Agenda 2021 Special Feature: COVID & Everything After

The pandemic touched every part of pharmaceutical marketing in 2020; its impact will continue to transform the industry in 2021 and for years to come.

By Joshua Slatko • [email protected] 

COVID-19 was the great disruptive reality in pharma and everywhere else in 2020; it still is today, and will continue to be so even long after the rates of infection decline. Literally nothing in the brand manager’s world has escaped the virus’ spiky embrace; the dogmas of the quiet past have been wiped away in a new landscape in which everything from the way patients interface with their physicians to the way pharma companies interface with their agency partners has been completely – and likely irrevocably – transformed. Looking back today to our last Agenda article, what all of us were thinking about and predicting before everything changed, brings to mind something said by the British author L.P. Hartley: “The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”

MedAdNews: What was the non-COVID word of the year in pharma marketing for 2020? Why? What will the non-COVID word of the year be in 2021? Why?

Keith Betz, VP, client management, Butler/Till: My WOTY candidate for 2020 has to be resiliency. Marketers and brands who proved that they were able to weather the storm of 2020 are now set up for accelerated success during 2021 and beyond. That resiliency will prove to be a springboard and we will look back and appreciate that in ways we can not even imagine right now (e.g., people, process, technology, etc.).

Jay Borowiecki, VP, Aktana Services, Americas: It’s not a new word, but “omnichannel” roared back into the limelight as everyone shifted their focus to digital in 2020. In 2021, I think “AI” will be the buzzword that doesn’t quit, especially as pharma looks for smart ways to communicate seamlessly across channels, deliver on customers’ increasing expectations for personalization, and leverage resources more effectively.

Jay Carter, executive VP, chief strategy officer, AbelsonTaylor: I’ve heard the word “pivot” a lot and it has a lot of relevance to 2020. But I think that the right word for 2020 is “persistent.” Despite huge obstacles, the pharma advertising community has, at a minimum, remained healthy and in many cases has thrived. Why? Well, the first reason is need. Our clients truly needed us in 2020, and the industry responded. Second, our employees channeled their reduced commute time into greater productivity and often as elementary school teacher, caregiver, and bottle washer, admittedly … but productivity was up. If that ain’t persistent, what is?

Michael Deichmiller, group director, integrated planning, Butler/Till: The word of the year for 2020 was nimble – marketers needed to stay on their toes with the changes to the marketplace that were happening on a daily, weekly, and regional basis. Their plans had to shift in many different directions, very quickly all while managing their own personal and professional changes (WFH, family, illness, etc.)

Amanda DeVito, VP, marketing and growth, Butler/Till: My word of the year candidate for 2020 would be DISRUPTION. It is pretty clear we all got upended by 2020 and so did marketers in every category. What was impressive to witness, were brands that pivoted and grew from the disruption. The 2021 word will be authenticity. What 2020 taught us was you can’t fake authenticity. Period. And 2021 will be the pharma industry learning from how consumer brands continue to thrive in disruptive environments. Even though the regulatory environment tends to mean playing it safe – safe with their marketing messages and their media channels – the industry needs to find opportunities to create a more transparent and authentic value exchange.

Scott Ensign, VP, client solutions, Butler/Till: My word of the year is necessity. Nothing drives innovation and change like something you need to do. Technology around things like telemedicine has been improving for years, but there wasn’t enough impetus to drive that behavioral change. Now that necessity has dictated that, the industry has realized just how useful this can be. There’s no going back now. The word for 2021 will be decisions. What do we pick back up? What can we leave behind? It would be a shame if we don’t apply a whole bunch of really recent lessons.

Justin Freid, chief growth and innovation officer, CMI Media: For 2020: adapt. We changed the way we lived. We changed the way we worked. We adapted to a new normal that affected everything we do on a daily basis. Our ability to adapt was essential. 2021 will focus on “rebuilding.” We will need to rebuild faith in each other across our political beliefs, rebuild our economy as it re-opens and also rebuild out mental health as we can begin to do and see the things we cherish.

Nicole Hamlin, account director, Butler/Till: Empathy is my 2020 word of the year candidate. With so much disruption to people’s lives, the ways of doing business, and the healthcare industry, the marketers and brands who were able to show true understanding of their clients’ and consumers’ needs and emotional state were the winners. The uplifting marketing moments of the year came from brands and organizations who authentically offered support, understanding, and ways to make day-to-day lives of their consumers easier in the face of significant adversity.

Murray Henry, senior VP, strategy, CMI Media: Breathe. Literally and metaphorically. With the hope that vaccines bring and the resulting move back towards “normalcy” at some point, it is a time for marketers to take a minute, pause from the last year of rapidly adjusting to COVID demands, breathe and reflect on marketing opportunities pre-COVID and evaluate how to evolve those into what the emerging COVID marketing world may look like.

Garth McCallum-Keeler, managing partner, chief growth officer, Calcium: It was a prefix, not a word, that defined 2020. “Health,” “conference,” “commute,” has been reconceptualized with the prefix “TELE-.” COVID mainstreamed what had been bubbling for many years into a full-bore societal standard from which there will be some retreat, but far from a complete one. 

Aspirationally, the word of the year for 2021 will be “unity.”

Ricky McCrumb, account supervisor, Butler/Till: 2020 – Telemedicine. Telemedicine was already looking to establish a foothold in how patients and HCPs interact in the early days of 2020 with that trend being put into hyperdrive in March, whether or not patients, HCPs or marketers were ready for it. As the world went virtual, any platform with even any relevance in the space was sent scrambling to develop new solutions and capabilities to connect patients and HCPs, with pharma brands and agencies doing the same to figure out where and when made the most sense for their brands to connect with those audiences.

2021 – Aggregation. The fragmented approach to Telemedicine in 2020, while chaotic, had to overcome a lot of obstacles to ensure Non-COVID patients were being properly diagnosed and treated in a virtual world. When the dust settled, however, it was apparent there was a huge gap in the ability for marketers to reach these audiences in an efficient way with adequate scale. Enter the aggregators who will need to work hard throughout 2021 to catch up to the newly realized channel and allow for one placement to reach an array of providers, regardless of their preferred platforms.

Liz McShea, director, social media, CMI Media: “Embrace” will be the word of 2021. With 2020 forcing pharma companies and the healthcare industry to quickly pivot and find new ways of working, it will be important for the industry to adopt these new ways of working and integrating them to be commonplace in order to be more efficient and effective.

Mike Myers, managing director and founder, Cross & Wild: 2020 – Targeting. The pandemic minimized the ability to connect for obvious reasons. As HCP willingness to engage throughout 2020 returned, engagement was less effective and sparser than it was previously. Targeting and focus became even more critical due to the changing dynamics.

2021 – Optimization. While things look to “return to normal in 2021” to some degree, the need to maximize every engagement opportunity with customers and minimize waste is more fundamental now than it has ever been. Without heightened optimization, brands will waste an inordinate amount of time and resources due to the ongoing changes to customer connectivity and interaction.

Paul Shawah, executive VP, strategy, Veeva Systems: “Digital” was the word of the year in 2020. From virtual events and email to remote meetings, we saw digital engagement skyrocket across commercial organizations – and many marketers are now viewing it not just as a short-term necessity, but as an opportunity to reimagine the customer experience and improve engagement well into the future. 

As more companies accelerate their use of digital channels this year, the word of the year will be “speed” in 2021. Marketers will be able to rapidly iterate and experiment with new engagement tactics and messaging, allowing them to quickly identify the most effective way to reach their audiences. 

Meanwhile, process automation will also play a key role in driving speed and agility. Whether it’s accelerating content creation through modular content or automatically generating insights from customer engagements, there are many ways technology will create new levels of efficiency while reducing human error. With more accurate and real-time data, marketers will be able to make more informed decisions and quickly adapt their strategies as needed. 

Victoria Summers, associate principal, ZS: Activation. 2020 saw disruption in just about every aspect of daily life, including how people wanted or were able to access healthcare. During the height of the first wave of COVID infections, the ZS COVID Pulse survey reported that patient visits were down 35 percent compared to pre-COVID-19 levels. In the summer, the situation improved, but a follow-up ZS COVID Pulse survey reported that visits were still down 9 percent year-over-year. This reluctance to visit a physician’s office effectively “broke the DTC engine” that pharma had used successfully for nearly 20 years to inform patients and motivate them to take action. In 2020, ad awareness and recall continued to be strong, according to a review of more than 10 different DTC programs, but patient activation was weak. Brands were spending the same (or more) to increase patient interest, but this spending wasn’t translating into patient action – or prescriptions. 

In the second half of 2020, brands started experimenting with alternative ways to activate patients, accelerating digital efforts and launching new online experiences and tools. Telehealth visits increased; 64 percent of physicians in the ZS study reported they were actively using telehealth to connect with patients. Telehealth companies like COVE and UpScript were tapped by pharma to partner and launch “digital front doors” – with varying degrees of success. Virtual waiting rooms on new platforms, like Populus, quickly filled their ad inventory with brands eager to connect with patients using telehealth. Point-of-care messaging underwent a transformation with an increased focus on mobile, digital and exam room experiences. Social media and streaming videos took center stage, and dynamic audience targeting surged. More and more, pharma brands looked to new – primarily digital – methods to get their messages to the right patients and provide them with varied ways to respond and engage. 

Measurement that tracked specific engagement and closed the loop between media exposure and patient medical claims data increased in popularity. Brands used these more advanced methods to dissect which channels and which messages were driving the most engagement with patients. Knowing how educational messages were driving patient behavior enabled many brands to switch content mid-campaign, improving their impact and ROI. Measurement tools, including our closed loop measurement solution, track the impact of specific social media platforms and their content, offering new insights to brand marketing teams and agencies. The ability to fine-tune the message and channel helps companies develop more successful customer engagements.

As we move into 2021, efforts around digital marketing and dynamic targeting are continuing to increase. We expect to see brands moving more quickly to connect through digital and mobile platforms to engage and activate patients – effectively kicking off a new era in DTC marketing.

Kate Zwizanski, senior VP, media, CMI Media: Agility. 2020 was an unpredictable year to say the least with so many unknowns and disruptions. As marketers, we had to pivot and certainly recalibrate to our new normal. Unfortunately, we anticipate more of the same for 2021, since there’s still uncertainty on the speed of vaccine rollout and how quickly that will improve circumstances.

MedAdNews: How might the new Biden administration impact the health care marketplace generally and pharma specifically? How else might our raucous U.S. politics impact the lives of brand managers and marketers in during 2021?

Keith Betz: I think it’s likely that we’ll see efforts around drug pricing reform as Biden hasn’t been shy about showing his disdain for “runaway drug prices and the profiteering of the drug industry.” We could also see ACA reform focused on expanding the coverage benefits for millions of Americans. This could ultimately positively impact the pharma industry, resulting in more patients being covered for therapies designed to improve their health.

Jay Carter: How about a war on drug prices? Take a quick look at the Biden plan for healthcare ( and you’ll see six initiatives, five of which are potentially damaging to pharma. We now have Democratic control of the House and Senate. It might be good to send your company’s check to the Coalition for Healthcare Communication (, because we’re going to have a busy year.

Scott Ensign: Biden will be under pressure from some members of his own party to lower/control drug prices. Overall, I think the Biden administration will have a stabilizing force on the lives of those in the industry as it will be far more predictable than the preceding administration.

Jose Ferreira, senior VP, product and innovation, CMI Media: The Biden election signals that the ACA will now be considered settled law. Over the next year I expect the new administration to enact changes at the margins of the ACA. They will expand access to insurance through a Medicaid expansion and by shoring up private exchanges. We will likely see the return of the individual mandate or some other form of taxation/revenue generation to offset the costs of expansion and market stabilization. These changes will largely be positive for pharma, and brand teams more generally – expanding the population of consumers who can afford proactive health and wellness care.

Gene Fitzpatrick, executive VP, engagement strategy, Calcium: We know that the concerns over healthcare have gotten to a boiling point and it’s all over cost. Healthcare has become very expensive, especially in the United States. Pharma has to realize that cost and access will remain an important topic for marketers to consider when evaluating pricing and communication strategies.

Bill Melville, principal analyst, Decision Resources Group: There’s no question COVID is going to dominate this administration’s healthcare agenda, and they’re going to see that as the top priority rather than building on the ACA. In all likelihood, we’ll see more modest policy changes under Biden, but if big ticket items like Medicare buy-in go forward it could have big implications for the health insurance market.

Roy Moore, principal director, Decision Resources Group: We could see some changes in pharma pricing that bear watching for pharma. The United States remains the largest market in the world, and the industry may face some headwinds there under President Biden.

H.R. 3 is probably a good guide to the Democrats’ thinking. It included three main steps: HHS would negotiate prices for certain drugs like insulin. It would have external reference pricing tied to a basket of countries, and it would limit price increases. The Republicans’ approach, as seen in 2019’s H.R. 19, is focused more on transparency around pricing than enforcement.

Biden’s plan is focused on biologics and specialty drugs. In addition to external reference pricing, he wants to create a board to determine the value of new medications. You already see this approach in countries that use HTAs, as is standard in Europe. Biden has expressed support for something akin to Germany’s model, where an independent board assesses drugs for additional benefit over a preferred comparator, similar to ICER or NICE, and determines a score that serves as a starting point for negotiations with industry.

Mike Myers: New administration. New FDA commissioner. Cautious balance between re-vilifying pharma vs. recognizing the great work done on the COVID vaccine. Pricing pressures on products have the potential to intensify. I believe that the halo effect on the industry from the dramatic COVID vaccine success will last for at least six months if not the full year.

Valerie Pillo, senior analyst, Decision Resources Group: Any and all policy changes are likely to impact how providers deliver healthcare, and one of those areas is telemedicine. During the initial wave of COVID-19 outbreaks, physicians came to see telemedicine as the primary way for patients to access care, but reimbursement parity for these services remains a barrier. After this public health emergency is deemed over, there are going to be some very significant conversations about how healthcare is going to look going forward. If deregulation of telemedicine continues and parity is supported, physicians and providers will be able to invest in the necessary technology and devices to support these services.

MedAdNews: COVID has sucked up most of the oxygen, but what do you think is an important unrelated trend for pharma marketers that is flying under the radar?

Keith Betz: Data privacy and these anti-monopoly suits being filed against the tech giants will eventually have a huge impact on our industry and how we connect and engage with both patients and HCPs. While not exactly flying under the radar right now, as these topics are getting their fair share of coverage, marketers thinking about the potential long-term implications of this right now will be ready for the new reality that’s coming. These are constant points of discussion between us and our clients right now and I’d urge that others do so as well.

Amanda DeVito: A trend we are seeing is focusing on getting better to being better. Second, from being informed to getting empowered. And third from treating a condition to treating yourself. These shifts in behavior allow agencies to look at search, SEO and language differently. It allows brands to think about how they can provide value outside of typical messaging tactics. And it is a reminder that great storytelling is still a factor in behavior design. It creates empathy and empathy is a major driver of change. I’m not sure if this is an unrelated trend, but behavior change that came from 2020 will be here to stay.

Scott Ensign: I think that customized treatments are still coming. Many executives at pharma companies see that as a threat, but not many feel prepared. A much more one-to-one treatment expectation will come into the industry in the next few years and redefine what pharmaceutical delivery looks like.

Jose Ferreira: I continue to be extremely bullish on video content. The cost of tools to create high-quality professional-looking video have declined precipitously over the last five to 10 years. The technology is now ubiquitous. We have also seen that the appetite for video content has never been greater with the proliferation of streaming services and video-based apps – some flourishing (Netflix, TikTok) and other failing but still providing success lessons (Quibi). The next stage of that evolution will include historically print-based publishers and outlets pivoting more of their content to video. This also presents an opportunity for marketers to be more dynamic with messaging.

Robert Groebel, VP of global medical strategy, Monocl, a Definitive Healthcare Company: Data continues to emerge as the number one resource that organizations must leverage in the new year. As we move into 2021, it is critical that medical affairs teams, as well as their commercial colleagues, employ better data strategies to understand and effectively meet the changing expectations of physicians. Improved and expanded data will be central as the U.S. moves even closer to “value-based care,” with providers rewarded for helping patients reduce the effects and incidence of chronic disease, and live healthier. The ability to reimagine how strategic insights are defined and generated is critical, however these capabilities are not a fully developed component of the medical affairs team’s skillset. Innovation can drive insights that reflect the physician’s experience and behavior from a variety of sources, and improved analytics will be central to the development of new initiatives. Through the combined lens of clinical studies, real-world evidence, expert profiling, and stakeholder engagement, these new insights will forever improve the partnership between industry and physician. As data is leveraged in smarter ways, expect to see the role of medical affairs evolve as trusted partners to the medical community.

Steve Hamburg, managing partner/chief creative officer, Calcium: The political and cultural turmoil of 2020 – which shows signs of extending well into 2021, if not beyond – has had immeasurable impact on people’s sense of well-being and security. The negative consequences of this in terms of physical and mental health are as yet unquantified, but they are doubtless enormous and pervasive. And the implications for pharma are profound. People are not only increasingly focused on their health, but they are recognizing the value of health information and solutions that come from authoritative, reliable, and trusted sources. And pharma is uniquely qualified to deliver against this need.

Justin Khalifa, associate partner, Beghou Consulting: In 2021, data management will continue to evolve both separately from, and in concert with, the pandemic-caused changes to the healthcare realm. COVID or not, proper data management remains a critical element of pharma companies’ commercial success.

Even prior to the pandemic, telemedicine was increasing in popularity, bringing with it challenges for data management. This shift has accelerated due to COVID. Now, commercial teams must decide how to determine which teams and reps cover which prescribers. Should a rep continue to engage with all health care providers in their geographic territory, even those seeing patients across the country via telehealth apps? Or should a specialty team cover all physicians who practice telehealth? What activity is logged in the absence of in-person physician calls? How will a company classify and manage these novel types of information in its data platform?

Additionally, specialty pharmacy and patient service program data are growing in importance. Pharmaceutical companies can link these separate but complementary data sources to generate novel insights about the whole patient journey – from diagnosis to treatment. For instance, dispense data with external claims- or lab-based information, can shine a new light on the overall patient journey and provide insights that help the company improve patient access. This can also lead to less redundancy and duplicate processing, resulting in more efficient analysis – and ultimately better actions – based on the data. 

Finally, the industry is moving toward holistic data management platforms, which capture and facilitate analysis of not just commercial sales data, but also data from marketing, medical, and beyond. Companies would benefit from ensuring they’re part of this trend toward comprehensive platforms that are flexible enough to seamlessly incorporate new types and sources of data.

This year brings with it a reckoning in data management. Pharma companies must discuss and understand if these changes to data management will be permanent, or if practices will go back to “normal.” The smart option will be to plan for both scenarios, while adapting to the prevalent trends.

Carly Kuper, senior VP, public relations and corporate communications, CMI Media: Audience-centricity. We have more power than ever before to truly serve our audiences in meaningful ways. We can hear their needs thanks to social listening. We can interact with them better thanks to privacy-compliant improvements in technology. And more than ever we recognize the impact that a genuine, trust-based relationship has in the long term. This is particularly poignant among the Black community and other multicultural audiences that tend to be overlooked by marketers. The one-size-fits-all approach does not work anymore. Smart pharma marketers will increasingly be investing resources in forming strong relationships with a wider range of audiences that center around the wants and needs of those audience members.

Mike Myers: Yes, Mrs. Lincoln, but – what can you do for me now? While existing for some time, the push for pharma marketers to do more with less and with greater speed continues to intensify. These pressures aren’t going away, and they will continue to impact what pharma marketers do strategically and tactically. Pressure, insert analogy here, rolls downhill. Agencies have been and are dealing with this daily. There is just more coming down hill and at a faster rate these days.

Paul Shawah: Modular content is a fast-growing trend that we anticipate gaining more traction this year, especially now that digital engagement has become so widespread throughout the industry. Virtual meetings between reps and HCPs have, on average, lasted up to 10 times longer than traditional in-person visits. And the volume of field emails being sent to HCPs has also gone up significantly. 

The result is a greater need for more content, faster – and that’s where modular content comes in. Instead of building each new asset from scratch, pharma marketers can fast-track content creation by reassembling existing, pre-approved content blocks, or modules, into a variety of assets that can be used across different channels and regions. 

This modular approach can provide significant benefits, especially when it comes to streamlining medical, legal, and regulatory (MLR) reviews and enabling greater agility. As an example, one global life sciences company was able to increase their average speed to market by 28 percent, while reducing the cost of content creation and the number of review cycles by 19 percent and 22 percent, respectively, through modular content. For marketers looking to scale content creation while maintaining compliance, modular content is a must-have for your digital arsenal. 

MedAdNews: What has the pandemic changed for marketers that you don’t think will be changing back? Why? What WILL be changing back for marketers once COVID fades? Why?


Jay Borowiecki: I don’t think we’ll see a return to form in the way pharma communicates with its customers – at least not completely. Despite all of the industry discussion around multichannel, face-to-face meetings between reps and HCPs still made up the bulk of go-to-market strategies. COVID changed that. The lockdown not only accelerated commercial efforts to deliver better coordination across channels, but it also showed HCPs that it was possible to get the support they needed even without face-to-face meetings. 

Ultimately, I think 2021 is going to be about agility and personalization. Now that pharma has sharpened its ability to deliver an integrated customer experience, HCP affinity is going to dictate how, when, and where customer interactions happen. As long as face-to-face meetings continue to have a major impact on sales (which they do) and some HCPs prefer them (which they do), in-person interactions will resurface when the field force comes back online. But in the post-COVID future, face-to-face details will only be one aspect of the rep’s role in executing the larger brand strategy, and their days will consist of orchestrating a mix of face-to-face, virtual, and digital communications. 

Amanda DeVito: Telehealth won’t go back. Dialoguing with a doctor via video won’t go back. Once COVID fades, we will get back to thinking through how to beat disease treatment, both in preventing suffering and reducing health costs.

Scott Ensign: I don’t think marketing to HCPs will go anywhere near back to where it was. HCP marketers should lean into things that worked in 2020 and look for ways to get a foothold in more virtual touchpoints with doctors.

Jose Ferreira: The most lasting change will be in how teams collaborate and communicate with each other. Before COVID teams needed to be very judicious in determining the best communication mechanism for a variety of projects and scenarios that was limited to – direct messaging, email, or a live meeting. In the future we can add virtual meetings to that list, likely limiting the amount of travel needed for normal business. One thing that will be scaling back considerably is the use of telehealth services. It will probably take another generation before people prefer those services over in-person health and wellness visits. 

Gene Fitzpatrick: The visit to a doctor’s office may never be the same again. Most likely the “waiting room” will forever be virtual to some extent. Patients will pre-qualify their visits by entering information, consume information in advance and even potentially other virtual screening and exams. However, patient will still always have physical time with their doctor, it’ll just be even less.

Justin Freid: 2020 has proven that we can be productive anywhere. It will give confidence to leadership teams to create a work environment that allows individual contributors and teams to work in ways that make them the most productive. The need to be tied to a desk at all times is gone. People will and should be able to work in ways that allow them to deliver their best work.

Nicole Hamlin: The patient and healthcare professional interaction has been changed indefinitely with the pandemic. The experience of receiving healthcare has become more “sterilized” – more virtual appointments, wait times outside of the office, less caregivers allowed in, no tactile collateral, and more barriers between patients and healthcare providers/staff – while some of these things may fall away eventually, many will remain. Marketers will need to continue to arm both patients and HCPs with information to fuel those productive diagnosis/treatment conversations and be top of mind whether the interaction is in-person or virtual.

Noah Lowenthal, senior VP, creative director, AbelsonTaylor: Typically, marketing trends arrive like a wave in the ocean. Those with foresight can see them coming a ways off, and if well positioned, catch a ride earlier than the competition. Digital, big data, wearables, and AI are all obvious examples. 

Conversely, COVID-19 was a phenomenon. The industry spent 2020 scrambling to respond with clients who were grateful (for the most part) to receive whatever workable solutions their agencies could provide.

In 2021, clients will expect that the training wheels are off. Agencies will need to execute at a high level for insights around patient/customer behavior change due to COVID-19, remote detailing, non-personal promotion, virtual booths, remote production, remote workshops, et cetera. If you’re still leaning on, “this is new territory,” you’re behind – and it is time to sharpen the response and deliver it with confidence.

(While we’re here: It would also be nice to see a new take on remote team-building exercises. Zoom fatigue is real.)

And speaking of those earlier trends…

The training wheels are also off for everything we were buzzing about prior to COVID-19. Your marketing partners want Big Data (with actionable insights); AI (thoughtfully executed); auditory branding (with measurable results); integrated tactical plans (with proven ROI); content marketing (approvable and with clear ROI); video content (diverse and affordable), et cetera.

Looking forward, media plans will adjust for regional and generational differences in patient/consumer behavior. Is a geographic region or generational audience staying at home consuming a lot of TV and digital…or are they more likely to be out and about? How is the immunization roll-out going in a specific state or even urban center? Patient populations with immune and comorbidity considerations for COVID-19 (and the practices that support them) will behave differently depending upon the local success of the immune response which will again impact media plans and the creative campaigns they support. 

Courtney Mullen, VP, SEM and emerging media, CMI Media: For those that were able to maintain their advertising budgets, the pandemic and forced lockdowns pushed marketers to reach their audiences almost exclusively digitally in 2020. Though growth may not have been substantial, many of these digital channels still reported increases (even if minimal) year-over-year. While a continued shift to digital was anticipated before the pandemic, newly formed consumer habits and behaviors, largely centered around digital channels, will stick around for many.

Mike Myers: The ability to directly connect with HCPs in offices, to the extent pharma could prior to COVID, will be far less than it used to be prior to COVID, at least for the foreseeable future. HCPs have had to rethink and evolve the way they work. Countless and ongoing “rep interruptions” will find little to no tolerance.

Conventions will return from 100 percent virtual to a hybrid mix of online and in-person as HCPs will want to escape a bit from their practices and directly engage with thought leaders and each other.

Erica Rivera, VP, engagement strategy, AbelsonTaylor: Fundamentally, the way life is managed flipped upside in 2020. Americans previously reluctant to shop online heavily or trust digital offerings began to view them as necessary to maintain their preferred way of life. Suddenly digital and online meant safety from an uncertain outside brick and mortar world. This was even further compounded during a summer fraught with political and social unrest. 2020 brought with it the necessity to lean on digital and technology offerings to exert a sense of control over our world and home surroundings. Reliance on home gym equipment surged, video conferencing for social connections and to maintain as close to normal work environments became the norm for every single age group, and mobile app-driven delivery of groceries, liquor and restaurant meals at home was simply the new way we fed ourselves. Virtual doctors’ appointments that sounded like a great idea in 2019 but felt hard to implement became normalized – almost overnight.

So what about marketers? The power of the people has been placed more firmly in smartphone sized hands. There has likely been less reliance and loyalty across brands as we have had to shift to available products as a result of shortages and supply chain issues. Brands must work harder to consider the convenience and lifestyle benefits they provide to consumers. It will be a long time until normal shifts back to pre-February 2020 experiences. Many experiences will be deemed as unsafe and people will prefer to remain at home if at all possible. 

Brands and marketers must consider what they know about their customers. Reconsider their needs, beliefs and what truly will drive them. Determine how best to reach them when their digital usage has skyrocketed but also feels exhausting and inundating. If they had not previously relied on rich omni-channel efforts, they must begin the work now. 

Change will be constant. We won’t return to the past way of thinking, interacting or trusting, so brands must meet a tired marketplace where they are.

Paul Shawah: In 2020, many patients were not able to make in-person appointments with their healthcare providers, leading to a decline in diagnoses, lab tests, and overall prescriptions filled. At the lowest point, prescription fills in the United States were down 35 percent, compared to February 2020. Overall, there was a larger decrease in new-to-brand prescriptions, compared to prescription refills. 

To better understand the impact of marketing on the behavior of current patients, pharma marketers started analyzing how broad-reach digital and direct-to-consumer TV campaigns influenced both new patient acquisition and adherence. What they realized was that their acquisition campaigns have the added benefit of reminding current patients to take their medication and refill prescriptions. As a result, we expect this holistic approach to marketing and emphasis on patient retention to continue beyond the pandemic.

As restrictions are lifted, demand for healthcare services (outside of COVID testing and treatment) will bounce back across the board. Individuals who postponed health screenings and checkups will schedule their appointments again. And we predict that this will bring prescription volume back to, or above, pre-pandemic levels. As patients shift their focus back to health concerns beyond COVID, it’ll be important for marketers to support both HCPs and patients with ongoing communication and disease education.

MedAdNews: Diversity and inclusion have stepped to the front of consciousness in the pharma world – and everywhere else – in the past year. How do you think pharma and pharma agencies are doing compared to other industries in the pursuit of a truly diverse workforce and inclusive messaging? What steps still remain to be taken? What companies and agencies have moved the furthest, and how have they done it?

Jose Ferreira: Pharma and pharma agencies have done a pretty good job over the course of the last year championing diversity and inclusion. Having an inclusive internal culture that is also implicit in external branding is now an essential business consideration. It is a pre-requisite for survival and success. And it needs to be authentic. We have seen for a long time that customers and employees are generally drawn to companies that stand for more than their core business, and I expect this to continue to be a hot topic in 2021. It will be a key component of brand messaging.

Mike Myers: I believe that everyone has been working on being more inclusive and diverse. With that said, the biggest step is/was realizing that having a “Diversity Director” or people focused on this is not the answer. The key is the realization that we must start with these areas of focus in mind vs. reviewing work and corporate actions taken to determine if we have been inclusive and respectful of diversity.

Our agency and all that I’ve spoken to have increased our efforts here. Yet, until it’s second nature the promise and needs aren’t addressed in my view.

MedAdNews: Sometimes folks forget about them with all the focus on technology, but pharma sales teams are still the ones on the ground – or on the virtual ground, as it happens. What do brands have to do to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams in 2021 and going forward?

Jay Borowiecki: Going forward, brands will need to think of field sales as a channel, not a department. Seamless coordination between the field force and all other channels will be crucial in bringing a true omnichannel go-to-market strategy to life. 

As scenarios where an HCP is scheduled for a face-to-face detail one week and a virtual visit the next become increasingly common, reps will need more help planning their days and prioritizing their efforts. Brands will also need to equip their reps with better line-of-sight into other channel activities to optimize the value of each interaction and deliver a coherent customer experience. 

AI and machine learning technology can provide commercial teams with clear guidance about who to target, what message to deliver, on what channel and when, but building and deploying an effective solution isn’t a straightforward pursuit. With the pandemic showing that implementing the right technology can have immediate, significant impact, brands who want to optimize sales effectiveness quickly should lean on a specialized technology partner. This is an area where domain expertise and experience deploying solutions at scale are critical for success.

Jay Carter: It’s still about relationships. COVID-19, in combination with the movement of private practices to IDN ownership, has sapped the ability to form lasting and meaningful relationships between pharma reps and physicians. But the desire to get the information they need has not completely eradicated it. As Covid lets up, there will be a hunger for re-acquaintance between clinician and rep. The key is to not get in the way of the relationship but create tools to help the rep most easily meet the core physician need… specific information about the company’s products and their relevance to the clinician’s practice.

Jose Ferreira: In 2020 and prior, the industry writ large has developed a consensus around the concept of omni-channel – orchestrating messaging and touchpoints to customers across all media, non-personal and personal. Going into 2021 it has become a necessity for all pharma companies to embrace omni-channel in order to stay competitive. What this ultimately means for the sales rep is transforming their role from primarily face-to-face oriented to an on-the-ground expert in a specific geographic area who uses a combination of digital and in-person capabilities, in conjunction with the home office, to deliver a unified set of communications to customers. 

Kevin Frymire, associate partner, Beghou Consulting: Nearly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, pharmaceutical sales teams are still largely limited in their ability to meet in person with physicians. Sales reps have transitioned from a reliance on face-to-face interactions to an entirely digital relationship. While companies have seen mixed success with virtual sales efforts, they all face one key question – is virtual promotion here to stay?

Given the conveniences that telehealth offers, it’s likely patients and doctors will continue to have virtual appointments, when possible, even after the pandemic subsides. Similarly, it’s likely digital promotion will remain a significant part of a pharmaceutical company’s sales and marketing efforts, even as opportunities for in-person promotion return. This reality has implications for the makeup of a pharmaceutical company’s sales team. As they work to structure their sales forces for a post-pandemic world, pharmaceutical companies need to address a handful of questions:

• How is the therapy prescribed? Does it treat a condition that is easy to diagnose via telehealth or does diagnosis require multiple doctor visits and tests?

• How much education does your product require? Will face-to-face meetings improve the experience, or can product information be easily communicated virtually?

• How will HCPs prefer to communicate in the future?

While commercial teams – or the HCPs themselves – likely can’t answer the last question yet, the responses to the other questions will help companies determine how to properly structure their sales teams for a hybrid promotional environment. Ultimately, post-pandemic sales forces will include a mix of traditional field reps and virtual reps. By answering the above questions and conducting sizing scenario planning, commercial teams can find the appropriate mix of virtual and field reps needed to reach physicians effectively.

During the pandemic, we’ve seen pharmaceutical companies get creative in how they staff their sales teams. Some companies have been bulking up their tele-sales teams or revising job descriptions and changing responsibilities to accommodate virtual activities. Others are creating new virtual sales roles. Many companies that are just launching or have a growing brand are implementing outsourced sales teams, particularly if there is high forecast uncertainty (which is another challenge exacerbated by the pandemic). This allows the company to mitigate the risk of future rollbacks while maintaining promotion efforts. 

Once a commercial team determines sales roles and has the right mix of virtual and traditional reps, it must also ensure it has the technology in place to optimize its virtual sales activity. Accurate tracking of virtual interactions is crucial for analyzing physicians’ engagement patterns and preferences, understanding the return on the virtual sales investment and more.

Taking this a step further, companies can deploy advanced analytics to arm the sales team with information on how physicians prefer to be reached and then prompt the “next best action” in promotional efforts. Commercial teams should conduct frequent promotional analysis and splice the data by different factors, such as specialty or geography, to uncover immediate actionable insights. This data analysis facilitates collaboration across the sales team and helps reps be more agile and effective in their communications with physicians. 

Robert Groebel: It is imperative that organizations redefine collaboration strategies across all externally facing functions. Access to healthcare professionals will inevitably continue to diminish, while field teams need to improve efficiency and deliver on market demands. Historically negative feedback from experts, and its downstream effect on their opinion and perception can be improved by enhancing the customer experience through cross-functional collaboration. Efforts to define accurate stakeholder personas, inform shared goals, and achieve launch milestones previously firewalled, will benefit from a cross-functional approach to engagement and collaborative field execution. Innovative data analytics can identify opportunities for medical and commercial teams to demonstrate quantifiable value with an execution strategy that better reflects organizational goals rather than functional strategies. Effective and encouraged collaboration will further create opportunities, increase impact, speed research, and most importantly, enhance strategic insights to deliver an enhanced expert relationship. 

Murray Henry: Brand managers have always looked to balance investment across personal promotion and the inherent value that representatives bring with the complementary value of extending reach and frequency with non-personal promotion. As representatives’ interactions with their HCPs will likely continue to have a big virtual component, technology will more tightly integrate reps’ promotional efforts with non-personal channels. This provides an opportunity to evolve performance measurements across personal and non-personal “channels” and the synergistic contribution of each to enhance investment allocation efforts.

Jude Konzelmann, managing principal, ZS: The sales professional-to-health care provider relationship has been at the center of the customer engagement model discussion in biopharma for decades. Further, face-to-face calls between sales professionals and health care providers to educate and deliver brand messages have been the cornerstone of that relationship. Such calls, while an expensive form of engagement, have time and again proven to be so impactful for brand growth that they became a currency on which commercial teams organized themselves. In the U.S. alone, the biopharmaceutical industry delivered about two million face-to-face physician calls per week pre-COVID. During the pandemic, these contact levels have only returned to about half of what they were and with a significant proportion of contacts – 40 percent or more – occurring remotely rather than face-to-face, according to ZS’s AccessMonitor report from September 2020.

Sales professionals have been forced to adapt more in a single year than in over two decades with the sudden suspension of one of the most common and fruitful activities. On top of that adjustment, pandemic conditions have driven customer preferences and needs more rapidly than they ever have before. Marketing teams, in kind, need to adapt to these fundamental changes in their most impactful channel to reach customers by equipping sales professionals to succeed in a mixed communication environment with shifting objectives.

First, content must change with the times and be engaging across mixed communication modalities. Messages and materials that had historically been used in a face-to-face setting need to transform to be equally engaging in a virtual setting. Second, sales professionals will increasingly be faced with the challenge of setting “hooks” to get health care providers to opt in to discussions. In a face-to-face dominant environment, the persistence of waiting in the office was often sufficient to earn a few minutes of an HCP’s time. In an environment where an HCP must agree to a pre-set meeting time and then must respect that time by logging onto a video call, there has to be a far stronger attraction to have that discussion, and marketing teams can surely shape content to help here. Third, marketing teams and commercial leadership, in general, must embrace a significant mindset shift in how they think about measuring sales force activity – from a traditional “reach and frequency” mindset with quantity as the prime driver to an “engagement” mindset with quality as the prime driver.

Garth McCallum-Keeler: We have seen a reemergence of sales territories being combined and augmented with fully dedicated scientific and access experts – charged with fully owning their area. An approach that feels very in-the-moment of working and socializing in ‘pods. It’s also a convergence with micro-targeting; but here the channel for deployment becomes the pod itself. This highly localized approach creates not only data demands; it also creates needs for marketing and sales content that is very specific to the needs of their area or even a key institution. The logistical challenges with this are myriad, but if successful, will further increase company responsiveness to customer needs.

Ricky McCrumb: Pharma brands will need to invest in ensuring their salesforce truly understands the role and impact digital media and content can play forming a synergistic approach to effectively reaching HCPs. Too often reps dismiss the digital side of marketing as waste, instead prioritizing their ability to sell and close an HCP in the room. As those two worlds merge into virtual meetings, and HCPs can more easily dismiss an idea or an entire meeting because they aren’t there in person, it becomes paramount for reps to understand the digital resources available and how to speak to the HCPs in a way that is reinforcing what they’re seeing and using online to fully impart the benefits of a brand.

Mike Myers: Well, I wish I had owned stock in Zoom and would have liked to have been an early investor in Veeva. Bottom line, we have to help them maximize the tools that they have that enable connections. Whether it’s Zoom or Veeva or any number of options, field forces have to be just as comfortable with the tech available as they are in face-to-face sales calls sans technology.

At the non-tech level, I believe that we need to help focus the sales forces for those moments where they do get that face-to-face or screen-to-screen interaction. I.e., we have to make things easy for them so that they can zero in on key clinical benefits and messaging for appropriate patients very quickly. Twenty to thirty-page sales aids and their digital counterparts should be the exception if ever produced in the future.

Paul Shawah: Pandemic or no pandemic, remote engagement is here to stay. Virtual meetings and email will continue to be key channels for outbound HCP engagement, but that still leaves untapped opportunities to leverage digital to its full potential.

Brands can help maximize sales effectiveness by taking advantage of new inbound engagement channels that make it easier for doctors to quickly find the people, information, and services they need, when they need it. This will allow doctors to connect with an expert, request samples, or find patient-facing materials instantly online, making it much more efficient to get the right treatments in the hands of the right patients. With two-way engagement, we’ll see much more relevant and mutually beneficial interactions between doctors and the industry. The brands that do it best will have digital tightly woven into their field strategies and rep relationships to deliver a seamless, integrated experience across channels. 

MedAdNews: How do you foresee pharma’s marketing media mix changing – or not changing – in 2021? How will the various channels develop and change this year?

Brian Cunningham, senior VP, media, CMI Media: 2020 saw many pharma brands forced to rely more on the potential of their non-personal promotion to drive business. And those that had a well-developed NPP plan to reach and engage an HCP audience likely recognized the benefits unlike ever before. Sales reps will no doubt return at some point and continue to deliver key brand messages. But to what reach and with what frequency remains to be seen. In 2021, we may finally see their roles flip – where a brand’s alternative channel mix drives a brand communications plan while select, timely personal promotion touchpoints are designed more to support it. 

Michael Deichmiller: Data privacy has always had an elevated importance within healthcare and pharma but 2021 will bring new challenges and force pharma marketers to think about their media mix and advertising efforts in a way that is mindful of the trends in personal data protection. Alongside this trend, first-party data will continue to increase in importance and value for all marketers and those that specialize in pharma will need to consider approaches to exchange value for information in authentic and reasonable ways with both professional and patient audiences.

Scott Ensign: I think we will see a lot more money move out of TV. That channel is challenged in so many ways, but addressability will continue to be even more important as we go forward and find ways to connect with patients digitally. Pharma still over indexes on TV significantly, and we will see a critical mass of marketers pull big budgets out in 2021.

Gene Fitzpatrick: It took a long time for pharma to get on board, but the pandemic forced them. Social, Telehealth, the electronic health record space is all channels pharma has to stay in; they are not going away. They are channels that are needed to reach consumers, patients and HCPs. Yep, HCPs are on Facebook.

Robert Groebel: The continued impact of the pandemic will reinforce the role of data and technology to improve communications efficiency while driving effective patient outcomes. This process will require increased efforts to enhance current skills and develop new capabilities because, at its core, at the heart of this transformation are people. Commercial and medical teams will, and already have started to, recognize these new tools and channels, and evolve current models as they now can communicate more directly with stakeholders. From the tracking of clinical data, to scientific exchange via remote platforms, launch teams have been forced to reconsider every aspect of doing business. Organizations entering new therapeutic areas must use technology and data effectively to develop new relationships to share complex information which is outside of established practice. Accurate expert profile data, for example, will help align goals to individual stakeholder preference. Analytics, again, will be a critical component of all communication strategies to ensure that the demands of the market are being accurately addressed. The combination of data – whether generated, acquired or through direct engagement – will yield an enhanced understanding of the stakeholder, scientific trends, and the impact communication strategies and channels have on improving health outcomes.

Nicole Hamlin: Emphasis on non-personal promotion will continue in 2021, likely at the sacrifice of conference presence and personal promotion. In 2020, we saw a lot of dollars spent to be present in professional portals and healthcare endemic sites, as an immediate reaction to the pandemic. In 2021, I would expect less emphasis being put on just the moving of funds to non-personal, and more emphasis put on how to truly standout with innovative marketing efforts in the digital space.

Chris Morgan, principal, ZS: During the pandemic, we have seen a dramatic drop in successful customer contact from the pharma industry. The marketing mix within this interaction has shifted to far less face-to-face contact and more remote contact, for understandable reasons. We have definitely seen an increase in the number of customers engaging using remote media. A more subtle insight is that this represents a shift from a predominantly “push” approach to a predominantly “pull” approach. Previously, in “push” mode, the level of contact was supply-side constrained – it was determined by the resourcing decisions of a pharma company. Now, in a “pull” mode, contact is demand-side constrained – it is determined by the engagement choices of customers.

It may be a little early to say definitively, but ZS research seems to suggest that the choice is less about the medium of the contact and more about the content. Customers and their patients are under many new pressures, and customers are interested in content that addresses their current concerns – issues such as continuity of care, diagnosis and monitoring in a remote setting, as well as treatment interactions with COVID-19. 

What happens next will partly be driven by the speed at which life returns to normal. You’d need to speak with an epidemiologist to learn more about that aspect. But it will also depend on the degree of reversion to the prior state. ZS research suggests that a sizable segment of customers – perhaps 30 percent in the United States – have had their behaviors changed permanently. They’ve learned their time is even more precious than they thought, and that they like being in control of who, how and when they engage.

In 2021, we’ll see a significant increase in investment in digital and remote contact media from pharma – driven both by the shift in customer preferences and cost and pressure on healthcare budgets and top-line. But the more important development will be to invest hugely in pharma’s capability to operate in a “pull” medium. That means getting much better at meeting each customer where they are – including where they are right now. So, understanding the customer’s agenda, catching the right moment and making individualized choices. It’s also important to learn from successes and failures along the way. So, yes – there is a marketing mix choice to make, but also an investment in a more fundamental capability to enable that shift in mix. 

Mike Myers: More digital. More technology facilitating ease of communication and connectivity. More targeted media through digital channels. Increased reliance on omnichannel marketing and engagement to optimize the total tactical and message mix.

Erica Rivera: The marketers that get it right in whatever a post-COVID era brings us will be those that are receptive to fast, significant change and realize that re-purposing what you are doing and how you are thinking is simply a band-aid. The deeper implementation of predictive marketing platforms that are constantly learning, refining and deepening their knowledge base will allow brands to keep up with audiences that are ever-shifting based on their changing world experiences, beliefs and frames of reference. 

We anticipate channels emerging that currently exist for other purposes. As consumers, patients and HCPs are inundated with an ever-increasing deluge of sometimes faulty information, their ability to decipher what is impactful to them vs. what is noise gets better and more refined. Their tolerance for noise and chaos diminish. Our audiences start to rely more heavily on channels that are personalized to their needs and speaking to them directly where they are. It is critical for brands to understand how their audiences are consuming information – even outside the pharma space – as this will show us where to forge forward. Brands should stop thinking about broadcasting their messages and turn to answering the questions and needs of their audiences – and doing so in as personalized a way as they can. 

Sandy Weag, senior VP, media, CMI Media: With increased importance and reliance on non-personal promotion many pharma brands are prioritizing channels that allow for deeper and more personalized engagement, most specifically within the HCP space. Brands hope to engage their HCP customers through media, similarly to how sales reps engaged with them historically, delivering more complex and sequential messages based on individual needs and preferences. Digital will continue to be a priority channel, however we will see budgets increasingly going towards custom programs, social platforms, and trigger-based executions, over straight display banner buys.

MedAdNews: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2021 that they might not have expected in 2020? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Keith Betz: I think the past year has proven to brand managers that they need in–depth expertise and experience with all their agency partners. Gone are the days of the agency partners being great at one thing and “okay” at another and that being enough. Agencies should focus on deeper specialization and clients will only work with those partners that have uber-relevant experience and/or have proven to be able to pivot quickly to be successful in this crazy, dynamic marketing landscape we all live in today.

Jose Ferreira: The complexity of various marketing channels and platforms has largely demanded hyper-specialization from agencies. I do not expect that to change in the near future. However, I do think effective convergence and orchestration of the various specialty areas will be extremely important to brand manager success in 2021. 

Greg Lewis, managing partner/president, Calcium: To the relief of many, 2020 is over – but the changes brought about by last year are likely to continue into the next. From a surge in telehealth and a focus on patient access during a pandemic, brand managers and agencies alike will be tasked with the challenge of continuing to optimize. In-person office visits may be a thing of the past, but still so vital to many diseases and conditions. We will be focused on bringing inspiring and fresh ideas to our client partners that not only improve the patient-provider encounters, but also the level of digital care which we bring to our consumers and brands. We know self-advocacy will ensure timely diagnosis and treatment which is why we’re focused on improving and encouraging virtual connections between patients and providers. We’ll be over here making user experiences flawless and bringing awareness to the conditions we serve.

Noah Lowenthal: Agency recruiting will shift to discuss how individual agencies handle distributed workforces. Look to see the office space redefined as primarily a social or group activity hub with significantly less space for concentration and individual work. Walls will be knocked down. Collaborative spaces will spring up. “At Agency X … work and live where you’d like, and come to the office to workshop, collaborate, socialize, and play.” 

Fully distributed offices/agencies will begin to appear completely untethered by traditional rental contracts and obligations. If remote workers occasionally need to come together for work or team building, there is nothing that says it needs to be in the same geographic location every time. Agencies saving on rent will have the opportunity to invest in a variety of paths. They can pay a premium for talent, or allow for more work-life balance, or they can compete with larger agencies by offering lower fees. 

Conversely, agencies with fixed leases will need to compete by virtual growth beyond what traditional floorplans would have allowed.

Look to see agencies accomplish this growth through the simplest means possible: adjacent channels, audiences, and categories. Anticipate competitors sharing brands to compete more aggressively for content outside their traditional swim lanes. 

Ricky McCrumb: Brand managers are going to expect a solid plan for a post-Facebook-dominated world. As the platform faces a two-front battle against divisive political discourse and anti-monopoly legislation, 2021 may finally be the year that marketers are forced to reckon with a shifting audience base and data availability within the platform. Campaign effectiveness may drop off in the short term, but those marketers that are able to navigate a dispersed selection of platforms and targeting segments through innovative engagements with third party data providers and leveraging them in micro-digital communities, will be able to set their brands up for long term success.

Mike Myers: A day doesn’t go by where a client doesn’t ask for new ways to engage and connect in the evolved world. Agencies can no longer only be great at branding and concept development, as examples. Clients are expecting their agencies to provide holistic expertise on marketing, messaging, creative development, strategy, and tactical implementation. While many will say, “Our agency has always done this,” the reality is that there are so many new channels and technologies providing an ever-changing list of potential ways for brands to connect. The new norm is that clients are expecting answers and ideas that include all potential strategic and tactical options. Agencies are expected to be constantly learning, evolving their thinking, and working with their clients accordingly.

Erica Rivera: If our brands aren’t asking us how we combat the digital fatigue of our audiences while at the same time delivering offerings with a service mentality that supports our patients and HCPs, then I worry they haven’t quite yet seen the writing on the wall. Brands need to be exploring how to make deeper, richer connections that serve the needs of their audience. Pharma brands have the unique ability to change lives, to provide hope, freedom and happiness in some otherwise very dark areas. Brands that tap into that deeper connection and understanding will be able to rise above the noise and the clutter and offer value to their users.

Sandy Weag: Brand marketers are increasingly expecting their agency partners to wear many hats. They expect media leads to be well versed in analytics and measurement, as well as data and tech. They want partners who understand their full promotional ecosystem and how all the different marketing channels, inclusive of media or non-personal, best work together.