It’s official: data is the new black. Ones and zeroes have crept into every corner of pharmaceutical marketing, driving everything from grand brand strategy to tactics at the single patient or HCP level. Marketers have at their fingertips more information about customers now than the proverbial number of grains of sand on the beach, and the pile is getting bigger every day. But as is often the case in the history of progress, we developed the capability of collecting all this data before developing a corresponding capability to rapidly review and draw conclusions from it. A few years back such a capability might have been called “Closing the loop.” Today, it’s the “360-degree view,” and it’s the end of the rainbow for a new generation of marketers – not quite there yet, but just barely in sight.

MedAdNews: What was the word of the year in pharma marketing for 2019? Why? What will the word of the year be in 2020? Why?

Wendy Blackburn, executive VP, marketing and communications, Intouch Group: In both years, the word is still “data.” Marketers have been learning to collect and organize data, and their ability to truly harness data for marketing effectiveness is coming of age. More data is available than ever before, and advancements in artificial intelligence and machine learning have made the possibilities unlimited. But it’s not just about using data to drive sophisticated insights about customers, to ensure marketing effectiveness, for customization, or to drive payer and pricing strategies. The flip side of the coin to having all this data available is the requirement and responsibility to keep all that data secure.

In 2020, technology will continue to evolve; data privacy and security regulation will progress at both the state and national level; and consumers will increase their skepticism and savvy. But most concerning is the state of the pharma industry’s inability to address cybercrime. With a lack of security talent, outdated legacy equipment, and traditional agencies that are often not well-versed in technology threats, the biopharma industry is among the most targeted. No doubt, we will see more damaging security breaches in 2020.

Pharma marketers and their agencies should continue to seek to harness the power of data – the opportunities are endless. But they must also build in data security from the beginning; eliminate loopholes; team up with knowledgeable partners; and remain ever-vigilant to keep their valuable data safe and secure.

Jay Carter, executive VP, director of business development, AbelsonTaylor: After much analysis, the Word of the Year for 2020 is NOISE.

Why? Well, all election years are noisy … but this one tees up to be especially noisy. Pharmaceuticals are an easy target for legislators, and there is good reason to believe that healthcare will be a key discussion point for the coming elections. Further, there is bipartisan sentiment that drugs cost too much … fueling the NOISE.

Why NOISE and not simply “noise?” Because it will be loud and intrusive and annoying as hell. Why no exclamation point after NOISE? Simply put, 2020 will be a year where politicians grapple for gain or to maintain their own status. Nothing is going to happen in 2020 from a legislative standpoint … the only indicators of action will be fingers pointed accusingly in the pharma industry’s direction.

Michael Deichmiller, group account director, Butler/Till Health: The 2020 Word of the Year will be Data. Specifically, how will we be able to use it for marketing and what will consumers begin/continue to expect around owning their own? These questions will certainly be part of the conversation in 2020 as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) takes effect, forcing brands and advertisers to fully comprehend the initial legislation that likely also will be enacted in other states throughout the year. Marketers will need to continue to adjust to these new regulations while having more pressure than ever to prove the worth and return of advertising activity. This is a significant challenge that the entire marketing ecosystem will be working through collectively during 2020 and most likely, for years to come.

Hensley Evans, principal, ZS: 2019: Considered

Early in the year, pharma marketers faced uncertainty regarding proposed regulations about pricing transparency in DTC advertisements – particularly how to appropriately communicate sometimes complicated pricing information in a 60- or 90-second television spot. Several brands launched ads with pricing information included (often leveraging websites for complete information) and others developed contingency plans. In early July, when a U.S. District Court Judge vacated the rule on the grounds that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) does not have the statutory authority to adopt the rule, marketers breathed a collective sigh of relief. Other challenges marketers grappled with in the digital channel included balancing increasing opportunities to target and personalize ads with the need for appropriate data privacy and the growing use of streaming television services among the under-55 age group. It seemed that all marketers were looking at broadcast and cable TV with new eyes.

2020: Exploratory
We’re seeing an increase in brands looking to engage with consumers more directly – leveraging real patients and real stories, using social media channels where conversations are less polished and more “real”, and integrating the patient voice and perspective through co-creation to create content that is more relevant to the needs of patients. We’re also seeing brands exploring more internal capabilities around new channels to supplement DTC TV.

Jose Ferreira, senior VP, product and innovation, CMI/Compas: In 2019 the word of the year in pharma marketing and marketing more generally was privacy. It was the first year where the monetization of data by content producers and platform providers started to come up against concerned and mobilized consumers in the United States. The trend was rooted in some well covered 2018 developments – GDPR, the Cambridge Analytica story, countless data breaches, etc. – and started to come to head in 2019. Various states proposed new legislation while pharma sought to stay ahead of it in a multitude of ways without disrupting business as usual. Customers today are now much more aware of the data they produce and how it is used in marketing. In 2020, I think the word of the year will be experience. We’ve already seen many marketing departments include the word experience in their name, and that’s not by chance. The most successful pharma brands of 2020 and beyond will be those that leverage data across all customer touchpoints to delivery great experiences. The idea of experiential marketing will be applied to every touchpoint – optimized to ensure customers have meaningful experiences.

Greg Flynn, president, Ashfield Commercial and Clinical, part of UDG Healthcare plc: 2019 = digital; 2020 = experience.

2019 could be called the year of all things digital. The industry was exploring the use of many digital channels in its marketing tool kit and patient support channels as it sought to serve its customers. Social media channels, digital ads, mobile health apps and voice-enabled and smart devices took an ever-bigger piece of the budget and will continue to grow. The AI and data collected from digital, face-to-face, audio and TV promotion is staggering. Yet, if we wish to use this information to help us be better marketers in 2020, then we need to find a way to integrate the data and AI from all sources to develop a 360-degree view of our customers. Only by developing this rich understanding of our customers, can we create messaging that is hyper-personalized in terms of content, channel and timing – ultimately delivering the best customer experience.

The industry’s addition of digital outreach has demonstrated repeatedly that there is no one size fits all solution. And this solution becomes even more complicated when we look at the various customers we need to address. If we truly want to be patient centric and create an experience for our customers that resonates, we must learn first to listen and then to analyze our data in order to meet the known and still unmet needs along their entire healthcare journey. This means truly understanding the needs not only of patients, but of care partners, advocacy groups, payers and healthcare providers as well, and using this knowledge to drive a personalized, consistent brand experience across appropriate, multiple channels. This will require marketing departments to acquire new skills in analysis and behavioral psychology along with a flexible and agile organization able to turn on a dime to respond to ever-changing needs.

Fortunately, there are already platforms in place generating rich data to support the kind of advanced analysis necessary to drive meaningful engagement when combined with the appropriate skill set to drive a response. For example, sophisticated CRM systems track HCP experiences across multiple channels providing actionable insights in real time. On the patient side, we can give care partners, Clinical Educators and patients themselves a 360-degree view of the treatment journey, drawing upon a wide range of information such as medication administration tracking, visits to the specialist and data from wearable technology. This delivery of advanced data, analytics and real-time reporting allows for faster response to patients’ evolving needs, improving their adherence and persistence, and provides aggregated data and actionable insights for the pharmaceutical company. Ultimately data platforms for different customer groups can be coordinated by an integrated customer engagement center, with central leadership and oversight of all the different interactions, delivering a true omni-channel experience across the brand.

We have the data. We have the tools. We need to mine and tap the wealth of customer knowledge they bring to the table, leveraging our findings across the customer experiences. In a recent survey reported by Accenture, 57 percent of biopharma marketing teams have access to better data but struggle to make better decisions. Delivering an exceptional customer experience with our brands will take some adjustments to business as usual, but as other industries have shown us, operating under a mentality where we truly know our customers and drive a valued experience will build the customer loyalty and adherence needed to ultimately improve outcomes.

Justin Freid, executive VP, growth and innovation, CMI/Compas:
2019: Innovation.
With technology advancing faster than ever and consumer adoption of technology speeding up, we saw pharma become more open to trying new approaches to engage their target audiences.
2020: Integration.
To truly take a step forward and deliver better outcomes, integration between HCP and DTC efforts need to happen. When you look at how the audiences are both involved in the treatment decision, from the prescription to staying on treatment, there are too many points of intersection along the health journey to ignore. From activating patients in areas of high prescribers to message matching across audiences, when integrated we truly can change behavior and deliver better outcomes.

Paul Shawah, senior VP of commercial strategy, Veeva Systems: The word of the year was patients – and how patients’ active role in their own healthcare decisions is continuing to transform the industry model of care.

Patients are taking greater control of their healthcare, and pharmaceutical sales and marketing is evolving to bring patients into the discussion by connecting commercial execution to the patient journey. This year, patients will continue to take center stage as we see organizations better leverage data across their organizations to accelerate the move toward patient-centered healthcare. New patient insights will enable pharma marketers to micro-target patient populations instead of mass marketing and more closely link commercial execution with patient outcomes.

These patient insights, combined with deeper intelligence into HCP preferences, also have the potential to improve customer segmentation. Instead of a rearview mirror approach that looks at prescription data, pharmaceutical companies will use privacy-safe predictive analytics to build a communications plan to engage HCPs at key moments along the patient journey. Also, the use of AI will give teams more detailed, person-level insights to more precisely identify and target patient populations and enhance their promotional strategies.

This new data-driven model will give HCPs, payers, and life sciences companies better insights to support patients and the decisions they need to make about their own care. Improved visibility across this integrated ecosystem will strengthen the physician-patient relationship and help the industry deliver the best possible health outcomes for those patients.

Kendree Thieringer, account director, Butler/Till Health: I’d say the word of 2019 was Social. While Pharma brands had dabbled in social in previous years, 2019 showed an increased presence across the industry in multiple indications, especially from a branded perspective. While there is still a lot of work to be done from a measurement perspective, it’s clear that social will continue to be a big player in the pharma space.

The word of the year for 2020 is definitely Privacy Laws (ok, fine, that is actually two words!). With regulations such as CCPA and other upcoming laws emerging in 2020 and beyond, marketers will have to be much more cognizant of data targeting and pixeling compliancy. This could change not only how advertisers utilize data to target both Patients and HCPs, but also how campaigns are measured. It will be interesting to see how companies interpret these laws and how the industry will need to shift to comply.

Toby Trygg, executive creative director-NY, Ogilvy Health:

2019 = Socialized.

Yes, I said it, but it’s not what you’re thinking. Although the debate rages on in Washington and beyond over how to regulate, pay for, and administer healthcare itself, that’s not what I’m referring to. I am talking about the influx and influence of Social Media on healthcare/pharma marketing. As more and more healthcare industry agencies and their client partners realize the immense, highly targeted reach potential of social media, whilst becoming less and less trepidatious about legal blowback and noncompliance, marketing on social channels has become the de facto price of entry. If you’re not doing it, your competitor is, and they’re going to reach your potential customer before you do.

According to social media expert Rose de Fremery, “Social media marketing offers healthcare organizations several compelling advantages. People are already actively searching for health information on social media channels, and healthcare organizations can proactively respond to this need by consistently delivering value to patients in this space.”

Social media in general, and Facebook/Instagram in particular, provide a two-way communication channel for healthcare marketing. Individuals are connecting with others interested in the same medical topic, illness, or injury, and in some instances give and get feedback from drug manufacturers, doctors, or healthcare facilities in real time. Ergo: this is where opportunity resides – something brands and brand marketers realized was paramount in 2019 – and for the foreseeable future.

2020 = Friction.

Or rather, lack thereof. According to the Baymard Institute’s report “Retail Ecommerce Sales, US 2018–2022,” $213 billion was the opportunity cost of friction in the United States in 2019. And nowhere is this more of an issue than in pharma/healthcare marketing. Hence, in 2020, the word of the year will actually be two words: Zero and Friction.

If you aren’t familiar, friction is what happens along a consumer’s/patient’s long, tedious journey, defined as steps and delays that cause them to abandon the path, which ultimately leads to a brand’s intended KPI. And the repercussions don’t stop there. For example, ads that lead to a poor landing-page experience, lengthy loading times, and content that isn’t optimized for mobile can instantly create friction and cause the once-hopeful patient, caregiver, or professional to become despondent and immediately abandon their brand discovery journey, only to find another brand ready and willing to offer an experience with fewer barriers. Pharma/healthcare brands must work extra hard to optimize the experience, especially in light of our heavily regulated environment.

But fear not, grasshopper. There is hope. The key to overcoming, or minimizing, this friction is through a consistent and rigorous audit of all your messaging touchpoints. It’s important to know that friction can occur off-line and on-line, and can happen at all stages of the journey. It happens when people have to view ads, search for information on-line or on an app, wait in long lines at professional offices, hospitals, or pharmacies, or when they have to laboriously fill in details on physical or digital forms. The more steps consumers have to take, the more opportunities there are for friction. This is paramount, as research tells us that in 2019, 84 percent of consumers were unlikely to engage with a brand again after just a single negative experience.

That is why, in 2020, there is really only one number that counts when it comes to friction:
Zero.

MedAdNews: How might the various plans of the various candidates for U.S. president impact the healthcare marketplace generally and pharma specifically? How else might U.S. politics impact the lives of brand managers and marketers in 2020?

Melissa Barnhart, executive VP, group client director, CMI/Compas: There is one other way politics will be affecting healthcare marketing that many aren’t thinking of – but it is top of mind for me and my colleagues in strategic media planning. During an election year, especially one as divisive as the 2020 presidential election, we have to be particularly cognizant and vigilant regarding the content that our clients’ advertising appears alongside. We emphasize the importance of a personalized approach, and this is a great example of why. It’s incredibly important to consider targeted media planning that ensures your messaging is on-brand and is complemented by positive or at least neutral native content. While broad reach tactics including broadcast TV are historically a mainstay for pharma advertisers, political content often will bump scheduled ad time, and/or be so – literally – political that we wouldn’t want to air our advertising next to it. This is a great time to get creative and see what targeted options can bring a solid return for the same budget.

Glenn Forde, executive VP, group client director, CMI/Compas: Healthcare is at the top of the list for all presidential candidates and will surely be a key topic during the election. The current administration has generally been supportive of pharmaceutical manufacturers, even helping to fast track approvals. They have also tried to require pharmaceutical companies to provide the list price of drugs in TV ads. This was in reaction to public perception on the high cost of prescription drugs. But Federal Judge Amit P. Mehta ruled that it was not lawful. All of the 2020 presidential candidates are pushing for aggressive changes and expanded coverage for all Americans and most have been critical of pharmaceutical manufacturers’ pricing and the current healthcare system overall. Also, new consumer privacy laws ranging from GDPR to CCPA and the use of third party data are requiring brand managers and their agency partners to not only plan ahead but be able to react quickly to stay compliant and still provide a great customer experience. A lot is riding on the next election and marketers will be watching closely.

Aaron Uydess, executive VP, customer experience and analytics, Intouch Group: Two words … pricing pressures. Currently, politicians work to make “pharma” look like the evil, greedy organization driving price, but the reality is that, compared to other countries, there are a mix of characters that contribute to the high cost of prescription medications. With perception being reality, and from republican to democrat, you will see any change both big and small greatly impacting pharma.

As the cost of prescription medications go down, so, too, will brand budgets and the size of marketing teams. This will translate into more targeted efforts, a smaller number of channels utilized and less marketing innovation. For many pharma companies, this model is simply an evolution from the US to European-based marketing teams and budgets.

One thing to watch are the current tax breaks pharma receives from their TV advertising … if Congress expires that approach, the future of DTC and patient mass marketing efforts will be in jeopardy.

Wendy Blackburn: In my experience, our clients are interested in knowing exactly how newly elected officials or new legislation will directly and immediately affect their business. That’s often a difficult question to answer, because when new candidates are elected and when new legislation is proposed, it’s only the beginning of a long road to change. And it’s entirely likely that, years later, nothing will have changed at all.

With 2020 as an election year, candidates and the media will be focused on the affordability of healthcare for patients – and rightly so, as there are many components of the U.S. healthcare system that are broken. One thing both political parties can agree upon is the need to reduce drug prices, and there are a number of proposals already in the works to do that. From Medicare-for-All to drug-price shaming, from drug re-importation to suing manufacturers and price negotiations … time will tell what methods win out and how that will affect the pharmaceutical industry at the macro level and marketing budgets at the micro level.

The media’s focus on big pharma’s bad behavior – whether it be opioid promotion, vaping, drug pricing, or CEO salaries – will heat up in 2020. It will be a year of widespread attention on the industry, for sure – and I don’t mean positive attention. But while 2020 will be a politically transitional year, the reality is – despite the rhetoric – much of a brand managers’ daily life will be business as usual.

Michael Deichmiller: Drug pricing, health insurance changes, big pharma bashing will all be more top-of-mind for consumers in 2020 given the endless political rhetoric that will lead up to the November election. Will 2021 bring free healthcare for all? Stricter regulations on experimental drugs? All of this uncertainty will require marketers to focus on being utilitarian in our approach – how are we helping consumers/patients/physicians as opposed to just promoting products to them? Healthcare is about so much more than pharmacological agents, meaning that the marketers who will win will be those who surround their audiences in authentic and caring ways. There is much that is good being done in the pharma world, but it doesn’t always make its way to the front of the brief.

Jose Ferreira: Healthcare has been a hot topic among Democratic candidates and their constituents, while Republicans have generally refrained from offering any concrete plans. The plans being proposed vary widely in scope, but in reality, most are outside the realm of possibility. What’s really on the table is healthcare policy that repeals the ACA or enhances it and probably adds some new provisions to expand the number of people who get covered by insurers. The electorate is overwhelmingly in favor of the latter, but as anyone who follows politics will tell you, that kind of plurality doesn’t always translate into law. If there is an expansion of the ACA I think it will generally be positive for the healthcare marketplace because it will give more people access to healthcare and probably keep insurance premiums relatively stable, much like the original passing of the ACA. If it’s repealed it would have the opposite effect. Fewer people insured would mean fewer people proactively managing their health, and premiums would likely increase exponentially as emergency room visits (subsidized indirectly by those with insurance) will once again become the first line of healthcare for people lacking insurance. There is also a lot of talk about drug prices and both parties have voiced support for some sort of control, but I don’t expect any meaningful movement in that area in 2020.

MedAdNews: What’s up next for marketing technologies in 2020? What new tech tools in the brand manager’s toolbox will make the biggest impression? And what tech tools are wearing thin? Why so?

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, VP, social media, CMI/Compas: Social listening is both the killer app – when used well – and the tool that is wearing thin – when not fully leveraged. We can and do learn incredible insights from social listening, but what often does not occur is the pull-through of making that data actionable. New tools are available now and becoming available to combine them with social listening and tell a different story, one we can act on to better engage our key audiences. The key here is optimizing your tools and tailoring them to your specific needs.

Nelson Figueiredo, VP, director of technology, Ogilvy Health:

AI, machine learning, and cognitive computing

An enormous amount of data has been collected in healthcare. Digging through all those data sets manually is an impossibility. Parsing through it all and getting positive results is the dream of AI. Huge leaps have been made in the past couple of years, from processing power to deep learning tools. The key steps have been defining the problem, gathering the data, creating and testing algorithms, and iterating on those results.

Right now, most AIs can only look at the data and see WHAT is going on. While that is immensely important, and many benefits have been found just by doing that, the next big leap will be when the systems can say WHY it is happening. And that WHY will be answered through more advances in cognitive computing. The result of cognitive computing, defined by IBM, is “systems that learn at scale, reason with purpose and interact with humans naturally.”

The AAMC is predicting that the United States will see a shortage of up to nearly 122,000 physicians by 2032 as demand for physicians continues to grow faster than supply. The World Health Organization is estimating that there is a global shortage of 4.3 million physicians, nurses, and other health professionals. Because of these shortages, patients, healthcare providers, and researchers will all benefit from cognitive computing.

AR, VR, and mixed reality

Many people still think that AR and VR are more focused on entertainment, but there have been some very interesting use cases in healthcare. In the past few years we’ve already seen the hardware getting lighter, smaller, and no longer being tethered to powerful computers by cables. There have also been advances to address the motion sickness some early adopters had experienced.

What we are seeing now is a big push in education, training, and procedure simulations. Patients and caregivers are also being given new options within this space, including physical therapy, autism, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Research groups have been estimating that between $3 billion and $7 billion will be spent on AR/VR in healthcare by 2026. While the forms of these devices will still morph in the coming years, there is little doubt about the positive impacts AR/VR will have on healthcare.

Nicole Hamlin, account director, Butler/Till Health: Voice-activated technologies and the proliferation of smart speakers create an opportunity for brands to think of ways to integrate themselves audibly into the patient experience. There’s a new level of intimacy and detail that can happen between consumers & brands through voice-activated tech – search queries made via voice tend to be longer and more detailed, with follow-up questions more encouraged. It also has opened opportunities for greater adherence in healthcare by providing friendly reminders to take medications or make doctor appointments.

Saby Mitra, principal, ZS: It’s a significant moment for the industry to elevate the personalization quotient at scale. We’re not talking micro-segments anymore; we are getting into a world of individualized journeys for each customer that AI activated marketing technology is unlocking. That’s getting Marketing excited.

David Windhausen, executive VP and president, Intouch B2D: It seems like, in marketing, we’re always in search of the next “killer app.” That shiny thing that will catch the attention of our audience. For marketers in the health and life-science arenas, I believe the “killer app” for 2020 will be the continuation of the journey toward creating truly personalized customer experiences – experiences that are relevant at a specific moment of time and that deliver value at a personal level. These are the types of modern experiences customers expect from the brands they adopt outside of health and life science, so why shouldn’t they get the same from our brands? But how can we better anticipate their needs and empower them to create a dynamic relationship with us?

It all starts with data. For many years, we have approached the strategic use of data in our health and life-science marketing strategies as being made up of a combination of sales and primary market research. This was enough to provide marketers with a broad-stroke picture of who are customers are, but it did not provide the detail to really understand them as individuals. To take the next step on our journey toward creating modern customer experiences, we need to think differently about the strategic use of data in four specific areas.

First comes targeting. We have used data to target our customers in a broad manner in the past, but creating personalized experiences will require us to dig deeper. We must move beyond the traditional thinking of categorizing customers as being high-volume prescribers or not, to one in which we understand the personal drivers influencing their behaviors. This approach will require us to identify and incorporate new sources of data, which will indicate what each of our customers is experiencing external to our brands, so we can predict what they will need from our brands at just the right time.

This leads to the second area of the strategic use of data, creating a dynamic and personalized journey. Once we have a clear picture of exactly who our customers are and exactly what experiences are influencing their behavior, we can automate and create personalized journeys that anticipate and deliver what we believe will be relevant and valuable to our customers right at their point of need. In part, our ability to define these customized journeys will be predicated on the control we give to our customers to manage their own set of “preferences,” either manually or through our own intuition. This is the third area of the strategic use of data, customer empowerment.

Empowering the customer means we have given them control over how, when, and where they will react with our brands. It is the elimination of generalized push messaging for more intimate and personalized engagement. This transforms their personal experience into one that is unobtrusive and is so relevant to their current situation, it might even go unnoticed, but is certainly welcome.

And, the final area of the strategic use of data is in its ability to help us continually refine our strategy and approach to optimize every individual experience we create. Optimization is our means of evaluating how the use of data has informed our understanding of our customers. It provides us direction to determine whether our next-step predictions and delivery of what our customers need have provided the value expected and influenced behavior. It proves whether or not our understanding of when and how our customers engaged with our brands was self-guided and non-intrusive. And, most importantly, optimization reveals whether all of these aspects of the customer experience are delivering on the promise of business impact we set out to achieve for our brands.
The truth of the matter is that our ability to strategically leverage data in health and life-science marketing is an evolutionary process that is unique for each of our brands, based on their stage of the product lifecycle, the disease state/indication, our customers, and our own organizations and company cultures. In 2020, our ability to take the next step in this evolution, no matter where we might currently stand, will determine our ability to embrace the opportunities made possible by the “killer app” of modern customer experience.

Justin Freid: Not everyone wants an app for every single thing they can do. What they do want is easier access to information – and there’s no easier way to access information than to open your mouth and ask a question. Voice will continue to change the way we engage with technology. It will transition to become the primary way we engage with our devices and receive information from them.

Paul Shawah: This year we will see more marketers turn to digital asset management capabilities to promote global reuse and manage source files with greater compliance. Modular content approaches will additionally become a bigger part of companies’ commercial content strategies to approve core content once and reuse it globally. Both will enable organizations to more easily deliver tailored, personalized content in the channels healthcare providers prefer.

The next “killer app” will be an end-to-end platform for managing content from creation to distribution across channels to capturing performance analytics. Marketers will see the full picture and uncover areas of the content development cycle that need improvement and learn what messages resonate with customers. With the ability to measure content performance, marketers will continuously improve content based on a data-driven feedback loop for compliant, targeted customer engagement.

What tools are wearing thin? It’s not any one application but rather all point solutions that only address one piece of the content development cycle – these will become obsolete in a more integrated digital world. These discrete marketing applications prevent brand teams from a complete view of the content lifecycle and make it difficult to understand how each piece of content impacts the customer journey.

MedAdNews: Is it just us, or does everyone seem to be checking their Apple Watch every five minutes to see if they are close to their goal number of steps for the day? What are brands doing to get their hands around the trend of digital therapeutics, and what can we expect from them in 2020?

Dan Chichester, chief experience officer, Ogilvy Health: There is more to health than an Apple Watch a day. While Cupertino’s magic wristband has been responsible for heart monitoring and fall alerts that have literally saved lives, it’s but one example of digital therapeutics. More formally known as prescription digital therapeutics, and shorthanded as the far hipper DTx, this is software as evidence-based medical treatment, smartphones, tablets, and devices focused on delivering clinical outcomes. In one addiction-related clinical trial, patients “prescribed” a DTx showed a 40 percent abstention rate versus 17.6 percent for those on standard therapy alone.

DTx-based, instantly accessible cognitive and motivational stimulation is helping to guide techniques, develop personalized treatment plans based on real-time data, and provide preventative measures that can delay or even prevent the onset of chronic disease. A robot called Mabu is using AI and psychological modeling to tailor conversations, build relationships, and “nudge” adherence for people with kidney disease, RA, and congestive heart failure. Other conditions for which DTx is starting to make a difference include MS, insomnia, and psychosis.

As always, I am cognizant of the limitations of humans to in any way predict the future. But I can imagine what brands are mulling in order to maximize the possibilities of digital therapeutics. 2020 would seem to be a time for thoughtful considerations to:
• Determine the social contracts needed with an increase in biometric surveillance that will include faces, movement, voice, and patterns of behavior. Ethical, informed consent, and adjustable preferences are necessities.
• Learn from and leverage the “addictive” quality of non-medical apps to change behavior when it comes to chronic illness.
• Take care that the software/hardware does not entirely displace the essential need for human contact in healthcare. If technology is used in a way that leaves people feeling less cared for, it will be less likely to be adopted or embraced long-term.
• Weigh the advantages of a Therapeutic Area (TA)-focused strategy: a focus on a specific TA offers digital therapeutics that complement and differentiate existing offerings. This is an effective use of expertise within the therapeutic offering, but may offer only incremental growth.
• Study the advantages of a Digital Capabilities Focused Strategy: focus on truly innovative ways that digital therapeutics can be used as a treatment. This is by nature more transformational, but also requires bigger investments and dedicated execution.
• Assess a strategy of brand agnostic digital therapeutics, possibly winning a category by positioning DTx as a platform that is more patient-centric with the potential for greater patient satisfaction and improved adherence.
• Evaluate the evolutionary differences between the traditional hard launch of a pill (day 1 approval, IVAs, websites, etc.) and the relative soft launch of a DTx, mirroring the constant improvement and updates of an OS.
The core of a good digital therapeutic is its ability to increase confidence and self-efficacy. Ultimately, the benefit is its potential as an action therapy: helpers to get us to think, feel, and act differently. That’s as good a goal as any for 2020.

Irene Coyne, executive VP, group client director, CMI/Compas: We will see much more focus on technologies and support for mental health and emotional well-being. Mental illness is an epidemic with not nearly enough physical or personnel resources to support the patient demand. As a result of the surge and acceptance of these types of technologies, we will take a big step forward as a society in recognizing and destigmatizing mental health conditions.

Gregg Fisher, founder and managing partner, The Stem: The stars are aligned in 2020 for brands who focus on digital therapeutics,as technology penetration, increased know-how, and health system-wide incentives converge.

Consumer technology will continue to accelerate. Smart watches, yes, but also smart clothing and other wearables will push consumer wearable adoption to about 25 percent of the U.S. population. Beyond wearables we will also see smart bathmats, toilets and mirrors come to the market. All of these tools, when paired with smart ‘nudges’ hold the promise of driving behavioral change to improve outcomes.

Industry knowledge of how to design smart health interventions continues to grow. Brand teams will expand their recognition and appreciation for the importance and impact of behavior science-based approaches, and boutique consultancies specializing in these interventions will provide the roadmap. Partnerships will continue to take center stage as brand teams realize their solutions will be far more effective if they leverage third party technology providers, versus building solutions in house, and if they partner with health systems who can integrate digital therapeutics into their care pathways, versus relying solely on direct to consumer promotion.

Expect to see pharmaceutical companies, especially those with deep expertise in a therapeutic area, leverage their financial resources and partnering skills to deliver the most compelling solutions.

As technology and know-how improves, the incentives to invest in digital therapeutics will grow in tandem. This is true for all actors in the health system. Consumers will continue to recognize the impact of smart, well-designed tools on their health and well-being. Health systems will increasingly recognize the importance of these interventions to improve outcomes while keeping costs (incurred by expense in-patient care) down. And, pharma brands will reap compelling product differentiators that improve adherence, better deals with managed care. The most progressive Pharmaceutical companies will think beyond a single brand solution and instead focus on therapy-wide solutions, involving creative uses of data and even new revenue streams.

Ben Katz, director of digital, Decision Resources Group: The advent of digital health tools and therapeutics has been accompanied by a lot of breathless hype, and we should always be a bit wary of “Shiny New Thing Syndrome” when appraising the market potential of new and emerging technologies. Still, despite some recent setbacks (Sandoz’ exit from a partnership with Pear Therapeutics on reSET, Otsuka’s retreat from its Proteus partnership around Abilify Mycite), we continue to see DTx tools as an avenue of opportunity for biopharmas. Given the relatively low costs and expedited R&D time required to bring a new digital therapy to market, coupled with strong interest from consumers and professionals to adopt these technologies, this space is poised for rapid growth. Here are a few trends we’re watching:
• Closed-loop systems: Many brands have adherence trackers/reminder apps, but they should aim to incorporate more patient measurement data (e.g. biosensor readings from Apple Watch, smart scales). We can see this taking shape in the diabetes space, where continuous glucose monitors are starting to pair with smart scales for a fuller picture of the patient, beyond blood glucose readings alone. We also see partnerships forming between CGMs and other devices like smart insulin injectors (Medtronic and Novo Nordisk, Abbott and Sanofi). Often, software tech partners are serving as the matchmakers as well, bringing joint data-enabled solutions to pharma and medtech companies.
• Health coach programs: Think telemedicine on overdrive, with a side of yoga. We’ve seen several partnerships with apps that offer these sorts of features (Bayer’s partnership with One Drop, Noom’s with Novo Nordisk). The idea is to offer a holistic approach to treatment, inclusive of diet, exercise and stress management, as well as a medication. Best of all, the data generated can be used along with AI/predictive algorithms to craft a personalized plan for the coach that’s specific to that patient. These sorts of comprehensive offerings would be a stretch for most brands, but they might consider augmenting support programs with personal health coaches or partnering with companies providing off-the-shelf services.
• Medicine meets mindfulness: We see partnerships forming between pharma brands and existing apps that don’t have a specific indication but treat mental health issues like stress or anxiety more generally. An example of this is Sanofi partnering with Happify, an app touting itself as “the single destination for effective, evidence-based solutions for better mental health and wellbeing in the 21st century.” Headspace, one of the biggest players in the meditation app market, is also beginning to run clinical trials. Brands should look for opportunities to partner with such platforms, even beyond those treating mental illness. We see high interest in DTx from patients with auto-immune diseases, such as psoriatic arthritis or ulcerative colitis, which may be sensitive to stress.
• Leveraging clinical expertise in partnership with startups: Another DTx provider going the clinical route is MetaMe, which is currently starting enrollment in a study for IBS, and plans to seek FDA clearance. MetaMe is collaborating with Curebase, a leader in distributed clinical research. Pharmas can leverage their expertise in running randomized clinical trials and going through the FDA approvals process to help tech startups through this arduous process.
Partnerships around digital therapeutics and digital health solutions could prove a powerful differentiator for pharmas launching into some increasingly crowded specialty categories, while providing real value to patients, providers and payers alike. Pharmas should conduct a thorough survey of the digital health ecosystem surrounding their brand and category before diving in to ensure they understand the competitive dynamics and whitespace opportunities to address unmet needs.

Pete Masloski, principal, ZS: The digital therapeutics market is moving from innovation into early growth stage and is beginning to mature. As such we are seeing signs of growth for some of the early pioneers and leaders (i.e. Livongo), a shift from single solutions to platforms and consolidation where these leaders will be making more acquisitions. Several high profile failures with pharma-DCH partnerships (Proteus-Otsuka, Pear-Sandoz) highlight the challenges associated with developing and scaling a DTx solution as well as the challenges of getting the DTx-Pharma partnership right. Look for DTx companies to seek partnerships with firms outside of pharma more often. In 2020 we’ll see more consolidation, start-ups not able to get traction will shut down, DTx’s with robust RWD strategies will see quicker commercial success and have a more engaged user population. Look for big tech to make a larger splash in 2020 as well.

Brian Stack, digital lead, Brick City Greenhouse: Digital Therapeutics is a new frontier. Trends in this vertical range from evaluating overall patient wellness (e.g. common wearables) to employing advanced technologies that alert patients of an upcoming health event (e.g. a seizure). J.P. Morgan’s recent Healthcare Conference highlighted some of the newest digital tools such as in-home video communication between patient, caregiver, and physician. These are tools with the ability to remotely dispense medication that can be integrated into hospital systems. Brands will benefit from these new frontiers when they have the time to evaluate how they actually get used in the home, and how they can enhance the successful journey of the users of their product.

Jose Ferreira: It is clear that there has been mass adoption of wearables and usage of novel technologies in health, but it’s important to note there is a huge long-tail of people outside of the younger generational age brackets and higher income demographics that have not yet adopted these kinds of technologies. It presents a massive opportunity for pharma companies to step in to fill that void. A pharma company may opt to produce a wearable or new technology, and sell it at or below cost, knowing that usage will lead to greater compliance with a medicine they produce. In other words, the back-end results could outweigh any losses that exist on the front end. This is similar to what Amazon does with a lot of their smart devices. They price the hardware below market value, knowing that the data they will derive is much more valuable than the revenue they forego with the hardware.

MedAdNews: Sometimes folks forget about them with all the focus on technology, but pharma sales teams are still the ones on the ground. What do brands have to do to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams in 2020 and going forward?

Michael Factor, senior VP, management supervisor, Ogilvy Health: It is not about the shoe leather and sole – it is about the heart and soul. It is not about a sales team – it is about individualized customer-centric teams.

Heart and soul humanize the data and personalize each HCP contact. The human touch. Integrated teams for each HCP, not sales teams but customer-specific company teams– providing the right information and resources at the right time based on the needs of each individual HCP.

Individualized customer-centric teams provide for a holistic approach in which each HCP sees there is one team and “one voice” that is dedicated to him or her. This requires real-time communication and shared information among all members of the team.
The following is what is needed this year and moving forward:
• One plan: Individualized and unified business plan shared across the members of the customer’s team
• One team: Defined integrated team structure with a customer team lead. One team across functions and across brands. A team leader and single point of contact for each individual customer to coordinate the activities of the team
• One shared communication platform and system: Technology and systems that allow shared access to all personal and non-personal contact for each individual HCP customer
• One shared set of assets: Appropriate brand-related materials – commercial, clinical data, access/reimbursement, patient support – based on the needs of each individual HCP customer

The physician’s time is limited. They are looking for information and resources relevant to their own specific practice and patients. Information that not only improves their patients’ quality of life, but also their own quality of life. Information saves them time and hassle. This requires a personalized integrated team that works together as 1 team, providing the right information and resources at the right time by the right company representative based on the needs of each individual HCP.

Jude Konzelmann, managing principal, ZS, and Ian Wilcox, principal, ZS: As manufacturers continue to play a role across a wider spectrum of steps in the patient journey, we see organizations investing more heavily in field roles more oriented to solving patient problems in a “post-prescription” setting, like reimbursement and transitions of care. In fact, ZS research suggests these roles have grown in the US by two to three times in the last three years while the overall number of field reps has remained largely constant.

That said, ZS research also tells us that while physician access continues to decline, sales teams are still valued for their ability to connect customers and manufacturers. This connection is only successful when sales teams have sufficient insight into the customer, the healthcare ecosystem, and the available internal resources available – and the flexibility to bring them together in ways that create value.

For brands, that means ensuring reps move well beyond executing on brand messages and into truly understanding:

The local dynamics of the customer – Are they in an area that is highly consolidated? Are they being specifically measured on particular outcomes? From where are they being influenced and how might they influence others?
The customer’s key pain points – Do they serve economically constrained patients who cannot afford out-of-pocket costs? Do they serve a community that is undereducated on chronic diseases and the need for early and aggressive treatments? Do they simply not buy into data on the category of treatment?
How to draw value from the overall battery of resources available from the manufacturer – The increase of roles and resources in the “post-prescription” setting means reps have a more powerful arsenal of resources but also a lot more to navigate. Being able to do that effectively and help to tailor the right resources to meet customer needs on the ground in real time is the next frontier of effectiveness.

It comes down to brands equipping their sales team with the right data and digital tools that enable valuable conversations with HCPs beyond brand messages – access to RWE insights on treatment outcomes that strengthen the case for utilization or insights that support discussions about the costs and challenges of non-adherence. Do sales teams have digital tools that will enhance their face-to-face interactions with HCPs and office teams? And do those digital tools offer something more than standard product prescribing information, like a connection to disease or treatment management?

Patrick Lezark, partner, Beghou Consulting: What does the headquarters-driven forecasting process have to do with the on-the-ground work of field sales representatives? A lot, as it turns out. A company’s forecast impacts everything from its targeting strategy to its incentive compensation plan. So, a pharmaceutical company would be wise to pay close attention to the many downstream implications of forecasting to ensure it puts its field sales force in a position to succeed.

The stakes of forecasting are high for a company’s entire commercial operation, but especially for sales reps. If a forecast is too high, reps will struggle to hit their goals. On the flip side, if a forecast is set too low, the company may undersize its sales organization and then lose out on sales because it doesn’t have the resources needed to adequately cover all potential targets. A low forecast also risks the need to pay a windfall if the field exceeds its goal. Further, the company’s performance against the forecast has a motivational impact on the entire company. After all, no one wants to work at a company that isn’t meeting its goals.

This close relationship between forecasting and the rest of the commercial plan should put pressure on companies to base the forecast solely on hard data and thorough marketing research, including interviews with and surveys of healthcare professionals. If a pharmaceutical company makes forecasting a research- and data-driven effort, this will increase the odds that it will get it right. And if it creates an accurate forecast, the company will boost the effectiveness of the rest of its commercial tactics. Execute forecasting with the rest of the commercial plan in mind to give sales reps the best shot at success in the field.

Ed Park, commercial excellence solutions architect, Decision Resources Group: We all know that securing face time with U.S. physicians is getting harder, and has been for many years now – but there are other challenges life sciences commercial organizations face in engaging decision-makers.

For one thing, the people making purchasing or prescribing decisions are increasingly not just physicians but also organized customers and an array of non-clinical stakeholders. This reflects, in part, rapid consolidation of providers and institutions in recent years, coupled with soaring costs resulting from a wave of innovative treatments. This cost crunch has brought about a reorientation of our healthcare system toward value, measured both in terms of economics and health outcomes.
And even as the universe of stakeholders influencing purchasing decisions has expanded, we’ve seen an explosion of different models by which hospitals and hospital networks make these decisions. Some are highly centralized and top-down in their decision-making about devices, procedures and treatments, while others still grant broad autonomy to the physician.

As a result of all these trends, it’s much trickier for medtech and biopharma commercial teams to know which stakeholders to focus on, what measures of value matter to each, and how they can most effectively engage them. For example, if there are 10 accounts in my territory and half of them roll up into an IDN, where the purchasing decisions are made, it would be far more efficient for me to speak to the decision-makers at that IDN rather than spending my time at an individual facility, where I’d be extending the sales cycle. However, a traditional approach to commercial targeting, based solely on volume data, just doesn’t give me the view needed to assess where that locus of decision-making power lies and deploy accordingly.

Fortunately, some powerful new data tools can help biopharmas and medtechs make sense of this complex and evolving purchasing and prescribing landscape. Sales organizations have traditionally relied mainly on diagnostic and procedural or prescribing volume information contained in claims data to prioritize which accounts and clinicians to target and segment opportunities. Now, in addition to volumes, we can map network affiliation, referral influence and reimbursement dynamics to understand the complicated relational dynamics at play within a sprawling hospital network or health system. We can also get a better picture of the potential opportunity by forecasting the universe of undiagnosed patients around an institution, gauging facility readiness and calculating the potential benefit of drug or device selection to an institution. This can enable us to segment decision-makers and engage them as appropriate with value- and outcomes-oriented messaging tailored to their business.

Doing so requires going beyond CMS claims data alone to access a more diverse and robust data set, including commercial claims and EHR data and data on affiliations, publications, conference engagements, clinical trials and relationships with pharmas and medtechs (Open Payments), in addition to social intelligence. And of course, you need both the data science expertise and the therapeutic and commercial expertise to build the methodologies needed to decode the coding and understand data in a real-world context.

But taking a more comprehensive approach to commercial targeting can help commercial orgs keep their bearings in this increasingly challenging environment, and may contribute to maximizing efficiency, accelerating sales cycles and deepening customer relationships.

Kristin Scott, director, learning and development, TGaS Advisors, a division of Trinity: As solutions such as remote engagement, tele-detailing, virtual lunch-n-learns, and next-best action gain utilization and become more sophisticated, cross-functional teams need to develop strategies, roles and responsibilities and key metrics together. At the same time, training curricula for field teams must evolve to get the most from these investments.

Currently, there are many hands in the pot and not much evidence of a comprehensive strategy to optimize these platforms:
• Field/Sales Operations is primarily responsible for delivering initial/technical training
• Brands are primarily responsible for delivering capabilities/content training
• Commercial Learning and Development and Field Management are primarily responsible for delivering continuous and advanced training

Nearly all (95 percent) are training on how to use but fewer than 50 percent are offering application-based, experiential or continuous training on the nuances involved — understanding each customer’s practice setting, preferences, and predicted responses, and integrating the business acumen with the technology as the customer relationship progresses.
TGaS has identified the top three skills required to effectively pull through integration of solutions:
1. Selling and customer interaction
2. Account management and planning
3. Functional and technical capabilities

Challenges to upskilling include leadership, organizational alignment, change management, and cross-functional partnerships. These could all be addressed by an intentional team-based approach to the organizational purpose and expectations of HCP-Focused Technology Solutions.

Mike Stout, president, Ashfield Commercial US, part of UDG Healthcare plc: Engaging with HCPs digitally is an important part of the success of today’s brands, and we see preference for digital communications continuing to grow. But we shouldn’t overlook that HCP preference still favors face-to-face interactions and integrated digital/physical interactions. In essence, we all still need those boots on the ground to drive commercial value. Yet, not every high-priced pair of shoes delivers the desired ROI.

More than ever before, optimizing the effectiveness of sales teams must start long before profiling, recruiting and training ideal candidates. In order to maximize sales, brand management must start with sophisticated data and analytics solutions to really understand the market opportunity and key customer segments. With meaningful commercial insight, you can develop a sales strategy with the best promotional mix, sales force size, geographic alignment, targeting and messaging. Brands have always done territory analysis to optimize their reach and team size, but the change in promotional channels has taken the need for data and analysis to a new level we must leverage. “Promotional mix” now entails a variety of digital channels and a number of roles that need to be considered in building the right team, including specialty care reps, market access and reimbursement reps, key account managers, medical science liaisons, pharmacy reps, inside sales, hybrid face-to-face/virtual roles and a commercial service team.

With these different roles and skill-sets in mind, you can build tailored teams with the right individuals for each brand challenge. For example, physician access time or practice location, and position of the brand in its life cycle, can make the cost of deploying a traditional field rep undesirable. A commercial service team (see sidebar), contact center rep, or digital outreach or combination of each might be the best approach to maximize return.

Once the promotional mix is in play, data and analysis remain key to maximizing the effectiveness of sales teams. For brand management, data continuously measures the impact of each type of engagement, highlighting how the promotional mix can be flexed to ensure maximum performance over time. For feet on the ground, data provides the ability to prioritize and personalize each contact, and collaborate within the promotional mix, providing a much-needed, connected view across the customer journey.

Brady Walcott, executive VP, strategic development, Intouch Group: In order to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams moving forward, there are three critical competency and cultural areas to focus on:
Back to basics: To align with their customers, today’s pharma sales teams must be focused on improving healthcare outcomes in partnership with their provider targets and patients. All field sales teams must understand market access and the impact on the HCP decision making and patient care.

Field sales = field marketing: The field is an extension of the marketing team in that it delivers key messages and enhances engagement in the personal promotion setting. The field should be trained to think like marketers from a data, analytics, and targeting perspective to help trigger next-best-action content for the best HCP experience. Using advanced platforms like Salesforce and Veeva allows the field to drive customer relationship marketing in a seamless and automated way to make a bigger impact, which is critical for sales teams in the new year and going forward.

Coaching and training: Like all teams, your field sales team needs efficient coaching! It’s critical for field sales management to drive high-quality content and direction in field conference reports; this ensures that actionable insights and goals are shared in a clear/concise manner and tied back to key brand imperatives. New technology within Veeva allows for a faster field conference report process. However, there is also opportunity to use AI to improve content, direction, and actionable language, and to assist with more consistent coaching across all regions of a field sales team. Field managers need visibility into their coaching performance results and rankings as correlated with actionable language, brand imperatives, field competencies, and results in order to identify and understand where they need to focus to improve those results, along with the performance of their field sales teams.

Melissa Barnhart: Brands will need to continue to help equip their sales teams with as much information as possible to make every minute they have with their customers more effective. This could be alerting them of an action that an HCP has recently taken, whether it’s opening an email to request further information or providing them an opportunity to deliver samples requested by an HCP through NPP outreach. Opportunity also lies in supplementing rep activity with NPP to establish recency and frequency of the sales message in between visits.

Michael Deichmiller: Brands can support their sales teams in 2020 in three key ways. First, they must serve up their messages at high frequencies to the physicians their sales team sees or plan to see; second, they must complement their sales teams’ efforts by having dedicated media weight/frequency against physicians within white-space geographies; and finally, they must reach allied health professionals through nonpersonal channels to ensure they are reaching a majority of staff/influencers who may not have direct interactions with the sales teams themselves.

Gregg Fisher: Sales reps typically get a fraction of the time that healthcare providers spend consuming media in other channels, whether that’s EMR systems, search, third party websites, email, mobile tools. Yet, many brands still spend the lion’s share of their budgets on sales support and think about sales and non-personal interactions in siloes, rather than as integrated customer experiences.

To maximize the impact of the field force, brands need to increasingly think in terms of designing integrated cross-channel experiences rather than one-off interactions, with reps at the center of these experiences. Rather than measuring call-frequency, brand should measure increases in the number of cross-channel interactions, the impact of those interactions on changing customer beliefs and customer satisfaction.

Sales reps of all types are the tip of the spear in brands customer engagement model. Rather than purely being an instrument of brand message delivery, they can become orchestrators of exceptional customer experiences.

Glenn Forde: There is still a huge opportunity for increased partnership and transparency between the sales force and NPP omni-channel communications from marketers. We have found when there is transparency across all communications that touch HCPs there is increased effectiveness. Sales force input on non-personal communications is extremely valuable and vice versa. This should not only happen during annual brand planning but throughout the year. Having the right processes in place to share content and feedback is key and ultimately results in a better, more orchestrated experience for HCPs. It can also provide tremendous efficiencies by eliminating waste and not overloading HCPs with similar messaging from various channels.

Paul Shawah: With the move toward patient-centric healthcare and more innovative precision medicines and specialty drugs, a wider variety of stakeholders are administering care. This creates complexity in identifying the right patients, treatment, and managing the services needed to drive adherence and patient outcomes.

To optimize commercial effectiveness, brands will leverage AI that is embedded in enterprise applications and specific commercial workflows. AI will become more contextually aware of what teams are doing and act as a real-time coach helping navigate the complicated ecosystem of stakeholders.

For example, AI will enable real-time compliance and allow teams to capture detailed information about customer engagements to further enhance and validate new marketing opportunities. Reps will be able to take detailed notes of customer interactions in CRM systems while AI provides real-time guidance about potential compliance risks such as off-label messaging. With a coach helping better coordinate and share information, brand teams can gain unique, more precise insights that enable organizations to build stronger customer relationships, compliantly.

Brian Stack: As marketers, how many times have we heard the salesforce say, “We rarely use that tool” or “We really like it, but we haven’t had the opportunity to use it much.” Sales representatives have challenging jobs facing a continually changing landscape, and technology should make their jobs easier rather than more difficult. With technology morphing at an exponential rate, marketing has an almost endless set of tools, and it’s important to take a responsible approach to deploying this technology. It’s not all about making sure that we launch tactics with the latest technology. We also need to strategically develop meaningful tools that contribute positively to the efforts of the sales representative. Also, it’s critical to ensure that the sales force has full transparency about other communications to their customers. Results from non-personal communications should be shared with the salesforce in a timely and actionable manner so they have a full understanding of all efforts targeted to their customers.

MedAdNews: How do you foresee pharma’s marketing media mix changing, or not changing, in 2020? How will the various channels develop and change this year?

Heather Figlar, director of U.S. digital physician research, Decision Resources Group: We’re seeing a pretty broad consensus among our pharma clients that the traditional approach of direct sales and DTC TV ads isn’t working anymore. However, they’re having a hard time finding traction with alternative channels to make up that lost ground.

Clients are taking a much more consciously multichannel approach to physician engagement in recognition of the fact that reps are struggling for facetime with doctors (the percentage of U.S. physicians who had in-person meetings with reps plunged from 67 percent to 54 percent last year) and that website usage by doctors hasn’t really budged in years. At the same time, we’re not seeing greater use of remote communication (e.g., email, phone, remote details) and MSLs.

Pharmas are exploring other ways of getting in front of the physician and providing value – we’ve seen some intense interest in self-serve options like chatbots, voice apps and podcasts (one in three physicians listens to healthcare related podcasts monthly). And while investment in digital channels is generally on the rise, pharmas are also re-thinking their digital footprints, questioning the value of having multiple HCP-facing digital properties and looking at streamlining or better integrating their sites. In terms of sponsored content, they’re asking whether they’re better off going with a handful of sites that see broad reach, or more niche sites and online communities that let them reach a more targeted audience.

On the upside, both rep and website influence rose among U.S. physicians last year, possibly reflecting a glut of innovative new treatments as well as a more balanced approach to content provision that mixes promotional materials with educational and scientific resources. In 2019, nearly half of U.S. physicians deemed pharma websites credible – way up over 27 percent in 2017!
Mass media continues to drive ad recall among patients (58 percent of U.S. adults recalled seeing TV ads for Rx drugs in 2019), but it’s trending modestly down while recall of online drug ads is rising – from 48 percent in 2018 to 52 percent in 2019. And pharmas are beginning to put serious thought into multichannel payer engagement.

Brand marketers and centers of excellence are under increasing pressure to show ROI, and that may be driving some decision-making – banner ads might not move the needle, but they’re easy to measure and corporate wants metrics, so let’s buy more of those! – but we are hearing some healthy curiosity in breaking out of the old pharma marketing paradigm.

Katy Hewett, linguistic insights manager, Ogilvy Health: With the proliferation of voice-enabled devices and the first HIPAA-compliant apps for Alexa having launched in 2019, we will likely see growth this year in the ways that voice is leveraged for pharma marketing. A focus on authenticity in these interactions, beyond simple transactions, will be the next push. Another technological advance that is changing the healthcare landscape overall, including the media mix, is the electronic health record (EHR). Most medical offices now use them, but pharma has been slow to explore the possibilities of using EHRs in point-of-care marketing. However, use of this new channel is accelerating and continued growth is imminent this year. Video is an established channel that is seeing exponential growth as consumers are engaging with it more than ever. In the health space, continued growth of user-generated content on social media, and educational videos for physicians featuring key opinion leaders, are to be expected. Finally, given the cost of healthcare and the expansion of connectivity, telemedicine will likely continue growing and we may see this added to the media mix.

Andrew Miller, senior VP, search and emerging media, CMI/Compas: In 2020, digital video will continue to grow. While I think we will see TV continue to receive a large portion of brand budget (in most cases), digital video platforms like YouTube and Programmatic offer more flexibility, pricing options, targeted reach and may avoid the requirement for drugmakers to disclose price information. Brands and advertisers need to have strategy here though as the video needs to be applicable to the platform users are viewing it on. Instead of repurposing or slicing old TV ads for YouTube, focus on creating new video spots that meet the specs and speak to the audience for the platform you’re on.

Mark Pappas, senior VP, growth and innovation, CMI/Compas: The evolution of streaming should influence how brands market in 2020 and beyond. With linear TV viewing continuing to decline, there has been a huge shift to Over the Top (OTT) TV and smart TV app viewing. Brands like Samsung now include Apple TV, Roku and other options already built into their TVs. Roku’s advertising business is set to outpace their actual TV sales. Samsung, Roku and others offer free, ad supported channels with tons of impressions up for grabs across all demos. Add programmatic partners to the mix and the targeting is extremely precise and a fraction of the price of a typical TV campaign.

Telemedicine is another area that continues to increase rapidly in use with just about every major insurance company rolling out their own telehealth offering – Aetna’s Teledoc, for example. New opportunities to reach patients before and after these remote sessions happen are begging to come mainstream and should be seriously considered in any pharma campaign.

Michael Ranalli, VP, strategy, CMI/Compas: Expect pharma brands to get more serious about content marketing in 2020. Pew research data shows 80 percent of consumers begin their health research with a search engine. Between these searches and the 75 percent of HCPs we’ve found in our Media Vitals research go to search engines every day for professional research, there are about 70,000 health related searches happening every minute – 36 billion each year. That makes up 7 percent of overall search activity, according to Google, and the number continues to grow. Top brands understand that the #1 way to gain access and exposure to this audience is through high-quality, trusted content. And they’re doing this by effectively answering the questions their specific audiences need to know with rich webpage content and by creating informational experiences in the places people already go for information, including social channels and top online media publishers. This means stepping away from the comfort of sales-oriented content and focusing on solution-oriented content marketing. Winning with content focuses on mining the abundance of data available through search and social media for the nuggets that teach us what an audience cares about. This insight gives us the ability to deliver the answer better than anyone else. Reuters research shows that this is what audiences want too – 73 percent of American households prefer digital content – even content from brands – to traditional forms of advertising.
Brands are realizing the impact of exceptional content throughout the marketing ecosystem too. Today’s content is “engaging, consumable, online information” more than “text.” The knowledge we gain about our audience’s informational needs can significantly inform the campaign planning process. More than ever, brands are thinking about this and focusing on how their CRM, PPC, social media, and media publisher programs can benefit from more targeted messaging, including appropriate landing page content addressing each level of the funnel. Exceptional content requires an effective distribution strategy, and an effective distribution strategy benefits from high-value content. For biddable campaigns, that means greater focus on relevance and sustained cohesion of messaging throughout the interaction – from ad placement to landing page and through the conversion event. We’ve seen this is a key driver of campaign success and cost efficiency. Brands winning with content are spending more time to understand audience intent. They’re ensuring their audiences’ needs are met with relevant ad messages and CTAs, then they’re driving to high-quality landing page experiences that match intent of the question. Earned marketing campaigns will include more data from search and social media to inform their understanding of their segments, how they’re messaged, and who is getting seen when health-related conversations are playing out online. Share of Voice from the latter can help brands understand which top online media publishers they can piggyback on to appear highest in search results.

Most importantly, brands winning with content are tying it back to their goals. Concentrating on intent, rather than keywords, gives brands greater insight into how content themes align our audience’s problems with the problems brands are trying to solve. Lastly, they’re measuring the impact and understanding that content – like most good things – improves and develops over time.

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga: Social used to be the big change maker; now it’s second nature for most of us, and our focus is additionally on how to marry our more traditional efforts with newer technology like voice. It is less about individual tactics and more about how all of these things intersect with each other. Think about it: you’re on your phone using Twitter, watching TV, and talk to Alexa. Smart marketers are thinking about how we put together programs that speak to each other. And there’s no one size fits all. Our audiences are multitasking so much that our brains are now wired that way, and when there’s a need for health info, they’re finding what they need from a zillion resources. As advertisers we have to find a way to get our audiences exposed to our brands in this always-plugged-in, multi-tasking world.

Jay Carter: Well, it’s gonna get NOISY – so expect that the cost of communicating with our customers will go up, whether the approach is digital or broadcast. That might make 2020 the year to target better, but more likely it will just mean that the industry pays more to get messages out.

Irene Coyne: 2019 saw every pharma company finally getting into social in a big way especially from a paid advertising perspective – but social efforts are still very siloed across paid, owned, and earned. In 2020, I think we’ll see a greater drive for a single, holistic social strategy including integration of paid, owned, and earned channels combined with valuable activation and leverage of important influencers. Additionally, with the oldest millennial turning 40 in 2021, Pharma will need to move away from a one-size-fits-most marketing and media approach in favor of a more unique and diverse messaging and channel approach for healthcare professionals and consumers alike.

Michael Deichmiller: Although the influencer channel has exploded in popularity among advertisers, and despite pharma being a little behind, I believe there will be a pull-back in investment within this channel in 2020. The marketplace is flooded with micro-influencers promoting everything from makeup to shoelaces but as the job title “social media influencer” shows up more on Linkedin, House Hunters, and The Bachelor, consumers will become increasingly wise to compensation and kickbacks between advertisers and influencers. The channel will need to continue to evolve while focusing on building credibility and authenticity in order for advertisers to consider additional investment, especially within the nuanced, heavily regulated healthcare space.

Hensley Evans: While we expect TV to continue to play a significant role (more than half of all DTC spending) in driving awareness, we do expect that digital and connected channels will grow more quickly. In November of 2019, the Senate introduced a bill called Drug-Price Transparency in Communications (DTC) Act that would require pharma companies to display WAC price in their DTC advertising. In this election year, we expect this bill to be debated and likely passed. There is bi-partisan support for it, and passing the bill would be a solid win for candidates looking to promote how they have taken action to curb drug pricing. This new legislation will likely not be put into effect until 2021. Overall, we expect DTC spending in 2020 to be slightly higher than it was in 2019, while the debate about price transparency continues.

Gregg Fisher: Our research on this topic reveals a growing divide between a small number of omni-channel leaders and a much larger group consisting of average players and laggards. The leaders (who tend to be larger top 10 pharma companies) are quite advanced in climbing the omni-channel maturity curve. Having set up the core channel technology infrastructure set-up and tackled many of the people, vendor and process issues involved, these firms regularly run multi-channel campaigns and are now well-along in tackling more advanced topics. In contrast, less mature firms are still aiming to master the basics. Therefore 2020 will be ‘tale of two cities’, once characterized by further gains achieved by the digital leaders and incremental progress by other players, save for a few players who are able to leap-frog.

For leaders, representative topics on the agenda will be: omni-channel integration, advanced predictive analytics, scaling digital health programs, AI and machine learning to improve targeting, deepening partnerships with online influencers, segmenting and personalizing customer experiences, and experimenting with new technologies like voice and sensors. For other players, the focus will remain on perfecting the basics including channel set-up, training and upskilling, improving planning and execution processes, refining role definition and partnering.

Justin Freid: Pharma is still too focused on TV. While it reaches the masses, it does not deliver the precision marketing needed to change patient behavior. Evolving technology and datasets will allow not only for better digital and traditional media opportunities, but also change the way TV is bought. With media consumption habits changing drastically amongst consumers, media plans need to evolve quicker and to the channels being used by their audiences.

Nicole Hamlin: As data privacy laws (like CCPA) become active across the country and we enter a new era of transparency to consumers, we may start to see a step back in digital media campaigns. It will take some time for the industry to adapt to the legislation. In that time, media that has been highly effective due to the personalized targeting and message delivery (e.g., programmatic audience targeting) could see a dip in spending in favor of an “easier” alternative – such as contextual alignments and paid search.

Paul Shawah: Pharma brand marketers continue to leverage national TV buys, but they are also adjusting their media budgets to increase digital video and targeted TV investments.

A significant shift in consumer behavior has seen U.S. adults choosing to watch television primarily through a streaming service, like Netflix or Hulu, with the major networks combined seeing more than 27 percent of their viewers disappear. And generational differences demonstrate future domination. Millennials are more likely to “cut the cord” and use streaming services as their primary television source.

Viewers like digital television’s cost-effectiveness and ability to personalize, and that’s exactly why pharma advertisers appreciate it, too.

With targeting and segmentation improvements attributable to connected data and holistic analytics, Connected TV ad spending is expected to grow another 28 percent in 2020. This advancement will allow pharma marketers to cater specific ads to qualified audiences, effectively reducing media waste while reaching those most likely to need or prescribe the advertised brand.

Brian Stack: From a channel perspective, we’re able to reach patients and HCP’s in more ways now than ever before. We can be laser-targeted through data in our communications. Healthcare has an abundance of data (more so than other verticals), and as marketers we have the responsibility to find the best way to leverage this data to be as impactful as possible with our messaging. If an HCP is already an advocate of a brand, why should she be exposed to efficacy messaging? If a patient is already on a prescription product, should he be exposed to messaging that asks him to speak to his doctor about it? Programmatic is a channel that provides the opportunity to tailor content in a relevant way that will resonate with each targeted customer. While there’s historically been a lower percentage of pharma marketing that leverages programmatic tactics versus non-health verticals, this will likely increase.

MedAdNews: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2020 that they might not have expected in 2019? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Faruk Capan, CEO, Intouch Group: Brands are shifting their marketing dollars from advertising to customer experience, which means successful agencies will provide superior customer-experience strategy, mapping and deliverables. They must make data-driven marketing and marketing technology core offerings. Ultimately, to stay competitive, they need to behave more like a consultancy, i.e., a group that champions big creative but that also has expertise in business strategy, customer insights, and measurement.

The future of ad agencies will be in creating platforms that help brands make a customer’s life easier and even better; helping clients design and manage platforms requires bringing business, brand, design, operation and technology together. Brands will favor agency partners that have a true working and integrated relationship with technology providers like Adobe, Marketo, Acquia, Salesforce, etc., and layer on top of IT innovative services. Agencies will also need to “bulk up” on content marketing, web/mobile development and advertising technology, not as stand-alone centers of excellence, but in terms of how these services integrate and deliver against real metrics and goals.

Peter Rooney, growth officer, Ogilvy Health: 2020 will usher in both a continuation of industry trends that have been building over the past few years, as well as tangible disruptions that will further alter the trajectory of medicine, pharmaceutical marketing, and health-and-wellness priorities among consumers.

New technologies such as augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), artificial intelligence (AI), sonic branding, and connected devices will continue to transform brand engagement, and agency partners will need to continue to test and then bring to scale these and other innovative technologies on behalf of their clients.

Personalization will be a headline, as pharma brands continue the push to create more personalized content and engagement, tailored to individuals to create real and lasting behavioral change and ultimately improve health outcomes. Data will be key to advanced personalization, of course.

Agency partners will be critical in helping marketers turn data into personas and actionable insights that will lead to personalized content and experiences, a practice now further enhanced by the use of machine learning, which helps marketers better understand and optimize data, yielding richer and more personalized experiences.

Striking the balance between effective data collection and privacy requirements will be a delicate science that agency partners will need to guide.

Pharma marketers will need to stay abreast of new privacy laws that affect how personal information is collected and used. On January 1, California implemented its California Consumer Privacy Act, which is held to be the most comprehensive of state laws. It follows the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is even more comprehensive.

To be sure, CCPA focuses on personal information control at the point of collection, and it is an area that agencies will need to keep focused on and track on behalf of their clients, especially as additional states enact their own laws.

Maintaining a holistic view of the always-changing landscape for pharmaceutical marketers will continue to be an imperative for agency partners. Keeping an eye on and implementing the latest technologies and data-driven approaches to create highly personalized and impactful experiences will be paramount, even as data protection remains an important consideration. Creating unified, seamless experiences rooted in data but powered by masterful creativity will be brand managers’ superpower as we move forward into a new age of brand engagement.

Recognizing all of this, our goal at Ogilvy Health is to make brands matter, and to do that, our priority is to create experiences that break through, change behavior, and improve outcomes.

Renee Wills, co-founder, client lead, Brick City Greenhouse: Brand managers increasingly want and need thought partnership from their agency. They expect functional excellence, but they want more than simply better and better execution of a Visual Aid. They expect their agency to be as steeped as they are in the category – if not more – and to be able to bring insights that can open up new concepts. They also want their agencies to take risks, bringing challenging or provocative perspectives to their thinking. How do HCPs feel about the condition they are treating? What about patients who live with the condition? What inferences can we make that allow us to get under their skin with new messaging? And how do we leverage these insights in a fresh way through an omni-channel marketing program? An agency who is true thought partner will challenge the traditional way of thinking to help drive far more effective collaboration and creative solutions hand in hand with their clients.

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga: While it’s still important to be subject matter experts, with specialties in our given areas, the silos are falling – brand managers are expecting their agency partners to be full-stack media experts. We need to know how everything intersects, from creative to reporting, from start to finish. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as we work across multiple clients, agencies have the 10,000 foot view to be able to see how things work in our industry as a whole, we have a pulse on trends and we know what works and what doesn’t.

Jay Carter: Measuring performance proactively has been a watchword for some time now, but it’s likely that increased costs will make planning for results even more important. Still, the skill to effectively understand the marketing problem, and to create promotion that moves the sales needle, will continue to be king.

Irene Coyne: Data is something that now must be understood by every member of the team, not just the analytics experts. Data-centric thinking, aptitude, and ethical responsibility of data handling and usage is now required across every agency department and at every level. In my experience, clients’ analytics and insights teams are an increasingly critical stakeholder in marketing strategy and decision-making and are critical relationships to nurture within the overall client engagement.

Jose Ferreira: Media agencies in particular are becoming very specialized. All new and emerging channels, as well as novel technical approaches to delivering media, have required agencies to cultivate teams of experts who understand the unique nuances of these innovations. This is very different from even a few years ago where a core media strategy and planning team could independently manage the intricacies of all channels and could operate as a kind of jack of all trades. The trend towards more specialization will continue to grow in the foreseeable future. That said, what used to be the traditional strategy and planning team has evolved to become the owners of brand knowledge within the agency, ensuring the accounts are serviced properly, and getting the most out of the teams within their walls who are thinking about and devising solutions to emerging media.

Gregg Fisher: The discipline of marketing and customer engagement continues to fragment into more granular (digitally-fueled) service specializations. This makes it increasingly harder for all but the largest client organizations and agency groups to integrate and master these service under one roof. Specialization, combined with the continued quest for cost savings will continue to force both clients and agencies to make difficult choices about their organizational structures and partnership models.

In 2020, we expect that brand managers will increasingly value neutral strategic consulting partners who can help them proficiently navigate the growing array of customer engagement options and partners without a financial stake in the execution of a given tactic. These partners will deliver value in the form of strategy, customer insight, program and partner management as well as capability building. The very largest clients will continue to invest in centers of excellence (CoEs) to provide in-house support to brand teams in these areas, but smaller organizations will seek external consulting partners.

The desire for objective strategic partners will continue to put pressure on an already fragile Agency of Record (AOR) model which already struggles to balance objective strategic advice alongside the quest for profitable campaign production work. In 2020, as always, clients must consider the trade-offs in deciding between choosing an AOR or adopting a “best of breed” specialist partnering model. The best of breed model looks increasingly attractive (given service fragmentation and cost pressures) provided clients are set up to manage various specialist vendors.

Glenn Forde: New consumer privacy laws ranging from GDPR to CCPA and the use of third party data are requiring brand managers and their agency partners to plan ahead and be able to react quickly to stay compliant and still provide a great customer experience. The new laws will affect all of marketing from strategy, operations, technology to monitoring of compliance of internal and third party efforts.

Andrew Miller: We can expect to see a continued focus on Voice Search. Content creation and optimization are becoming more real and used more with assistants like Google and Alexa as well as their integration into tech like cars, wearables and more. Agencies will need to make sure they’re offering proper training and hiring employees with the right background to gain traction here.