Tuesday, February 7, 2012

#ePharma: Day Two Roundup

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By Casey Ferrell
Research Analyst, Cutting Edge Information
Guest Blogger

Well, we’re two thirds of the way through the 2012 ePharma Summit. Day One was a full day of symposia, while Day Two was a mishmash of sessions, keynotes, thought leader panels, futurists, multichannel tracks, examples of award winning campaigns and coffee. Lots of coffee. 

My colleague James Ellis and I were live tweeting the day’s events, but we are going to provide a roundup blog here to help flesh out beyond 140 characters what the sessions had to offer. We split up the job, so between both of our blog roundups, you’ll get a pretty comprehensive view of the day, minus coffee breaks and totally unrelated bathroom breaks.

Charlotte McKines, the global VP of marketing communications and channel strategies (that’s right, global) at Merck and Co., had an excellent presentation on how a multinational company might look at the evolution of digital channels and how they can fit not just within a company’s overarching marketing strategy but within that company’s overall business goals. McKines’ well-organized presentation outlined three primary ways in which digital is transforming the industry. Looking beyond the pill, she said, digital is “the connecting point, the core enabler that allows us connect to our stakeholders.” With digital experiencing a meteoric rise — 86% of physicians go to the web daily to gather health, medical or prescription drug information — whoever “gets there” first will have a major competitive advantage, McKines said. The three keys to getting there are:
  •  Adjusting the organizational mindset
  •  Embracing new technology
  •  Building new business models

Adjusting the organizational mindset (no small task) means aligning to rapidly changing customer needs. This means improving sales force effectiveness (i.e. making the sales rep the quarterback in the middle who is calling the number of a certain channel depending on preference), engaging Generation Y (i.e. striving to make the pharma experience match the non-pharma experience they’re familiar with or recognizing their “self-service” mentality) and utilizing digital functionality (i.e. doing micro-segmenting, personalizing content and maximizing spend).

Embracing new technology means picking a strategy before it picks you, McKines said. Interestingly, her first point here was to use social media to promote collaboration, steer conversation, listen to customers and respond quickly. Her second point was to leverage mobility (i.e. enable mobile content delivery to reach consumers in real time, support sales and training, and increase customer engagement). She also pointed out the importance of integrating channels (i.e. deliver one message across all channels).

Building new business models means shifting the internal (i.e. centralizing innovation, decentralizing localization, and prioritizing content) and shifting the external (i.e. using collective intelligence, investing in infrastructure and choosing the right partners).

Her session ended with a Q&A highlighted by a pointed comment from the audience in which an agency attendee said, “We can only innovate as fast as quickly as you can change.” McKines’ responded by saying, “I realize we are not always a fast and nimble partner, but that’s why we need partners, to push us to change.”


The next session I covered was a moderated panel discussion led by Liz Cernak, CCO of Pozen, based out of my college hometown of Chapel Hill, NC. Founded in 1996 and public since 2000, Pozen focuses primarily on drug development but is in the process of transitioning to a commercialized model and as a result put together a coterie of thought leaders to form its digital advisory board, including Raj Amin, CEO, Healthnation; Bonin Bough, Sr. Director of Digital and Social Media, PepsiCo; Marc Monsseau, Founder, MDM Communication; Daniel Palestrant, MD, Founder, Sermo, CEO and Founder, Par8o; and Meredith Ressi, President, Manhattan Research. Among the highlights (paraphrased unless in quotations):

Monsseau: The biggest challenge digital can help with from a marketing perspective is in heralding the shift from one-way to two-way communication and targeted approaches, while in sales, it presents a way of reaching physicians with more efficacy and reach. “At the end of day, you still have to have great content.” It needs to be resonating, actionable, and useful. Content that lives in digital now is dry, not what you want to watch or share. Opportunity exists to create content that people can take in, but can also start a conversation with, with a doc or someone else struggling with the disease. Ultimately, what’s needed is content that can improve health outcomes.

Bough: Set it and forget it is passé. Deep customer listening on top of real-time customer engagement is the way of the future. The quantified self (referencing Kevin Kelly’s talk) allows people to their own progression through their own healthcare, meaning pharma and healthcare need to adapt. Bough also provocatively stated that pharma is negligent if it is not listening to its consumers through social listening techniques, highlighting the difficulty in applying non-pharma perspectives to the risk-averse, highly regulated industry.

Palestrant: How can pharma use digital to better relationships with physicians? One way is through sophisticated sales and techniques that can amplify efficacy data. He also talked about how social media can cost-effectively communicate important messages to stakeholders in ways that speak to their own preferences for information consumption. Among the communication revolutions to date (including the printing press, broadcast, etc.), the digital age means that now the tail is wagging the dog.

Amin: Digital allows pharma to touch consumers in deeper ways across multiple platforms. Consumers see media differently as they get comfortable with new devices, so the industry needs to learn when to present content based on the disposition of the consumer. Are they lean back? Lean forward? On the go?

Ressi: Mobile is completely changing the game. Platform adoption metrics change under our feet. Understanding the way it changes how healthcare providers learn and gather info and how it changes service expectations is critical if the industry is to properly leverage the opportunity.

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I attended the post-lunch (no monster reuben today, just a forkful or two of salad and a cookie… okay, two cookies) multichannel consumer marketing track hosted by Alison Woo, director of social media at BMS. She had Mark Bard of the Digital Health Coalition and Jack Barrette, CEO of Wego Health, up to discuss the recent FDA draft guidance on off-label communication. Among the quotes that really stood out to me was Barrette saying that “not looking for [adverse events] or not trying to look for them is an indefensible position.” This was borne out of a lively conversation between Bard and Barrette on the scope and impact of the narrow guidance and how it may impact the way in which pharma chooses to address its digital presences in light of misinformation correction, off-label comments and AEs.

Gregg Zagras and Jen Willey of RealAge presented a session on their product, which depending on your orientation might equally frighten or excite you. Their digital health assessment produces a score that represents your actual age as compared to your real age (i.e. a heavy drinker and smoker who is into red meat and couch surfing might in reality be several years older than their age). The tool allows individuals to chart a path toward better health while offering pharma clients the ability to position their products in front of highly aligned segments of the population. People with high cholesterol, for example, might be presented with statin drug ads while they progress through subsequent health evaluations beyond the original assessment. 

Willey and Zagras argue that brands need to consider their patient population before launch in order to optimize their marketing efforts. Obviously, one way to do so would be to partner with RealAge. For the curious, the site also offers the ability for individuals to learn what their sex age is. Insert your own joke here.


The last session of the track was a refreshing perspective from patient advocates Amy Gurowitz, Founder, MS SoftServe; Jeffrey Roberts, Founder, IBS Self Help and Support Group; and Max Szadek, Founder and Executive Director, Divabetic.


The last panel discussion of the day back in the main hall brought some of the industry’s most influential thought leaders in the digital space together to talk about future trends. Of all the great insights, my favorites revolved around how the industry should handle the challenge of working with Medical, Legal, Regulatory (MLR). Julie Holcombe, senior director, US Vaccines Marketing at Pfizer referenced the hilarious Kevin Nalty-produced video that aired this morning called “Fear Factor: Pharmaceuticals” in which MLR was presented in a less than flattering light. She said that video is what is wrong with marketers’ thinking. She said MLR and marketing need to be “frenemies to the end. … Their job is to keep us safe, and we’re walking a fine line between wanting to not get a letter” and still get the job done. Since “we as marketers are not going to regulate ourselves, … we may have to extend the olive branch.”

Joe Shields, head of global strategic marketing at LifeScan, said that MLR departments need a tune-up to ensure that they are not an operational bottleneck, but he also suggested a curious idea that to save money, time and resources, some pharma companies purposefully dial back MLR capacity to throttle back marketing output. I’m not sure what the industry thinks about this, but it certainly provoked a reaction on the #epharma tweetstream by agency and media thought leaders who found that idea troubling.

Peter Dannenfelser, director of North American digital marketing for Jannsen, said that the MLR issue raises two key points: the industry clearly needs to play in the space, but it also needs to do a much better job of communicating to consumers the rules that it has to play by, something that he thinks pharma could do a much better job of.


One of two Best in Show sessions was hosted by James Chase, editor in chief for MM&M, in which he discussed the GetToKnowC campaign launched by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and Ignite Health that earned the top spot at the 2012 MM&M awards in the best disease/education website category. Brian Lefkowitz, chief creative officer at Ignite and Hugo Brown, associate director of marketing at Vertex joined Chase on stage to talk about the campaign and how it took shape. Brown said his company wanted to empower Hepatitis C patients while removing the stigma of the condition. Lefkowitz explained the way his agency created a multichannel campaign featuring deep, rich, informative content with the right tone. One feature of it that jumped out at me was the homepage, which opens with a creative segmentation feature, allowing visitors to choose the “person” that best represents where they are in the process of dealing with the disease.


So that’s a wrap from Day Two — looking forward to seeing you all tomorrow as we wrap up the 2012 ePharma Summit. I really hope that all this blogging is helping you attendees derive even more from what has so far been a rich conference experience for me. Please do forgive any egregious typos; a stenographer I am not. If we haven’t met yet, please do come introduce yourself and learn more about the benchmarking research and analysis that I do in the digital marketing space for my firm, Cutting Edge Information. You know where to find me: near a plug.

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