Instead, DTC National feels more like a hybrid of ePharma, the Pharmaceutical Relationship Marketing Congress, and a NAMI convention.
Speakers have detailed the intricacies of database-focused marketing, opportunities in social media and word-of-mouth, and the need for partnerships with advocacy groups. In fact, the high winds blowing newspapers around outside of the JW Marriott here may be symbolic.
Exit: pharma’s past. Enter: a digitally-influenced, behaviorally-focused, and surprisingly optimistic future.
Sir Martin Sorrell, the voluble chief executive of WPP, one of the world’s largest marketing services companies, kicked off the proceedings with a reflection on US healthcare reform. He raised the issue that passage of the healthcare bill has a strong upside for pharma: 30 million new consumers joining the healthcare system.
(This could explain why 66% of the DTC audience voted their “approval” of healthcare reform during an audience-response survey earlier in the day.)
However, Sorrell noted, these previously uncovered consumers will be different than those whom pharma marketers have been pursuing to date. He said they are more likely to be poorer, less educated, younger, non-white, foreign-born, and possessing lower health literacy.
“They learn by watching and listening, not by reading,” Sorrell said, first suggesting that television will continue to be a viable approach, then later noting advances in mobile technology will offer another strong vehicle.
Regardless, Sorrell said: “Healthcare marketers will have to work much harder to reach them.”
Some more highlights:
- Actor/director Joe Pantoliano provided an intimate look at his struggle with depression. Successful yet suicidal in the mid 2000s, Pantoliano (“Ralphie” from The Sopranos) got help and later created No Kidding, Me Too, an advocacy group that aims to “shine the light of Hollywood fame onto the dark corners of diseases like depression.” He echoed comments made earlier in the conference by former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean that trending diseases such as obesity may in fact stem from emotional responses to depression. Pantoliano encouraged pharma to help consumers understand the positive benefits treatments can bring, and use their media leverage to continue encouraging diagnosis and treatment
- Michael McCaughan, of Provision Policy, questioned whether the value of pharma brands in the post-recession, post-blockbuster world is in the molecule itself or in the support system created around it. Confirming what many in health education and digital healthcare have assumed, McCaughan said there will be many government dollars available for interventions that lead to better health outcomes. The catch: “You’ve got to be able to show proof”
- Dolly Judge, formerly of Pfizer and now with Hill & Knowlton, was asked what the future held for pharma. Her response: “Compliance, compliance, compliance”
- John Kamp of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, an industry lobbying group, added that the New York City Health and Hospital Corporation is looking for ways to ensure patients adhere to prescribed treatments, as a way to control spiraling healthcare costs
- Amy Cowan, Google’s industry lead for healthcare, shared data showing higher consumer interest in search ads that carry additional risk language. Bayer’s Yaz brand piloted the new ads on Google, where click-through rates were measurably higher than for ads that ran before 14 manufacturers received FDA warning letters last spring. In some cases, the new ad formats with risk language saw click-through lifts as high as 20%, Cowan said
- Mark Miller of Epsilon shared results from a wide-ranging survey the agency conducted to shed light on consumer behaviors in the social media. The most compelling finding: Healthcare conversations are taking place on message boards in much greater volume than on any other social media venue. 49% of respondents said they used message boards to discuss health issues online; only 20% of respondents selected the next-closest venues
- The Great Recession appears to have ended in the marketing services industry. Several agency speakers, including Sorrell, remarked that revenues have recovered in 2010…although he noted downward pricing pressures will continue to hurt big-ticket items (read: print, TV) and support more nimble approaches (read: digital)
Director of Strategic Services