Friday, April 24, 2009

Pharma Agency Awards for Web 1.0, None for Blogs or Other Social Media

There were two major awards events in the past week. The first was the 2009 DTC National Advertising Awards presented by DTC Perspectives Magazine at the conference of the same name held in Washington, DC on April 15 to 17 (see results here). The second was the Manny Awards presented by Med Ad News on April 22 (see press release here).

Neither of these awards had a category for Best Social Media Campaign or Agency despite all the recent focus on social media by drug industry agencies at industry conferences and on Twitter (see, for example, Social Pharma Unconference).

The Gold winner in DTC National's "Best Digital Media Campaign" category DID go to a "social media" campaign; ie, Gardasil Facebook Fan Page: Take a step against cervical cancer, but I would hardly call that a "truly social" social media campaign. Despite the fact that there are over 100,000 fans of the page, the wall contains only ONE comment, which was submitted by the Merck agents and not a fan. In fact, I see no way that I or any other fan can submit a comment!

That's the way it is with pharma's use of social media - it's false (see "Faux Social Marketing: Have Your Cake and Eat It Too!").

I am not a fan of awards, as you may know. Traditionally, trade publications give out rewards to their best advertising clients or do not necessarily reward what's really important. The Gardasil Facebook campaign reward, for example, did not reward Merck's agency for creating a truly interactive social media site that carried on a conversation with its fans. The only thing "social" about it is that it's on a social media site. It could just have well been any web site.

A really useful pharma marketing/advertising reward category, IMHO, would be "Best Truly Social, Social Media Campaign." I think that would help pharma companies compete to create actual useful conversations with consumers and patients online.

What about it DTC Perspectives, MM&M, Med Ad News? Will you do that? Or do you believe, like the FDA does, that social media is just another form of media not needing any special consideration?

If these prestigious publications do not take up my challenge, perhaps I once again will have to take up the slack and do it myself via Pharma Marketing News!

Better idea! Instead of writing a white paper, maybe the attendees of the Social Pharma "unconference" should develop this award program. What do you think?

Should there be an award for Best "truly social" Social Media Pharma Campaign?
Yes, great idea!
No way, we got enough rewards!
Whatever, maybe, couldn't hurt


  1. Interesting thought in the middle of the spring awards season, John! Even though I work for an agency and agencies are typically awards-hungry, I tend to agree with your perspective on awards competitions' political pay-for-play nature.

    And while I like the idea of a social media category for awards, I have some concerns. Social media shouldn't be a single tactic that can be pulled out and submitted for an award - it's something that should be strategically integrated into the rest of ones' programs and campaigns. And I fear that the mere designation and creation of an award might inspire marketers and their agencies to "create social media for social media's sake" - and for the sake of winning the award - and those aren't the right reasons.

    Also, often awards tend to focus on straight creative or pretty pictures. Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter don't exactly allow the demonstration of creative genius.

    Even for programs running in 2008- 2009, there wouldn't be nearly enough entries!

    Maybe you should give out an award to the marketers/companies that did SOMETHING - ANYTHING - in the social space -- and simply reward them for having the guts to do so!

  2. OK, "The Most Guts, Social Media Category Award" it is!

  3. Wendy is on to something there. I quite agree that there's an important difference between running a program for a strategic reason versus doing shiny-new for shiny-new's sake. A brand deserves glory for guts in pioneering new ground; however, such an award would paint a target on the brand for the DDMAC cattle prods. Maybe best would be a Hall of e-Phame, recognizing pioneer efforts after they've run their course?

  4. I'm sure no company is going to create a campaign JUST to win an award. The criteria for winning may also include such things as best integration with X (TV, Web, print, whatever). But under no circumstances should anyone win an award just because it's a facebook page. Has to use two-way conversation and include user-generated content and not just for the sake of having those interactions, but actually doing something to with them like improving the brand, brand message, or disease awareness. O yeah, maybe increase in sales too.


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