Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Helping Pharma eMarketing "Grow Up"

We survivors of the dotcom boom and bust era who still believe in the Internet as the greatest communications medium ever invented, have long lamented the fact that pharmaceutical marketers -- whose job IS communications -- have largely ignored the Internet.

In terms of measured media spending -- which is what Nielsen measures -- pharma spending on Internet advertising represents only 1% of the total ad spend (see pie chart below and refer to details in "Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities"). Even if you were to add in search advertising, the pharma Internet sliver of the ad spend pie would hardly increase.

Yesterday, I met with a nice young executive who described himself as an "Integrated Marketing Specialist," which these days is a coded message that says "I do online marketing, but I cannot say that directly because pharma people will roll their eyes. Therefore I use 'integrated' so that they feel more relaxed."

Anyway, this executive related a story about the pushback he has often received from pharma brand managers who have sat in on guest lectures he does at a local university. You've probably experienced the same kind of pushback; namely, "how do I know it works?" or something like that.

This is really a dare to engage in an argument that you often cannot win. Sometimes, you just don't have the data to "prove" that online marketing/advertising works. But you can get the data from sources such as ComScore, a company that develops and publishes consumer e-marketing effectiveness benchmarks for the pharmaceutical industry in association with Evolution Road.

Utilizing panelist behavioral and survey data from current and prospective patients, ComScore's benchmarks provide pharmaceutical marketers with a better understanding of which e-marketing initiatives – whether online banner ads, search marketing or branded and unbranded websites – have the biggest impact on brand awareness, brand favorability, incremental new patient starts and incremental current patient adherence/next fill.

I will be having a live podcast conversation about ComScore's benchmarks and methodology this coming Thursday at 1:00 PM Eastern time. Click here for more information and where to go to listen live and participate in a simultaneous online chat.
[Full disclosure: I am not currently doing any paid promotional work for ComScore.]
So, the data is out there. But even with the data that proves that the ROI of online marketing is very good and maybe even better than print or TV, you will not convince brand managers to change their habits and wean themselves from TV. They just won't listen, their eyes glaze over, "When will this presentation be over so I can get a doughnut and sit behind the camera while my agency shoots the next TV ad?" they're thinking.

IMHO, brand managers' entrenched reliance on TV-based DTC advertising is the biggest obstacle to overcome if eMarketers want a bigger slice of the pharma promotional pie. And there-in lies a way to bypass the "ROI" death trap.

If you are ever in a situation similar to that of the Integrated Marketing Specialist I mentioned above, here's what I recommend you do: Invite your product/brand manager audience to play a little game called "World Without TV DTC."

Imagine if you will a world where DTC advertising on TV was not permitted until 3 years AFTER a drug is launched. It's not so hard -- especially when the political winds are shifting as they are today.

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Without TV, what's your NEXT BEST strategy to reach a massive amount of people economically?

I would guess that 80% of brand managers would say the next best strategy is the Internet and not print. Why? Because you can still do creative video via the Internet. Or, to put it another way, ad agencies can still do what they like to do and get paid well for doing it.

In other words, while the Internet in today's TV-dominated world is a DISTANT #2 or #3; but in a world without DTC on TV, the Internet suddenly would be #1.

Now you know why I am so critical of TV DTC ads! It's my way of helping Pharma eMarketing Grow Up! ComScore and Verispan have their ways and I have mine.

Now, only if Edwards would endorse Obama and help him write his anti-pharma platform, us eMarketers would surely reap a windfall profit!

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