The pharmaceutical industry has generally been perceived as lagging other industries on the digital adoption curve. To what extent do you think pharma is currently equipped and/or prepared to take advantage of the digital opportunity available?
Well, I don’t think anyone really expected pharma to sprint out of the block with digital and aside from obvious concerns in the regulatory environment, I think initially pharma wasn’t very well equipped at all to move into the digital realm. And figuring out digital is not easy. It’s resource-sapping, it demands room for failure, it requires champions and it takes patience and courage and perseverance. Really, certainly in the pharma industry, doing it properly really requires a change in psyche from the top to the bottom of the organization. But, over time, we’ve seen companies move with a lot more urgency in this space and there’s definitely been progress.
I’ve seen a realization that this digital opportunity, as we call it, is not an opportunity but a necessity. Opting out is not an option. I think companies have begun to structure their digital operations to facilitate a more systematic development and approval process. So, it’s been a steep learning curve, but I think it is making progress.
On the professional side, pharma has been pretty quick to identify the iPad as a game changer, both in terms of its conduciveness as a detailing tool and also to tap into the physicians’ love affair with the device. But on the consumer side, that’s been hampered a lot by regulatory skittishness. There are still very few examples of branded digital initiatives, aside from the obligatory Facebook page, etc.; however, some of the unbranded programs and tools overall have been impressive.
So, is pharma behind the curve on digital? Yes. Has progress been made? Absolutely. Will pharma ever cut loose in the consumer space like an Old Spice or a BMW or a Pepsi? Not likely. But, I don’t think that should be used as an excuse for not continuing to evolve what is possible.
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