Monday, March 31, 2008

Sepracor Not So Keen to Spend Big on DTC for Its Next Product!

Today at the 2nd Annual Pharmaceutical Sales & Marketing Executive Congress, David Lapinski, Associate Director, Commercial Analytics at Sepracor -- the marketer of Lunesta -- confirmed what I said last week: we will "less and less" of the luna moth. But he was not talking about see less of the moth flitting around in DTC ads. There will be less Lunesta DTC advertising overall!

The Luna moth, claimed Lapinski, increased the size of the sleep aid market, but Sepracor was NOT the sole beneficiary. The Sanofi-Aventis people sitting next to me at lunch afterward, verified this assessment by smiling broadly when I brought up the remarks of Lapinski. Sanofi-Aventis markets Ambien CR, Lunesta's competitor.

"DTC," said Lapinski, "does not sell the product. Awareness doesn't generate sales." He was imparting to us a lesson learned the hard way and emphasized the importance of the physician in generating sales. That prompted me to ask if Sepracor spent as much on physician marketing of Lunesta as it did on DTC marketing, or did it spend less or more?

The answer to that question could have settled the controversy I started last week when I estimated that the ROI of the total Lunesta marketing campaign was almost certainly negative or very poor (see "Pharma Marketing ROI: The Emperor Has No Clothes!").

Alas, I did not get a straight answer. Mr. Lapinski instead quoted a Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) report that asserted that "DTC ads represent only 14 percent of pharmaceutical companies' marketing budgets" (see "Beyond Advertising: The Pharmaceutical Industry's Hidden Marketing Tactics"). Lapinski thought this piece of information would help minimize the importance of DTC in pharma's overall marketing effort and therefore not be worthy of all the Congressional and consumer opposition it generated.

When I apply the 14% solution to the Lunesta marketing ROI analysis, I am afraid it does not help prove that Lunesta marketing demonstrated a positive ROI in 2007.

If the Lunesta DTC budget was 14% of the total marketing budget, then that would mean Lunesta in 2007 spent $243 million on DTC advertising (allowing for Bob Erhlich's 40% discount from reported ad spend) and about $1.74 BILLION on ALL marketing. Compare that to the $600 million in sales and you can understand why we will be seeing less Lunesta DTC in 2008.

Whatever the ROI of Lunesta DTC, I got the impression from Lapinski that Sepracor is now a wee bit "DTC shy." Sepracor, said Lapinski, will be getting into the allergy market, which is another strong DTC-driven market. But, he said, Sepracor will take a hard look at the benefits of DTC before initiating a campaign likely to benfit competitors as much or more than their own product.

While Lapinski was trying to convince us to accept the 14% estimate, Michael Woody, PhRMA's Director of Federal Affairs, claimed that the drug industry spent a mere $11.4 billion on all marketing (DTC AND physician detailing) last year. If you believe both these estimates, you would conclude that pharma only spent about $1.6 billion on DTC advertising. This is pretty far off the $5 billion that is generally quoted by experts. That's some discount!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Pharma Marketing ROI: The Emperor Has No Clothes!

Christiane Truelove, Editor of MedAdNews said in a Pharma Blogs: Week in Review, "we really don’t know what any company’s ROI is, because we never have a full picture of what is spent. All that spend for doctors is never broken out in an annual report. We can only guess."

She was commenting on my post "Lunesta Moth Being Mothballed as a Result of Negative Marketing ROI."

She essentially takes the same position as Bob Ehrlich, publisher of DTC Perspectives, who said in a comment to my post: "This lack of insider spending knowledge is why we do not attempt to calculate external ROI analyses."

Which prompts me to compose a modern pharma publishing fable.
A publisher of a well-known pharmaceutical trade magazine who cared too much about advertisers hired two editors who promised him the finest articles based on the most reliable sources and insightful analysis of the pharmaceutical industry.

These articles, they tell the Publisher, will appear to be void of critical analysis to anyone who was either stupid or not fit to be an expert on the pharmaceutical industry.

The Publisher is nervous about being able to see the insights in the articles himself so he sends his copy editors and fact checkers to view the articles. They see that the articles say nothing of substance yet praise them for the insightful analyses therein.

When the editors report that the articles are ready for publication, the Publisher allows his trade magazine to run the stories and be distributed all through the pharmaceutical industry.

In due course, a small blogger cries out, "But these stories lack substance, merely praising pharma at every turn!" The crowd of pharma people eventually realizes the blogger is telling the truth and begins laughing. The Publisher, however, holds his head high and continues to publish similar articles.
A Learning Experience
Whether my Lunesta marketing ROI analysis was a "guess" based on little or no information or an analysis based on facts and industry average practice is a minor point in comparison to what I and my readers learned from the process and resulting dialogue -- something that frequently is missing in pharma trade publications.

Ehrlich, for example, informed us in a comment to my post that "Reported spending on DTC is always about 40% more than the company actually spends on media." Does he know this for certain or is HE just GUESSING? Since he has experience in DTC marketing, I'll take his word for it. I wonder, however, why Nielsen and other companies that report media spending, don't mention this?

Anyway, let's suppose that it's a fact. If I recalculate the ROI discounting 40% from the DTC spend but assuming that spending on physician promotion is 2X as much, I still get that Sepracor spent more on marketing Lunesta in 2007 ($702 million) than it got back in sales ($600).

Let's use data from a November, 2006 GAO report ("Improvements Need in FDA's Oversight of Direct-to-Consumer Advertising"), which says the ratio of physician promotion to DTC is about 1.7 (2005 data: $4.2bn for DTC and $7.0bn for DTPhysician, which does not include CME spending -- about $1.1 billion that year -- and probably not salaries or bonuses paid to sales reps). If I use that low ratio in my analysis, I get about $632 for all Lunesta promotion vs. $600 million in sales. Still negative.

Another "guess" that Ehrlich made was that Lunesta may spend LESS on physician promotion than DTC "because this brand is more consumer pull driven than many pharma brands." Spend less on physician promotion than on DTC? I suppose that could be -- and I admit it's one of the things we don't know because such data is not broken out in pharma company annual reports. But if it is true, then shame on Sepracor!
[SIDE ISSUE: I say shame on Sepracor because 77% of American adults agree with the statement that "the cost of [DTC] ads makes Rx drugs too expensive" (see "What Americans Think About Drug Advertising"). The Lunesta DTC spending far and away exceeds every other Rx drug's DTC spend -- see "Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities" -- and it may well be more than what Sepracor spends on promotion to physicians.

Perhaps if the drug industry was more frugal in how it spent its DTC advertising dollars and maybe if it held back on DTC advertising of new drugs for a year or so after launch and focused more on innovative physician marketing (eg, online closed loop marketing; see here), it would help to counteract the impression that DTC advertising leads to higher drug costs.]
Let's compromise and say Sepracor spends the same on physician promotion as it does on consumer promotion -- this way we all are happy. In that case, the total promotional spend -- still allowing for the 40% over-estimate on DTC ad spend -- would then be $468 million vs. $600 million in sales.

So, finally, we are in positive ROI territory: this new estimate suggests that Sepracor got back $1.28 for every $1.00 it spent on promotion of Lunesta to consumers and physicians. This is not so good considering that IMS -- another entity that "guesses" about pharma marketing ROI, says that "Seventy percent of the brands analyzed have an [DTC] ROI in excess of $1.50 for each dollar invested; 35 percent were in excess of $2.50. The best performing brand in the study yielded an ROI of $6.50 per dollar invested" (see "eDetailing ROI Better than DTC?"). Bob Ehrlich himself guessed -- sorry, estimated -- that the ROI for DTC advertising is in the range of $1.60 to $2.00 per every dollar invested and some estimates are as high as $4.00 per dollar invested (see "Key Issues Facing DTC Marketers in 2004").

That just some guesses on the DTC side of the Lunesta marketing ROI analysis. Our estimate of an ROI of $1.28 encompasses BOTH DTC and physician promotion. I can't imagine that the physician ROI is less than $1.28; consequently, the actual DTC ROI must be somewhat less than $1.28.

Whatever numbers we use, Lunesta is in trouble and Sepracor knows it, I know it, every child (and investor) out their watching the emperor strut down the street knows it!

P.S. This is all grist for my mill in preparation for the opening keynote presentation I will be making at the Measuring Marketing ROI in Pharma conference on June 24, 2008 in London (see the programme here). Unfortunately, they don't do DTC advertising in Europe and I expect all this "guessing" about the ROI of Lunesta's marketing campaign would be irrelevant to my European audience.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Lunesta Moth Being Mothballed as a Result of Negative Marketing ROI

Photo by Max Talbot-Minkin. The original photo is here.

The Lunesta moth
-- shown above in an out-take from a TV ad -- is being mothballed!

The new Lunesta sleep-aid medication TV ad that aired on NBC Nightly News last night did not focus on the moth flitting from house to house in the dead of night. In fact, I don't even remember the moth being there at all! Perhaps, despite its pleasing and soothing green color, the moth was too frightening? I don't know about you, but I emphasize with the guy in the above photo. Who can fall asleep with a moth flitting around your room. The flapping of wings would drive me nuts, not to mention the eerie glow!

The new ad may be the last hurrah of the McCann agency, which is being replaced by Kaplan Thaler -- the folks that brought us the ill-fated Jarvik Lipitor ads. This is a big coup for Kaplan -- Sepracor, the company that markets Lunesta, spent $246.4 million on Lunesta direct-to-consumer (DTC) ads in the first 9 months of 2007 (I got this number from the March 2008 issue of DTC Perspectives magazine, which gets its data from Nielsen Monitor-Plus). That's way more than the next highest big spender -- Ambien CR -- which spent $130.6 million in the same period (see the nice graph in a previous post: "Lunesta's Ad Spending Spree and Other DTC Oddities"). NOTE: These numbers do not include ad agency or production fees!

Any way, the new ad did not have much of a role for the loony moth because it focused more on being awake and alert during the day than being asleep at night. And there's no place for a moth in daylight.

The ad basically showed a woman getting up after a restful night's sleep and being very chipper during the day as a school teacher, willing and able to take on her third-grade kids and encourage them to make music with kitchen utensils.

The ad's tag line is "A great tomorrow starts tonight." I'm happy to see that the Lunesta Web site is in sync with the TV ad. The site still shows the moth in the intro screen -- but only briefly flying across the screen before a dissolve to an image of a woman sitting up in bed in broad daylight, ready to take on the world. [Where I am, daylight savings time means getting up while it's still VERY dark out there!]

There's also a link to the "new" TV ad on the site, but (1) it doesn't work for me using either my Firefox or IE browser, and (2) it doesn't look like the ad I saw last night on TV. Maybe they are having some technical difficulties switching video files. Hey, Sepracor guys! Aren't you glad I'm beta testing your product Web site?

Why would an agency that will soon be replaced come up with a new ad at this time? DTC Perspectives claims that "sales of Lunesta, estimated at roughly $600 million in 2007, apparently did not meet company expectations."

Let's do the math
In 2007, Sepracor spent about $27.3 million per month on DTC advertising for Lunesta -- I assume this includes TV, print, radio, billboards, Internet ads, etc. but not search engine marketing (which would only be about 1-2% of the total DTC spend in any case, so let's ignore that). In addition, it must have spent three times that -- or about $82 million per month -- on detailing and physician marketing, which on average, is about 3X DTC, not including the wholesale cost of samples given to physicians. But, let's be conservative and say that the Lunesta physician promo budget in 2007 was only 2X the DTC budget or $54 million per month.

Do you see where this is going?

Negative marketing ROI and stock price
The total Lunesta marketing budget, therefore, may be $81 million per month or $972 million per year! If sales were only $600 million, then YEAH, Sepracor should be a tad disappointed! And if I held Sepracor stock I'd be a tad disappointed also. Negative ROI is directly related to Sepracor's negative stock price growth (see chart below). QED and say good-bye to the moth as it is incinerated in the flame of creative ad agencies.

P.S. As much as I like DTC Perspectives and other pharmaceutical industry trade publications, I must say -- "with all due respect" -- they are a bit remiss in not doing this kind of analysis. Yes, they report the numbers, but it seems that only people like me have the inclination to calculate the relation between 9 months of DTC ad spend shown in a table on page 10 and the yearly sales number hidden in a paragraph on page 6! I just assume everyone would think to check the Sepracor stock price and see if there were any relation to marketing ROI.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pharma Recession, Part Deux: Online Ad Spending Sinking!

At first I thought the pharmaceutical industry would escape the recession altogether.

Then came a troubling sign: Drug sales in the U.S. grew at their slowest pace since 1961, said IMS on March 12 (see "Drug Sales in U.S. Grow at Slower Pace").

OK, that was NOT a decline, but a slowing pace of growth AND it was attributable to competition with generic drugs, demand for which spiked as the U.S. Medicare program for the first time offered prescription drugs to the elderly.

Then, eMarketer rethought its forecast for online spending across all industries (see "Online Ad Spending Predictions Dip").

"Last fall, eMarketer said U.S. advertisers would spend about $27.5 billion online in 2008, but now they're predicting about $25.8 billion will be shelled out on the Web. There's a silver lining: interactive advertising will still grow by about 23% from 2007 -- and will survive much better than other forms of traditional advertising. The healthiest sector of interactive advertising? Search – it should account for the about 40% of online spending this year." (ADOTAS)

Again, this is a decrease in GROWTH, not an absolute decline. Also, the numbers refer to ALL industries, not just the drug industry, whose online spending is so minuscule it could hardly decrease!

Also, eMarketer projected that annual growth in US pharmaceutical online ad spending is rising again after a dip last year (2007), and that it will hit 28.6% in 2009 (see figure, left). Again, talking about dip in GROWTH, not absolute numbers!


But wait! There's more!

Nielsen Monitor-Plus tracks measured media ad spending. This includes TV, magazines, radio, outdoor, newspapers, and the Internet (excluding search). The latest numbers I have come from the March 2008 issue of DTC Perspectives magazine. These numbers compare the first nine months spending in 2007 with the same period in 2006. While there is an overall increase of 2.6%, there was a absolute drop of 14.7% in Internet ad spending by pharma in Q1-Q3 2007 vs. 2006. That is, whereas pharma spent $58.1 million in Q1-Q3 2006, it spent only $49.5 million in the same period of 2007! (see pie chart).

That's a real recession/depression in the online pharma marketing segment!

It is clear that pharmaceutical marketing executives are NOT putting their money where their mouths are. A March 2007 survey of 68 executives/subscribers to Med Ad News claims that the importance of the Internet as a marketing channel rated 8.1 on a 10-point scale according to these executives. The Internet, they claimed, was higher in importance to them than traditional media!

Something must have happened between March 2007 and the end of September 2007, because pharma Internet advertising declined 14.7% whereas magazine advertising increased 7.2%! There was a non-significant decline of 0.3% in network TV advertising, but that was more than made up by a hefty 21.5% increase in cable TV pharma advertising.

Here's what I think happened: When there is doubt about the future or when cutbacks are demanded, that is no time for out-of-the-box thinking or for betting on new technologies. Better to stick to the "tried and true" channels. You can't be faulted for making the same bet your predecessor/boss made. If TV and print fail, then it must be a problem across the board for all brands and all companies -- no one could lay the blame on you. On the other hand, if you took a leap of faith and spent more on the Internet and less on traditional media and sales dipped, then you would be tarred and feathered! Who would take that chance?

Reader Poll Results So Far
At best, there are mixed signals out there about whether or not the pharma industry is in a recession. Results so far from my little poll -- see the left sidebar -- show that 60% of readers of this blog believe the industry in a recession (51%) or soon will be (9%). Another 17% say it's not a recession, but the industry is hurting. Let me know what you think.

BTW, you can find part une of this story here.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama and Pharma: A More Perfect Union

Sorry. This post is not about what will happen to the profits of the pharmaceutical industry should Barack Obama become president. It's about Obama's speech on race and how it relates to diversity and racial issues in the pharmaceutical industry.

Obama spoke about discrimination:
"But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination."
Is there discrimination in the pharmaceutical industry? Maybe no more than any other industry, but I see some troubling signs: "Are Some Drug Companies Promoting a Racist Workplace Culture?" and "Why are so many blacks leaving Centocor?" (a post on Cafe Pharma -- warning: racist and hateful remarks) and "Lily-White Lilly. Homophobic and Sexist Too?"

But Obama's message was also one of hope, especially in young people:
"This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election."


"The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American."
So instead of criticizing the pharma industry over racist incidents, which may be more common than we think, I think we should "work through" the complexities and solve the challenges in a positive way.

A few people have discussed the need to offer young people of color who are interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry positive role models through the stories of people who have "made it." And the people of color who have made it should not only tell their stories, but also help mentor young people however they can.

I know that there are people out there that are already doing this. Perhaps Obama's speech will encourage them to come forward and not feel cynical or doubtful, but pass their learnings on to the next generation with the hope that it will make a more perfect union.

Friday, March 21, 2008

I'm All a Twitter Over Twitter! Viral Social Marketing at Its Best?

Yesterday at lunch, Anthony Bianciella, VP of Marketing at MTI ( asked me if I ever used Twitter.

"Nope, I have never used it. What is it?," I asked.

He explained what it was and I immediately decided to try it because a recent Comfony study suggested that agencies "walk the walk" if they are going to provide advice about social media communications (see Fard's post on this: "Cymfony Says Agencies 'Don't Get' Social Media, Urges Them To 'Walk The Walk'").
"Twitter is hard to understand for normal people. The service – approaching 1 million users in the neighborhood of its first birthday – is among the most rapidly adopted applications ever. Without hyperbole, I would say that every marketing exec should be on Twitter," says Mike Troiano ("Real People Use Twitter").
What you do is get an account and start posting updates ("tweets") about what you're doing or thinking. I have a widget that posts the last five of my tweets here on Pharma Marketing Blog (see left: "What's Mack doing or thinking right now?"). As I write this, the following tweets are active:
  • Posting about Twitter when I should be writing articles! less than a minute ago
  • Got to step out and bring the bimmer in for service! about an hour ago
  • Slow day -- good time to work on the next issue of Pharma Marketing News! about 3 hours ago
  • Trying to customize my Twitter home page at about 17 hours ago
  • Working on some online surveys for a client...
Cool huh?

"What's the point?" you might ask. Aside from "walking the walk," I thought it would be a good way to promote myself and let people know what I do all day other than write this here blog! Maybe it will bring me more business, I dunno.

It may also enhance my personal relationship with readers, who can also have a Twitter account and put me into their Twitter people to follow list. And I can also follow YOU, which would be more interesting to me (especially in terms of market research about what my readers' interests are).
NOTE: For the road warriors out there, you can post tweets using the text messaging feature of your cell phone.
So far, I have one person in my list: kosherfrog (he's Jewish and French); someone I haven't heard from in several years. Twelve days ago he posted this: "Thinking about Participatory Medicine."

Twitter can search for people in its network from your e-mail address book. It will only look into hotmail, yahoo, or gmail e-mail address books, however. You can also type in e-mail addresses for it to use to find other Twitter people.

The guy I quoted above thinks Twitter will be an important tool for marketers:
"Strategically speaking, what this means for brands is that real get into the right headspace to do real work that speaks authentically to people, you have to walk the walk. For the people behind the ads – clients, marketing execs, CDs and writers, you and me – it's time to get real as well. It's time to come to terms with the fact that we cannot and should not keep our 'Work' and 'Home' lives in separate boxes. There’s one you – just like everybody else – and in the end making the leap of faith required to expose that real, flawed, whole person is the key to understanding not only social networking, but the spiraling number of people who participate in it every day."
Viral Social Marketing
Eventually, Twitter will offer ad space just like ads found on Google search pages. The ads will be served based on keywords found in tweets. For example, suppose I posted this:
"Plan to call my doctor today about Zetia, Should I stop taking it?"
Lo and behold, when that person visits his/her Twitter page the next time, there's an ad for Zetia -- or better yet, Crestor! Not only on that page, but maybe on the pages of that person's list of people!

You can only imagine what the limits for such viral social marketing are!

Join me at

Reporting Gifts to Physicians -- on this I Agree

There's now a Senate and House of Representatives version of the "Physician Payment Sunshine Act," which would require pharmaceutical companies to post in electronic format (ie, Web site) every gift or payment over $25 made to a physician (and name, address, etc. of the physician). Not just gifts given directly by drug reps, but also "through an agent, subsidiary, or other third party" and not just directly to physicians, but also "an entity that a physician is employed by, has tenure with, or has a significant ownership interest in; or to a covered organization in which a physician has a significant professional membership interest..."

This "sunshine" bill also has a few dark clouds associated with it.

I have to agree with Bob Ehrlich of DTC Perspectives that "this bill seems overly onerous" and "is meant to discourage payments to doctors by outing them and the drug company on a public site."

Bob also said:
"I would support public disclosure of payments of significance such as for speaking to other physicians on a drug company's behalf. I would also support disclosure of free trips to symposia or other influence peddling events such as Super Bowl trips. Clearly reporting large payments is useful in public understanding of how drug companies influence doctors."
Do I agree with this? I hate to sound like a Clinton, but it all depends on what "large" means. Is "large" more than $100? This is the cutoff amount specified in PhRMA's voluntary guidelines on gifts to physicians. Usually, these types of bills attempt to codify such voluntary guidelines and I'm not sure where the $25 limit came from other than the idea of setting the bar so low that it would put the pharma "tchochke" industry out of business!

Industry-sponsored CME Also In This Bill's Sights
The bill would also require reporting of payments made to physicians for "participation in a medical conference, continuing medical education, other educational or informational program or seminar, or funded research (such as lab-based, epidemiology, or health services research) that is not a clinical trial; provision of materials related to such a conference, educational or informational program or seminar, or research; or remuneration for promoting or participating in such a conference, educational or informational program or seminar, or research;"

Survey Results
Pharma Marketing News, which I publish, did a survey of readers in 2006 asking their opinions on whether or not the following gifts to physicians create conflicts of interest:

* Free drug samples
* Free meals away from the office
* Pharma-supported CME (free to physicians)
* Payment for consulting relationships
* Payment for travel to meetings or scholarships to attend meetings
* Payment for participation in speakers bureaus
* Free provision of ghostwriting services
* Grants for research projects
* Payment for attendance at lectures and conferences
* Free lunch delivered to office in exchange for sales presentation

You can review an interactive summary of the results (de-identified, excludes open-ended responses and comments that may identify the respondent) here.

For a complete in-depth analysis with comments from Pharma Marketing Roundtable participants, see the article "Free Gifts to Physicians: What's the Big Deal?" published in the February, 2006 issue of Pharma Marketing News (subscription or reprint fee required to access the full text of this article).

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Make Way for the 150-Second Vytorin TV Ad

Schering-Plough CEO Fred Hassan told listeners at a recent Lehman Brothers healthcare conference that Vytorin-Zetia TV ads will soon be back on the air. This time, however, do NOT expect to see the cute food-people comparison ads, which I thought were getting old a long time ago (see "Vytorin Ads Are Getting Old -- and Disturbing!").

As I said before:
Personally, I don't think there's a snowball's chance in hell that the people-food comparison ads will come back. They are as dead as dodos. SP-Merck will have to come up with new ads like Pfizer did for Celebrex after Vioxx (a similar NSAID) was pulled from the market (see "New Vytorin TV Ads Are in the Works - IMHO").
As a matter of fact, my sources (neurons) tell me that the new Vytorin ads will be very similar to the Celebrex 150-second commercial. Not similar in style, but similar in length (150 seconds) and message; ie, there are risks and here's what they are, but the benefits outweigh the risks for the right kind of people, see your doctor.

The new Vytorin ads will also have to counteract the anti-atherosclerosis campaign by Crestor (see "Crestor Print Ad Touts Plaque Buildup Advantage"). But that will have play second fiddle to convincing us that taking Vytorin is worth the risk.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Is the Pharma Industry in a Recession?

The U.S. has finally slid into recession, according to the majority of economists in the latest Wall Street Journal economic-forecasting survey (see "Most Economists Say Recession Has Arrived as Outlook Darkens").

Drug sales in the U.S. grew at their slowest pace since 1961 according to IMS Health Inc. (see "Drug Sales in U.S. Grow at Slower Pace").

Just how how mild or strong or long this recession will be is any body's guess!

Like everyone else, I'm wondering how the recession may affect my business, which depends upon how well my clients -- i.e., you -- are doing.

Many of readers of Pharma Marketing Blog service the pharmaceutical industry (see "Who Reads Pharma Marketing Blog"), which is not growing as fast as it did in the past. Usually, that means cutting back on expenses -- especially labor expenses. But will the industry also cut back on advertising and promotion, which is our bread and butter?

What can we do?

First, do we believe that there will be cutbacks in ad budgets? You can give your opinion by taking this little poll.

Is the Pharma Industry in a Recession?
Not sure
Not yet, but soon
May not be a recession, but it's hurting!

If you think there is a recession in the industry, what should we do? Should we stop criticizing the industry and let it do its thing? Maybe. But I think it's more important that we help the industry be more effective with whatever budget it has.

We also have to think of ourselves.

BusinessWeek magazine has this to say:
"...while hunkering down at work is a natural reaction, a few bold strokes on the job front—raising rather than lowering your profile—is the wiser course of action. The job-saving mantra we've heard before is one that bears repeating: Network, network, network." (See "Strategies for Surviving the Slump".)
What's your strategy for surviving the slump?

Now more than ever we need to get the word out about our business and do it cost-effectively. Online and e-mail based marketing, which is what I do, should fare very well in that scenario (knock on wood).

One thing IS certain. This is no time to sit back and wait for opportunities to come to you!

You must get out there and network if you expect to keep your job, keep your current clients, find new new clients, and generally CREATE opportunities rather than wait for them to come to you! That is why I am AGAIN hosting a networking event for pharmaceutical marketing professionals.

I have done this in the past via Pharma Marketing Network with great success. The last networking event I hosted in April, 2006, was attended by over 100 people! (See photos, sponsors, and attendee list here.)

I expect this year's event to be as, if not more, successful. In order to ensure that, I encourage you to take a few minutes to answer the Networking Event Preferences Survey that will help me design a networking event that is perfect for you and me!

At the end of the survey you will have the opportunity to get your name on the short list of people I will contact PRIOR to announcing the event. I will also offer you a 15-25% discount for early bird registration.

Your response to this survey is strictly confidential and no identifiable information you provide will be shared with third parties unless you give me permission to contact you.

Access the survey here: Networking Event Preferences Survey

Whatever your slump survival tactics are, Good luck!

P.S. if you wish to share your survival strategy, please consider posting your ideas and suggestions to the "Networking Opportunities" online discussion board/forum I have set up over at the Pharma Marketing Network Forums site.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Cymbalta-Spitzer Contextual Web Advertising

It's not often we can get a drug brand name and a major political/prostitution ring scandal mentioned in the same headline!

Take a look at this "contextual Web advertising" coup for Cymbalta:

(Click on image for an enlarged view.)

According to a Wikipedia entry:
"Contextual advertising is the term applied to advertisements appearing on websites or other media, such as content displayed in mobile phones, where the advertisements are selected and served by automated systems based on the content displayed by the user."
This might be better described as "contextual kismet advertising."

Thanks, Robert for the tip!

Pets Welcome, Pharma Not at Oregon CME Event

The Oregon Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) is hosting its 61st Annual CME Weekend at Salishan Spa and Golf Resort in Glendale Beach, OR this May. There'll be plenty of golf, tennis, beach activities, spa rejuvenation, wining and dining, kiting, and shopping at this "pet friendly" lodge, but pharmaceutical companies are verbotin!

A Deluxe Guestroom goes for a mere $165 per night and $195 for a Premier Guestroom. Even with the one-time additional charge of $25 per pet, this is a pretty sweet deal for a room such as the one shown below!

No Room at This Inn for Pharma!

As the program guide says, this event is "Pharma Free: The OAFP is 100% free of any pharmaceutical company funding or support. Consequently, this CME conference has dispensed with a traditional exhibit hall."

Presumably, what won't be free is the golf, tikki bar on the beach, and pet grooming! These CME bonuses are traditionally provided by pharma sponsors.

"...we felt we needed a clean house ourselves," said OAFP executive director Kelly Gonzales in an interview with Pharmalot. "Now, we feel we’re in a better position to confront them."
Won't OAFP take "a big hit by rejecting financial support?", asked Ed Silverman.

"We're going to find out," said Gonzales. "We're still putting on CME seminars, of course, but as I mentioned, not taking any unrestricted grants, so we’re looking for other financial support. But being pharma-free has actually proven to be a good selling point. We're attracting interest from some health plans and hospital systems, people we've not traditionally approached in the past. It's more work to get those sources, but there are also electronic medical records companies and insurance companies. So it's possible."
Yes, it's possible to put on "pharma-free" CME events, but is it profitable?

BTW, here's a question or two I have that Ed did not ask Gonzales (who I invite to respond to this post):
  1. Are the CME seminars themselves "Pharma-free"? Meaning, what are the ties of the presenters to the pharmaceutical industry?
  2. Are any attendees making their own deals for pharma-company honoraria to pay for their expenses? I assume this would make sense only if the pharma company also was sponsoring its own satellite symposia or tikki bar at the event.
Anyway, I applaud the concept since I have often wondered whether CME could be pharma-free (see, for example, "Free CME Without Direct Pharma Support: Is It Possible?"). Being pharma-free and free to attendees, however, may not be realistic. It would be interesting, therefore, to see how well this experiment works for OAFP and if it will spread to other physician organizations.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Dear AstraZeneca: Please Invite Me to a Screening of Artery Explorer, the Interactive Version

Dear AZ or AZ buzz/PR agency:

I know you are reading this blog. I've gotten several anonymous comments -- and one signed "Marilyn" -- suggesting that I take a look at the "Us Against Athero" Web site. [For my readers who haven't been "buzzed" about this yet, you can find the site here.]

What immediately caught my attention was the interactive US AGAINST ATHERO tour bus/truck/whatever (see image at left).

The Artery Explorer is "hitting the streets on a nationwide tour and could be coming to a neighborhood near [me]."

I saw the video on the Web site and it looks really cool (see image at left)! Reminds me of the Magic Mountain roller coaster ride at Disney World! I really, really want to sit in the interactive theater that must be inside this truck and experience the whole thing. I bet it's like the Spiderman ride in Universal Studios Park.

"Hop inside the state-of-the-art trailer to experience the thrill of exploring deep inside your arteries," is how you describe it on the Web site.

But I live in boring Newtown, PA, which I don't expect you'll be visiting any time soon. I notice from the Tour Schedule that the truck will be in Tempe, AZ -- it says March1, but I think you mean June 1.

I've always wanted to go to Tempe. I know someone there that I can do some business with and I hear the golfing is great!

So, I have this request: Please invite me and my wife to a personal screening of the interactive movie in Tempe, AZ. Of course, I would expect a big pharmaceutical company like you to pay my travel expenses and at least one night's stay in a posh resort/spa. That would certainly beat how I was treated by Michael Moore and even be somewhat better than the screening I got of Centocor's Innerstate movie.

I also I registered on the Web site to receive more information and participate in some market research. I may have indicated that I was a "Dr." That was a little exaggeration, but I do have a "all but dissertation" graduate degree from Columbia University. Which is sort of like having an MD degree but no license to practice medicine. I only say this in case you can only justify sending "Dr's" to Tempe and not simple bloggers like me.

Yours truly,

John Mack

Centocor: Let Thy Employees Speak!

Melissa Katz and Michael Parks of Centocor are getting a lot of feedback about their new corporate blog, CNTO411.

And they have responded -- somewhat -- to my suggestion that they allow Centocor's employees to have a voice on the blog (see "Employee Blogging and Other Comments worth Responding to...").

I'm happy that my comments have made the grade and this post is designed to press the issue further.

So, with apologies to an African American spiritual and the Old Testament of the Bible, specifically Exodus 8:1, I offer this:

"And the Blogosphere spake unto Katz and Parks, go unto Centocor's President, and say unto him, thus saith the Blogosphere, Let our employees speak, that they may serve you."

When Employees were in Pharma's hand
Let your employees speak
Oppressed so hard they could not stand
Let your employees speak

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

Thus saith the Blogosphere, bold Katz and Parks said,
Let our employees speak,
If not, CNTO411 shall be smite dead,
Let our employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

No more shall they in silence worry,
Let the employees speak,
Let them come out with Pharma's story,
Let the employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

The Blogosphere told Katz and Parks what to do,
Let your employees speak,
To lead the evangelism through,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

O come along Katz and Parks, you'll not get lost,
Let your employees speak,
Stretch out your keyboard and come across,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

CNTO411 shall stand up like a wall,
Let your employees speak,
And the walls of corporate culture and FDA regulations shall fall,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

Your competitors shall not before you stand,
Let your employees speak,
And you'll possess the best PR in the land,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

O let us all from corporate bondage flee,
Let your employees speak,
And let us all be free,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

We need not always weep and mourn,
Let your employees speak,
And wear these corporate chains forlorn,
Let your employees speak.

Go down, Katz and Parks, way down in Centocor's land
Tell the new President, Let our employees speak.

Pfizer Reneges on DTC Pledge: Afternoon Viagra Ads Appear on ESPN

Back in 2005, Pfizer said that " all [ED] TV ads will be aired during programs that have more than 90 percent adult viewership" (see "Pfizer DTC Pledge: ED is Litmus Test"). By adult I assume they mean over 18 years of age.

Yesterday, my son -- who just turned 18 -- was watching ESPN (sports) when I heard the familiar "Viva Viagra" ad. It was about 5:25 PM in the afternoon -- not prime time and not when most men over 18 years of age would be home watching TV!

I do not know the exact viewer demographics of these weekday afternoon ESPN shows, but I suspect that much MORE than 10% of afternoon viewers are UNDER 18 years of age, which would mean that Pfizer is not living up to its pledge.

"ESPN is an important brand for teens [in sports]," says Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing, which tracks trends among young people.

ESPN is extending its brand into retail as a means of strengthening its hold on the hearts and minds of millions of teen and young-adult men, according to this article, which goes on to state:
Teens are one of the prime markets for these products: the company says it reaches 72% of that elusive group each week through one of its outlets. "Our biggest TV viewers are users of other media," says Artie Bulgrin, ESPN’s senior vice president of research and sales development. "We are able to recycle our audience and navigate our audience back to TV."
Gone AND forgotten!
BTW, I could not find Pfizer's DTC pledge on its Web site. Just another indication that it has reneged on the pledge or abandoned it. It used to be here, If you can find it, please send me the link.

P.S. Pharma Marketing Blog's Spoof Viva Viagra Ads TOP the Google Image Search Results!

I have created a few images spoofing the Viva Viagra ad campaign and I am pleased to announce that the #1, #2, and #4 results of a Google Image Search on "Viva Viagra" are my spoof images! Check it out: click here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Zetia "49 Strategy" -- Wine and Dine 'em Danno!

I just got this comment from an anonymous source:
"Did you hear about SP's 'Zetia 49 Plan'? Apparently they gave all their reps a wad of cash to throw at doctors . . . "
Thinking this was just some kind of rant, I went over to the Schering Plough company board at Cafe Pharma and discovered this interesting thread:
Wondered what everyone thinks about this Zetia 49 plan??

I hate having extra $$ that I have to spend on Drs that I can barely see.
I have a hard time spending all my lunch/dinner $$ now.

Can't get docs out to dinner anyway - especially the ones they've targeted for me.

Why is there no accomodation for additions/deletions on the list from those who know the business, territory, customers the best - the reps??

This instruction that we are to have a lunch or dinner EVERY DAY - come on!! Like all the Drs offices aren't booked already for the year - or have stopped doing lunches/dinners altogether!

Hey Marketing Genuises - this isn't 1990 anymore, ya know??

Throwing money at a problem is not the way to fix things - it will only make matters worse. Have the company come clean about the study, give us some good (or even not so good) evidenced based medicine - and let us earn back the business the right way.

Hey how about replacing the Vytorin combination of Zetia and Simva with Zetia and Cheerios. Change the dose to one bowl per day with skim milk. Create a TV ad with Mikey. He will eat it Mikey eats everything. You could call it something creative like Cheatios.

Does any one think that having all this extra money thrown at us looks and feels like we are "buying" back the business - not "earning" back the business?

Once again, SP is seeing just how far it can go without crossing the line...

Hey Fred, Carrie - the line HAS been crossed!

Integrity counts!

So we have a quarter or two of single digit or no growth, its ok, you know?

Let us be proud that we work for this company rather than skulking around trying to figure out how we can spend over a thousand dollars/month to buy back the business.

Its an election year - and the whole world is watching!!

Good luck at the ACC!

Here is why it will not work:

- This is another version of increasing share of voice (SOV) in hopes of increasing prescriptions. Right from the 1990's Big Pharma Playbook. The theory is that if we pound the message enough, doctors will write.

- We have lost the trust of doctors. It is not the message, but until there is DATA showing that Zetia reduces CV events and mortality, doctors will say that we are just spewing the same old shit, and get even more pissed.

- The pharma sales model is changing. Soon, you will see more and more companies going with 1 rep per doc, and focusing on developing relatioships and trust to drive business and less focus on presentations that look like commercials.

- Fred and Carrie are hopelessly stuck in the last century.
I have to agree with the last poster. This sort of tactic is bound to backfire. It's interesting that reps cannot spend all the lunch money they have. I guess there's no recession in the pharmaceutical industry!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Do You Have the "Legs" to Engage in Social Media Marketing?

Several speakers at CBI's 7th Annual eMarketing for the Pharmaceutical Industry, which I attended yesterday in Philadelphia, preached to the choir about the importance of pharmaceutical companies to engage consumers and physicians in social networks.

"Not engaging in the conversation IS a decision," said Chris M. Scroeder, President and CEO of the The HealthCentral Network. (Chris dressed for the occasion in frumpy jeans, which makes me think he's doing well enough not to give a damn about first impressions!)

"There is as much risk in NOT participating as in participating," said Marc Weiner, President of Qi, a CommonHealth Company. He presented a Suboxone case study that I hope to review in an upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News.

Fard Johnmar over at the Healthcare VOX blog summarizes the chatter about a Comfy survey that suggests ad agencies "don't get" social media because they don't have FaceBook pages (see Cymfony Says Agencies "Don’t Get" Social Media, Urges Them To "Walk The Walk").

Fard says:
"...if you’re going to provide advice about social media communications, at the very least you have to have experience doing it. As Cymfony’s chief marketing officer Jim Nail says, agencies have to 'walk the walk.'"
Oh, sh*t! Now I'll have to get a FaceBook page to get my creds among marketers (and lose it among my children).

According to an AdAge story, TNS/Comfy surveyed "60 marketers in North America, France and the U.K. to gauge how they are faring navigating the world of social media. It asked them for feedback on their agencies' abilities to help. TNS found, in its words, 'Agencies don't get it.'"

France and the UK? Okay......

What About Pharma Marketers?

At least Marc's agency is walking the walk and not just talking! The Suboxone social media campaign included videos on FaceBook pages (comments from visitors were turned off, however).

Some others are experimenting as well.

But before you can walk, you need legs to stand on. No, no, forget walking! We're talking crawling here. Before you can CRAWL you need to stand and before you can stand you need to have legs!

As far as social media marketing is concerned, you need three legs to stand on:
  1. Regulatory "balls"
  2. Appropriate corporate culture, and
  3. Know what you are doing (aka, what TBS/Comfy and Fard are talking about)
Do you have the "legs" to begin crawling in social media marketing? Use the Pharma Marketing News Social Media Marketing Readiness Tool to find out .

Over 100 pharma marketing professionals inside and outside drug companies -- including agencies -- have rated their "readiness" for social media marketing using this tool.

The aggregate results so far are:

Leg 1: REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT (based on answers to questions relating to the internal regulatory climate of the organization -- primarily a drug company): average score is 28.0 out of a possible total of 45 points

Leg 2: CORPORATE CULTURE (based on answers to questions relating to tolerance of risk): average score is 12.7 out of a possible total of 30 points

Leg 3: KNOWLEDGE (based on answers to questions relating to respondent's knowledge of social media): average score is 13.8 out of a possible total of 25 points

The overall average score is 54.5 out of 100 possible points (that a score of 55%), which seems like a failing grade!

Lack of Social Media Culture is the Culprit
The knowledge is there and so is the readiness to take the regulatory risks (surprise!). What's really missing is the corporate culture required to engage in social media marketing. That's significant because it's not easy to change corporate culture -- it would take at least a generation to do that (ie, the old guard must be replaced with kids who grew up on FaceBook).

I will have more to say about this in an upcoming issue of Pharma Marketing News. Subscribe here and get the current and future issues FREE!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Overcoming Pharma's Employee Blogging Fears

After expressing how bored I am with pharmaceutical company corporate blogs (see "Centocor Blog - No Frying Pan and No Fire!" and "What's Next? I'm Bored!"), and not getting any ideas how to overcome my boredom from readers after 24 hours, I thought I should goose things along with a few out-of-the-box ideas for pharmaceutical company blogs.
NOTE: Over half (51.4%, to be exact) of the readers of this blog who have taken the PHARMA MARKETING READER SURVEY want to see more posts about "New Ideas" (see "Who Reads Pharma Marketing Blog?"). That's another reason for this post.
If you listen to my podcast conversation with Melissa Katz about Centocor's new CNTO411 blog or read the blog's mission statement, you might pick up something I neglected to mention in previous posts.

CNTO411 promises to talk about immunology news and issues. If so, this would be the blog equivalent to a disease-awareness, unbranded Web site. However, what's needed to make it different is a "personal voice(s)."

How do you do that?

Right now, drug companies like J&J and Centocor think that Corporate Communications VPs and Senior Directors can provide that voice. But by their own admission, these people cannot provide their personal voice/views:
" isn’t like I’m out there giving my personal opinion; I’m trying to represent my whole company here," says Melissa (see "Out of the Frying Pan").
A suggestion I have been making for a long time is to devote part of the corporate blog to the voices of "smart and passionate" employees. You may have missed Melissa's response to that suggestion, which she posted in a comment to my blog:
"I will consider your notion of giving our employees a voice on the blog. I want to do it in such a way that makes them comfortable as well. I can now speak from experience that this is a little intimidating."
If Melissa is implying that employees will be intimidated, maybe that's true. But this can be overcome with the proper internal campaign and tools to help overcome the intimidation of pushing that "publish button" and being exposed to the entire blogosphere.

I am talking about rules/guidelines and an internal recruiting campaign and tools that "tease" stories out of employees without requiring them to push the button knowing that they are representing the whole company. I never suggested that the stories should be UNFILTERED or UNEDITED! What I did say is that if an employee's remarks are edited, the employee should have the right to review the changes and refuse publication if they disagree with the changes. It can all be above-board and transparent. At the end of the post could be this employee sign-off: "I approved this post about my story. Jane Doe."

NOTE: One problem is protecting an employee's privacy and identity. That might be a risk that the employee would have to decide to take or not. Maybe the employee can remain anonymous to the outside world, but not to the people who are running the blog. These have to be real people, telling their real stories. If an employee is identifiable in a post, RULE #1 should be: Do not talk of personal matters outside of work. I sometimes break that rule and mention my family. [I do it only to give my sons something to cringe about!] You might mention your family, but you wouldn't provide details like names or what college your daughter is attending; that sort of thing. This is just another reason why employee posts must be reviewed before being published.

The campaign could be a contest to award an "Employee Blogger of the Month" plaque for the best story! The tool could be an easy questionnaire that asks employees to respond to specific questions like:
  • "What inspired you to work in the drug industry/[COMPANY NAME]?"
  • "What has been your most challenging/exciting opportunity in your job?"
  • "Describe the biggest thrill of your career/[JOB AT COMPANY]."
  • "What advice would you give a young person considering working in this industry/[THIS COMPANY]?
This is just a half-baked idea. Who knows? It may inspire yet another pharmaceutical company blog or Melissa may take the idea and run with it.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Centocor Blog - No Frying Pan and No Fire!

Yesterday Melissa Katz and Michael Parks -- the corporate communications brains behind Centocor's new blog CNTO411 (pronounced "Cento 411") -- were my guests on Pharma Marketing Talk, which is my live podcast/chat Internet talk show (you can listen to the audio archive here).

Melissa in her follow-up post to CNTO411 likened the experience to being in a frying pan (see "Out of the Frying Pan").

Usually, when someone says "out of the frying pan," the next phrase is "into the fire." But, I can assure Melissa that (1) she was never in the frying pan during my interview yesterday, and (2) she hasn't yet seen the fire!

Just to clarify: My goal is NEVER to put my podcast guests in a frying pan situation in a live interview situation. I prefer to do that here on this blog!

Actually, I do not think Melissa felt I put her and Michael on the spot. She was more critical of herself for not getting her points across and her post was meant to correct for that (ie, to get herself out of her own frying pan -- not mine!). She says:
"I don’t know if you’ve ever done a live interview on TV or radio, but it can be a little nerve wracking. I knew the subject matter, but it isn’t like I’m out there giving my personal opinion; I’m trying to represent my whole company here. The worst part of it isn’t the interview itself – it’s when you replay it in your head and think 'Doh!' when you recount all the inane things you said (especially the joke that I made that John didn’t get)."
As far as blogs go, CNTO411 is a small step for a blog, maybe a giant leap for pharma.

We veteran Pharma BlogoshereTM bloggers expect a lot more from the pharmaceutical industry when they get engaged in blogging and other Web 2.0 applications. But we shouldn't expect too much. When CNTO411 actually mentioned one of the company's FDA-regulated products -- REMICADE -- in its inaugural posting, that was a "groundbreaking" event as far as pharma industry blogging goes.

I was disappointed that I could not pin down who the intended audience of CNTO411 is. It seems it's everyone and anybody. And my brain started to glaze over when Melissa started talking about her plans for future posts about "supply chain" issues and "guest" posts focusing on the in's and out's of drug industry regulation. BORING!

Frankly, I'm already bored with every pharma company blog out there -- all two or three of them (see "What's Next? I'm Bored!"). At first, I was excited about JNJ BTW, but I never read it any more. I will keep a watch on CNTO411, but I'm keeping my expectations lowered.

Employee Blogging Pharma Style
Melissa and Michael give me credit for inspiring them to create CNTO411. But I'd rather inspire a pharma corporate blog that embodied real voices from within the organization -- individuals working in R&D, for example. Maybe CNTO411 will give these and other employees a chance to write for the blog.

I have espoused this idea before. See, for example, "A Few Rules for Pharma Employee Blogging."

Here's how Lee Gomes expressed it recently in the Wall Street Journal ("Employee Blogging. What's the Purpose?"):
"People are tired of dealing with institutions; they want to deal with people. My philosophy is that corporations are made up of people. How, then, do you free them up? If you have 100 people in customer service, why don't you have 100 people blogging? The people in your company who are smart and passionate, who like the customer and who like their job, who think they are doing important work and who want to talk about it -- free those people up."
Perhaps now that someone other than myself has expressed the importance of giving smart and passionate employees a voice in corporate blogs, more of my pharmaceutical company friends will feel it's about time that they try it.

Melissa, Michael, and Marc (JNJ BTW blogger): I love you! Let me rephrase that: I love your passion and the fact that you are taking risks with blogging and I understand the powerful restraints you are working under. BUT, STEP OFF DUDES! Give someone else in your organization a voice!

You are all professional corporate communicators and have about ZERO credibility with the public. If that is your audience -- and please make sure WHO is your audience -- you MUST dedicate your blog to providing the smart and passionate employees in your company with a voice on your blogs.

To What Purpose?

To improve the image of the your company and the drug industry in general. DUH!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Centocor's Michael Parks Will Join Today's Podcast

Michael Parks, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Centocor, Inc. and the brains behind CNTO411 (see "CNTO411: A New Pharmaceutical Company Blog") plans to be a guest on today's Pharma Marketing Talk podcast about Centocor's new blog.

Michael just could not miss the excitement, especially after PharmaGossip's Jack Friday threw down the gauntlet by launching his CentocorGossip counter-blog (see "CentocorGossip: An 'Unofficial' Centocor Blog!").

Hope you join us for this LIVE podcast and online CHAT session today a 2 PM Eastern.

I will be interviewing Melissa Katz and Michael Parks in a Pharma Marketing Talk podcast on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 2 PM. To learn more about this and get instructions for listening in and participating in this podcast, please click here.

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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Tauzin's Ant-Competitive, Anti-Free Choice Comments

The closing quote in a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article about drug company donations to political candidates caught my attention (see "Strong Dose of Politics"). It was something that Billy Tauzin, CEO of PhRMA, the drug industry's lobbying trade group, is purported to have said; namely
"You can't really hurt this industry without hurting patients."
This was said in relation to McCain's criticism of the drug industry as in:
"Why is it that these people in this audience can't go to Canada to buy the drugs they want?" McCain added. "Because of the power of the drug companies. I saw the Medicare Part D plan pass, and it inhibits, inhibits competition among pharmaceutical companies to pay for prescription drugs for Medicare patients. That's wrong. That's wrong."
Tauzin was instrumental in getting the anti-competitive Medicare Part D law passed when he was a Congressman. As a reward, he was hired soon afterward by PhRMA.

Here's my deconstruction of Tauzin's comment.

First, as a retort to Sen. McCain's criticisms, Tauzin's comment implies that good American capitalist values like competition and freedom of choice "hurt" the drug industry. Second, it implies that these ideals also "hurt" patients.

[Follow the logic: Competition and choice -- as espoused by McCain -- hurt drug companies. What hurts drug companies also hurts patients. Consequently, competition and choice hurt patients. QED.]

On many, many other occasions the drug industry has said that competition and choice are good things, as when it develops and markets "me-too" drugs or claims that brand name drugs offer a choice to consumers in a world of generic competition.

Tauzin's comments are a sad example of how the drug industry wants to "have its cake and eat it too," which is something my mother always used to say. Well, Billy, I don't have cake, but here's your pie!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

CNTO411: Centocor's Groundbreaking Blog

Centocor -- a J&J company that was the first to produce a feature length disease awareness documentary ("Innerstate") -- has just launched a new corporate blog that may break new ground in pharmaceutical company blogging. It's called "CNTO411".
[NOTE: What's with these blog names that J&J companies come up with? JNJ BTW is the J&J Corporate Blog written by Marc Monseau. At least there's a rhyme in the name that adds to the reason for that blog. But CNTO411? Well, to find out why CNTO411, you can listen to my Pharma Marketing Talk podcast interview of Melissa Katz, Senior Director, Corporate Communications at Centocor, Inc., and the main editor of CNTO411.]
Get this: I inspired the creation of CNTO411! At least I am mentioned prominently in the inaugural posting:
So now the obvious questions are: “Why Centocor?” and “Why now?” Many of you may read John Mack’s blog, Pharma Marketing Blog. Almost a year ago, he blogged about the first of its kind patient education documentary film we made called Innerstate ( “No Oscar for Centocor PR Effort” [Feb. 26] and “The Innerstate DVD. Is TV Next?” [May 21]). Michael Parks, our VP of Communications who also produced the film, broke the traditional news comment mold and used the blog forum to respond to the comment and correct some inaccuracies by putting forth Centocor’s perspective and facts. In addition, he treated this blogger as we did every other journalist and let him screen the film. These small acts may appear to the casual observer to be incidental transactions, but for us, it was a big deal. Why? Because by engaging in a dialogue with John Mack in real time, he was able to immediately correct mis-information, provide the facts, and thus, give John a reason to restate his perspective.

How could he do that? Is that allowed? Should we be doing that? And what will the backlash be? Nobody knew. But that’s what pioneers do: they forge a path through the wilderness and hope they aren’t going to fall over a cliff.
At first I thought Melissa was talking about me in that last paragraph -- you know, pioneer and all. It fits me. But, no. She is talking about Michael Parks, Centocor's VP of Communications and her boss. It's always good to say something nice about the boss!

One small comment by way of correcting the history Melissa laid out in her comments: I wasn't on the list of invitees to the first NYC screening of Innerstate (see "Innerstate Private Screening: Philadelphia Style"). But I give Parks credit for correcting that faus pas. Not only did I get a private screening, but Parks even showed up in person to be interviewed. I must admit that if I were treated like this regularly -- which I imagine many popular journalists are -- I could get a big head and might be influenced to write nice things. But that's just me -- I'm weak. I'm sure real journalists and other bloggers are strong and are able to remain unbiased!

Speaking of other bloggers, you may recall some of the history between me and J&J's interest in blogging. I once famously asked the question "Should We Dine at Pharma's Table?" (No! That's not me and Melissa dining naked!)

Funny thing. That "Dine at Pharma's Table" post resulted in a lot of angry backlash from bloggers who dined with J&J at that fancy NYC restaurant (and didn't tell the world). In contrast, the J&J people didn't seem bothered by my critique. They still seem friendly whenever I meet them at industry conferences, etc. Of course, it could all be an act.

Eventually, I too dined with J&J (Centocor, actually) at the invite of Michael Parks, who I learned is a "good ol' boy" from Texas or Louisiana. Someplace south like that! Melissa was there as well as a few other people that were advising Centocor about how to get into blogging.

As a result of that meeting, a colleague and I came up with the "Rate Your Social Media Marketing Readiness Survey/Tool", which helps companies like Centocor discover where the organizational and regulatory hurdles are that they need to overcome in order to implement a social media marketing program. We weren't paid to do this and I do not know if Centocor used the tool or not in planning for the launch of CNTO411.

Anyway, I plan to ask questions like that in my upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast interview with Melissa on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 at 2 PM. Some other questions I have are:
  • Why are you doing this? Who is the audience?
  • Please explain the name.
  • Will you be able to comment on Centocor product-specific news or issues on the Blog?
  • How will you comply with the regulations regarding communications about your products?
  • How do you think the blogosphere will respond?
  • Will you post every comment submitted?
  • Will there be "guest authors" such as regular employees?
Listen to the podcast here.

[Disclosure: I once was paid by Centocor to give a presentation to a product brand team about the risks of social media marketing. I never have done any paid consulting work for Mr. Parks or Ms. Katz.]
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