Pincus noted: “Digital pharma takes up 15 percent of my team’s budget, 70 percent of their time and 90 percent of their frustration.”


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