Agenda 2024

Agenda 2024: Now what?

By nearly unanimous consent artificial intelligence reached an inflection point for pharma marketers in 2023. The question of how best to take advantage of this new tool to support brands and help patients, though, remains to be seen.

By Joshua Slatko | [email protected]

Each December for our annual Agenda feature at Med Ad News we ask the smartest people we know what the word of the year was for pharma marketing in the year just past and what it’ll be in the year to come. The answers usually show a fair degree of variance. Not this time. Most of the industry leaders we asked told us that “AI” or some variation of it was the word of the year for 2023. Our friend Robin Shapiro of TBWA\WorldHealth probably said it best: “We experimented, dabbled, explored, and, let’s face it, obsessed over it.” The obsession is clearly continuing in 2024, as pharma’s best minds try to move AI tools from experimentation to actual deployment in support of their brands and patients. What that AI-enabled future of healthcare communications might look like? Stay tuned.

MedAdNews: What was the word of the year in pharma marketing for 2023? Why? What will the word of the year be in 2024? Why?

Jason Attanasio, senior director, business development, Cadent: 2023’s word of the year would have to be “digital.” While it seems like an odd choice, whether it is consumers increasing their health-related activities via online portals and telehealth services, or more attention (followed closely by marketing dollars) shifting to streaming and CTV (connected TV) environments, the pharma space is becoming more focused on digital environments than ever before. In particular, the rise of telehealth services is of interest to me. As it gained popularity in 2020, largely borne out of the necessity of social distancing, it has persisted by providing both increased access and convenience to patients. 

For 2024, it is privacy. That could have been the word for 2023, but this year, privacy will be significant to pharma marketers. In 2024, there will be a concerted migration of data and analytics tools to the type of clean room environments that have already become commonplace in the retail and CPG (consumer packaged goods) sectors.

Jenny Baban, CMI Media Group

Jenny Baban, CMI Media Group

Jenny Baban, senior VP, customer experience management, CMI Media Group: In 2023, few topics generated as much excitement as artificial intelligence (AI). While the possibilities of AI captured widespread attention last year, it is set to continue as the word of the year for 2024 as its application grows. For pharma marketers, AI’s integration into daily workflows will expedite content creation and empower increasingly dynamic and personalized marketing campaigns. However, I am most excited by the greater impact that AI is poised to generate in transforming the healthcare industry and aiding scientific discoveries. AI holds the promise of a scientific revolution in its ability study diseases and identify treatments, as well as support HCPs, patients, and caregivers in tracking and managing health conditions and preemptively flagging warning signs to prevent future health issues.

Jay Carter, JUICE PharmaJay Carter, executive VP, business development, JUICE Pharma: The word of the year for 2023 in pharma was “return.” For the first time, digital spend exceeded mass publication spend in the industry, because there was a well-established methodology to capture return on investment – the Holy Grail. Not everyone “won” in this exercise, but everybody could prove where they stand. The word of the year for 2024 will be “Duck!” This year will bring an especially ugly election process, raising muck and ad prices. Once again, warring politicians will castigate this business, and the people that slog in the fields of pharma marketing will need to exert all of our collective discipline to keep our heads held high in the process, while the sheer heat of the wars will make us want to duck and cover.

Christopher Dimmock, senior VP, integrated strategy, AbelsonTaylor: As 2023 ends, will the term of the year in pharma marketing – “AI” – fade away? That’s not happening. Artificial intelligence and generative AI in particular will continue to dominate our conversations as it comes into play in very real terms with how we create and design our marketing mechanics in the coming years.

With the launch of ChatGPT in the spring of last year, AI raised the hopes and anxieties of our industry. However, AI has been with us for years in the machine learning that powers our audience segmentation, decision journeys, media operations, and CRM platforms. In the coming year, the combination of these entities will tell us what, why, and how we can actualize greater omnichannel marketing efficiency. One will learn from the other.

Christopher Dimmock, AbelsonTaylor

Christopher Dimmock

But for 2024, the word is most certainly “regulation,” especially as it relates to AI. We will feel this across many different aspects; in the need to regulate the implementation of AI in communications, the resultant data collection, and personal identity and its role in intellectual property. The regulation will be impacted partly by the 2024 election this fall bringing a level of uncertainty in how our country will move forward, particularly in the nation’s healthcare and payment practices.

Every Presidential election brings change to the FDA with either the affirmation of current policy or the possibility of different practices. We have seen the Supreme Court affirm pharmaceutical importing from Canada to Florida. We are also anticipating the effect of the November “Final Rule” on DTC advertising from the FDA. After May 20, we will all be learning how this will be applied and interpreted in the approval of DTC. Will it be status quo, or will the rule require different standards for DTC communication? Certainly, there will some upheaval, but we will have to wait and see how regulations are impacted.

Susan Dorfman, president and CEO, CMI Media Group: 2023 = “omnichannel” and “genAI”. It seems like every company was doing it, or talking about doing it or thinking about what it means to them and their customers.

2024 = “omnipresence” and “automated intelligence.” In 2023 we were still thinking about channels as individual swim lanes and AI mainly as generative. This is the year that we’re coming together across channels to create an orchestrated and meaningful presence when and where people need us most – dynamic, in real time, and fueled by automated intelligence using data, tech and the art of expertise, etc. – and unlocking the most effective and efficient way of being present and delivering value to those we serve.

Jose Ferreira, executive VP, product strategy and transformation, CMI Media Group: The word of the year in 2023 was “omnidynamic.”  It was a word we invented as a kind of north star for omnichannel marketing, and in many ways we got there with greater agility, scalability, and dynamism in critical automated messaging moments.  If I was building on that I would say the word for 2024 is “omnissimo” – omnichannel orchestration moving to take a sizable share of overall media investment but maybe that’s a word we’ll need to reserve for 2025. Instead there won’t be a single word of the year in 2024 as much as a hyphenated prefix: “AI-powered.”  AI has been the talk of the industry for well over a year and we will see that prefix pop-up everywhere this year. The key for marketers is separating the value from the marketing noise.

Darrick Li, VP, North America Media Owners, Guideline: 2023: “test” – we saw strong advertising investment from the pharma category in 2023. And, within that investment we saw a major shift to digital ad formats, which we can attribute to testing and validating the efficacy and efficiency of digital channels compared to pharma’s historically linear ad programming.

2024: “shift” – from the way advertising is bought and sold, to where it appears, the pharma category is undergoing a transformation. We’ve seen this shift take place across mediums like linear TV and streaming, to programmatic buying rather than direct deals.

Christine Mormile, CMI Media Group

Christine Mormile, CMI Media Group

Christine Mormile, director, engagement strategy, CMI Media Group: “Omnidynamic” was the word for 2023. 2024 will be focused on increased “customization” of campaign targeting and messaging. Marketing campaigns cannot adhere to a one-size-fits-all approach. The message needs to be tailored to focus on where a patient is within their diagnosis journey, as well as their financial and geographic circumstances. Relevancy is more important than ever to the success of any marketing campaign.

Khari Motayne, VP, engagement strategy, CMI Media Group: “React” was the word of the year in 2023. As the COVID-19 public health emergency ended on May 11, 2023 was a year of rapid change in health care and marketing. At the center of what pharma marketers were reacting to was artificial intelligence and determining the best applications of the rapidly developing technology while responding to a rapidly changing media ecosystem on the ground. As the market dynamics shifted, many marketers faced changing directions in their overall investment strategy. Meanwhile, social media managers collaborating with brand strategists had to make tough calls on what their social media mix would look like with controversies on Twitter and the continual rise of TikTok.

For 2024, the word will likely be “experimentation” as brands and agencies continue to test the waters in AI and solidify many of the strategic plays made in 2023. Last year in the conference circles, many CMOs remarked that during the pandemic, there was a tendency to play things safe, primarily as reliance on data signals increased; there is a culture that emerged towards the end of last year to take more risks and learn more especially as so many market dynamics are changing. With the year of cookie depreciation finally upon us, there is much more cloud cover for companies to test out-of-the-box strategies and make more innovative plays.

Lauren Ohlsson, lead of industry solutions, pharmaceutical and healthcare, The word of the year in 2023 was “AI” and will continue to be relevant for the foreseeable future. The word of the year for 2024 will be “linkage.” Pharma marketers will look for opportunities to support patients and HCPs through their decision-making journeys by synchronizing marketing efforts. Data from different sources will be brought together to illuminate patient narratives and develop a more pointed marketing approach.

Robin Shapiro, TBWA\WorldHealthRobin Shapiro, CEO, TBWA\WorldHealth: The word of 2023 was “AI”. We experimented, dabbled, explored, and, let’s face it, obsessed about it. It will disrupt and fundamentally transform so many aspects of our business. As the year progressed, we saw applications of AI primarily used as enablers, or assistants, that help streamline, make things easier, automate, and kick-start the creative process. The full capabilities and boundaries of AI are still being shaped as we test and learn. The boundaries and safety of AI are also being shaped here in the United States and globally. Most every brand manager and agency leader is saying “yes” to AI. It’s just a question of where it fits best to solve problems without creating new ones.

The word for 2024 is “sustainability.” We’re at an inflection point. Technology, AI, and data are powerful tools. They have endless potential, but what is their purpose? I’m inspired by the companies that are combining technology with purpose; innovation with authenticity. In 2024, we’ll embrace these tools to create a more sustainable and inclusive future in health. Transparency, authenticity, and trust are more vital than ever in pharma — and they’re economic drivers. Those who disproportionately invest in sustainability will be the growth drivers of the future.

Amar Singh, senior director, and Mary Brett Whitfield, senior VP retail insights, Kantar: The word of the year in pharma marketing for 2023 was “personalization.” This trend emerged as pharmaceutical companies increasingly focused on tailored patient engagement and customized treatment options, leveraging advances in genomics and data analytics. Personalization became crucial in developing marketing strategies that resonated with both healthcare professionals and patients.

For 2024, the word of the year is likely to be “integration.” As the healthcare landscape becomes more interconnected, integrating various digital tools, patient data, and AI-driven analytics will be pivotal for effective marketing content creation.

Julieta Smith, senior VP, planner, Ogilvy Health: The word of the year in pharma marketing (and in marketing and maybe in the world overall) most emphatically was “AI.” Just like 2009 ushered in the idea of interactive detail aids for the first time with the advent of Veeva detailing platforms, 2023 was the first year we saw marketing clients asking for the use of AI for creative production (generative AI), for creation of new campaign idea presentations, and the use of AI for other things such as research.  We’re running two research projects right now that use AI and machine learning at the core. We have not yet used AI for full production in pharma due to ongoing copyright concerns, but we will continue to be pushed by marketers to use it in a variety of other ways. Honestly, if you are a creative person or a strategist or an CX person and you are not using AI daily, you are probably already behind.

The word of the year in pharma marketing for 2024 will be “destigmatization.” I believe that with cannabis and psychedelics entering the medical mainstream and being taken seriously as pharmaceutical products, they will begin to be thought of as real medicine and no longer thought of as vices. Cannabis is already legal for medical uses in 38 states (and recreationally in 24), three territories, and the District of Columbia. In those places, it’s finding new customers and being normalized by these users. Likewise, psilocybin, perhaps the leading edge of the psychedelics in medicine – has 93 separate clinical studies registered on that are active, recruiting, or inviting new participants with very promising results in a wide range of conditions.  I think we will continue to see greater destigmatization of these categories of important pharmaceuticals, ushering in a new mainstream and removing the vice status that exists for these products today.  Likewise, we will see a further de-medicalization and destigmatization of the use of products previously used in diabetes – it started with the Ozempic craze but will involve the further consumerization of GLP-1 products for weight loss, as well as for things like prevention of type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. Similarly, devices that previously were used only by “sick” people – glucose meters, oximeters, and heart tracking devices – will cease to be devices only for those with chronic disease.  Devices like this will move into the wellness space with people tracking their own heart rhythms, their own oxygen levels, and their own glucose levels to maximize their wellness.

Justin Thompson, general manager, identity and healthcare services, Semcasting: Like most industries, the word of the year for 2023 was “AI.” AI seemed to be in almost every conversation outside the standard FDA/drug approval process discussions. I believe AI will significantly impact pharma marketing and health care eventually, but it’s early. I believe the word of the year in 2024 will be “identity.” With Google sounding like they are actually going to deprecate third-party cookies from their Chrome browser in 2024, first-party data and identity will go from important to critical for reaching the best targetable audiences. Google has had a number of false starts on this change and most marketers are significantly unprepared for the marketing impacts.

MedAdNews: If you responded to these questions last year, what response did you give back then that you’d like to have back? Or, in other words, what did you (or the industry at large) think would happen this past year that didn’t happen, or think wouldn’t happen that did, or happened in a completely different and/or unexpected way?

Christine Mormile: While technology continues to evolve within the pharmaceutical landscape, it still hasn’t been developed as quickly as anticipated within channels such as point of care. It remains on the forefront of discussions and with the evolution of AI, technology will continue to improve year over year.

Amar Singh and Mary Brett Whitfield: In 2023, there was an expectation that virtual healthcare interactions would dominate post-pandemic. While telehealth certainly grew, the resurgence of in-person consultations indicated a balanced approach between digital and traditional healthcare services. This hybrid model of healthcare delivery was a nuanced development that many in the industry did not fully anticipate. Drug stores will continue to expand in the primary healthcare space, especially among boomers and seniors.

MedAdNews: How might the various political, regulatory, and electoral battles in Washington (or Brussels) impact the lives of brand managers and marketers in 2024? And more specifically, how do you see the U.S. government’s attempts to reduce the cost of drugs via direct Medicare negotiations and various other strategies playing out?

Jason Attanasio: With increased competition, market share will be more important than ever. As a result, we will see a lot more pharma advertising that looks and feels like the conquesting and customer retention marketing we typically only see in the consumer products space.

Jay Carter: The only thing that will happen in 2024 regarding Washington is that a heated battle will occur. The results of the elections will drive decisions once the dust settles in 2025. As for the repercussions of the Inflation Reduction Act, the dust is only beginning to settle, but battle lines are clearly drawn. Thus far, Astellas, AZ, BMS, J&J, and Merck are suing the fed over the law, and initial intelligence suggests that pricing is becoming more aggressive as a result of the law. Mind you, implementation does not begin until January of 2026.

Matt Durham, director, global media, CMI Media Group: Across Europe, we may start to see noticeable divergence between a post-Brexit United Kingdom and the European Union. So far, any change of directions has been relatively limited, but there has already been talk within the UK about rethinking its application of GDPR and data privacy regulations. We could also see other changes, possibly regarding how prescription medicines can be promoted across the UK compared to the EU. Any divergence that occurs between the two parties will most impact brand managers and marketers who work on pan-European or above-market campaigns, as they will have an additional set of rules to follow to ensure their campaigns are compliant across the continent.

Ray Johnson, Ogilvy Health

Raymond Johnson, Ogilvy Health

Ray Johnson, senior VP, market access strategy, and Doug Kylander, senior VP, management supervisor, Ogilvy Health: Despite turning the calendar to 2024, health care continues to follow the old adage: the more things change, the more they stay the same. Efforts to evolve from volume-based to value-based, search for improved outcomes through cost effectiveness, and integration of entities across the healthcare landscape are here to stay.

  As these efforts progress, it will be important for brand managers and marketers to stay current with the political and regulatory environment, and the government’s continued efforts to manage and extract improved outcomes from the healthcare system in terms of both clinical and economic benefits, specifically the treatment process and practice economics for providers and health systems, as well as the cost of therapeutic drugs and devices for payers and patients.

A lot of government attention has been and will continue to be placed on controlling (and reducing) the cost of high-priced drug treatments – in particular, specialty and oncology drugs. These newer, innovative specialty drugs and genetic therapies continue to push the envelope in terms of cost to the system; as a result, the U.S. government and CMS through the IRA and administrative pronouncements, such as the recent comments on “march-in rights” on drugs partially funded with public tax dollars, have put the market on notice.

The IRA’s initial provisions started to take place in 2022–2023 including: insulin pricing, vaccine coverage, inflation-rebate penalty for Part D and Part B drugs, and selection of the first 10 Part D drugs for price negotiations (starting in 2026). In 2024, we will see the continued roll-out of the IRA with elimination of the 5 percent beneficiary co-insurance in the catastrophic coverage phase of the Part D benefit. As a result, branded drug manufacturers will have to offset 70 percent of the coverage gap phase, counting towards the $8,000 limit on patient OOP costs. Furthermore, under the IRA, the U.S. government plans to include Part B drugs starting in 2028 in addition to Part D drugs for price negotiation.

In addition, the Biden administration recently proposed a framework to assert rights to “march-in” on a drug’s patents if price is unreasonable and drug developed with public funds. Though it is expected many drug manufacturers will litigate the constitutional merits of the IRA, “march-in rights,” and other strategies being pursued by the U.S. government, drug prices and patient affordability will remain pivotal issues in 2024. 

The government is also increasing the pressure on improving efficient, effective, and transparent healthcare delivery, particularly given the ongoing consolidation and integration across insurers, PBMs, pharmacies; health system consolidation and integration with physician clinics; and physicians aligning into integrated physician organizations.

More recently, private equity has come to the party and increased its spending on physician practices. One recent report found that private equity now owns more than 30 percent of practices in nearly one-third of metropolitan areas. 

The cause for concern stems from a JAMA study in which researchers assessed healthcare claims from 2012 to 2021; in 8 out of 10 physician practice specialties, private equity acquisitions were associated with price increases. Primary care and dermatology increased in the 4 percent range, while oncology was highest at 16.4 percent followed by gastroenterology at 14 percent.

An article found in the November 17 edition of Fortune highlights how the FTC Chair Lina Khan is pursuing the first FTC legal challenge against a private equity purchase of medical practices. In an interview, Khan confirmed that her agency wants to send a message with this suit targeting one of the most aggressive private equity firms involved in building large, market-dominating medical groups.

Clearly, the actions of the U.S. government and regulatory bodies are converging in their efforts to improve overall healthcare delivery in terms of clinical and economic benefit for the healthcare system, and ultimately for patients and providers. It will be essential for both brand marketers and their customers to understand the key drivers and barriers to commercial success given the ongoing legislative and regulatory battles that are reshaping the future of the U.S. healthcare market.

Khari Motayne, CMI Media Group

Khari Motayne, CMI Media Group

Khari Motayne: Brands will need to get tactical in managing brand safety during this period. This goes double for brands that have recently expanded heavily into social media. Fortunately, marketers have grown accustomed to this reactivity in 2023 and likely have contingency plans for changing political and social dynamics. Social media managers who are veterans of last year will be well-positioned and seasoned to manage what will undoubtedly be a dynamic electoral season. It’s too early to tell what the overall impact of the Medicare negotiations will be on marketers and brand managers, with the new prices going into effect in January 2026. However, marketers will need to be more proactive in having conversations with their business partners about factors such as innovation half-lives and stepwise development and how those will factor into the future marketing life cycle of brands.

Amar Singh and Mary Brett Whitfield: The ongoing political and regulatory discussions in Washington and Brussels will significantly impact pharma brand managers and marketers. The U.S. government’s push to reduce drug costs through Medicare negotiations and other strategies may lead to tighter margins. Marketers will need to navigate these changes by focusing on value-based messaging and demonstrating the cost-effectiveness and clinical benefits of their products. However, Kantar tracked more shoppers who reported using Rx medications to manage their physical or mental health in 2023 vs. prior years, so regulatory policies designed to reduce drug prices may accelerate the trend. Tighter margins may be offset at least partially by a broader patient base.

Justin Thompson: Focusing on the United States, privacy regulations are getting harder to comply with as many states have their own legislation. A national privacy law would be significantly helpful for streamlining the requirements for all marketers, but with where Washington is politically these days, it’s hard to imagine it actually happening.

Regarding the reduction in the cost of drugs for Medicare patients, on the surface, it feels like a net positive for our industry. The industry could use a more positive perception, and greater adoption rates might offset reduced margins in some instances for pharmaceutical companies. Of course, how it actually gets done will be the most exciting part.

MedAdNews: What’s up next for marketing technologies in 2024? And what will brands be doing with AI and data science this coming year that they weren’t doing yet last year?

Jason Attanasio: AI will continue to be a popular buzzword, but I do not think the near-term effects of AI are as game-changing as some may hope. AI can certainly make what we are doing today faster and more efficient, but we are still years away from AI leading to something wholly different than what we have seen before.

However, clean rooms will play a bigger part in the lives of pharma marketers. Cookie deprecation, state privacy regulations, and the migration of consumers from traditional media formats to digital and app-based content will create a more siloed data environment. In turn, this will drive the adoption of data clean room technology. It will also place huge importance on having accurate, trustworthy omnichannel identity resolution partners to help marketers stitch these disparate silos together to capture a holistic view of how their ad dollars are performing.

Pilar Belhumeur, Greater Than One

Pilar Belhumeur, Greater Than One

Pilar Belhumeur, executive creative director, Greater Than One: The use of AI will only increase exponentially in 2024. Creative teams will utilize AI to accelerate their processes, and their thinking and expand their ability to create ideas. Like a painter with a brush, we guide and direct AI just like many of the other tools we have at our disposal. AI will become an extension of each creative, making them almost bionic in their abilities…empowering them to create faster, smarter, and better. We are already seeing this through the integration of generative AI into the tools we use daily. The possibilities for the use of AI in creative development are endless, but truly good creative cannot be done by AI alone. It must be prompted, directed, and guided by the creativity within each of us.

Max Divak, VP, technology lead, Ogilvy Health: With the release of the Apple Vision Pro headset coming this February and the newly available Meta Quest 3, I predict pass-through augmented reality (AR) will finally receive broad consumer acceptance.

This leads way to applications that utilize AR in orchestration with computer-vision and AI to enhance activities like immersive learning in med school and CME, instructive medical and surgical procedures or examinations, and any therapies or treatments that could benefit from real-time guidance.

Mike D’Orazio, director of marketing technology and innovation, AbelsonTaylor: In 2024, marketing technologies are poised to witness a significant surge in the integration of generative AI, revolutionizing how brands engage with their audience. Brands will increasingly leverage generative AI to create personalized and dynamic content at scale, enabling hyper-targeted campaigns that resonate with individual preferences. This technology will not only streamline content creation but also enhance customer experiences by delivering tailored messages across diverse platforms.

Furthermore, the coming year will witness a deeper integration of generative AI in data science applications for marketing. Brands will employ advanced algorithms to extract actionable insights from vast datasets, enabling more precise audience segmentation and predictive analytics. This will empower marketers to anticipate consumer behavior, optimize advertising strategies, and achieve higher ROI.

Additionally, AI-driven chatbots and virtual assistants will evolve to offer more sophisticated and human-like interactions, enhancing customer engagement and support. Brands will invest in refining these conversational AI tools to provide seamless, personalized experiences, ultimately fostering stronger customer relationships.

Overall, 2024 will mark a pivotal moment in the widespread adoption of generative AI across various facets of marketing, unlocking new levels of efficiency, creativity, and strategic decision-making for brands.

Jeremy Howell, associate creative director, Greater Than One: In 2024, I predict we will witness sustained advancement and widespread integration of AI across all creative avenues. Within the design industry, the ongoing trend will involve the utilization of AI-driven generative design, which will aid in not only the creation of diverse design campaign options and innovative solutions to client problems but also increase the speed at which projects can be completed and put into market.

Kimberly Jones, CEO and president, Butler/Till: While AI is continuing to explode in both popularity and use cases, we are particularly excited about healthcare capabilities for our clients and the advancements we are already witnessing on the heels of artificial intelligence. In health care specifically, advancements in AI can lead to increasingly accurate treatment options and diagnoses that can be life changing. We have already seen how machine learning has demonstrated the potential to revolutionize early disease detection. Algorithms can detect subtle anomalies in medical images, providing radiologists with a comprehensive analysis that may have been overlooked in traditional methods. This “assisted” approach that combines both human and machine can lead to earlier diagnosis and intervention, saving lives and improving patient outcomes. By utilizing advancements in technology, our experts can get the right message in front of the right patient population to make a significant difference in their quality of life.

Toby Katcher, CMI Media Group

Toby Katcher, CMI Media Group

Toby Katcher, VP, video investment, CMI Media Group: Increased integration of AI and automation, enhanced personalization through AI-driven analytics, predictive customer/patient/HCP behavior analysis, AI-driven content creation, improved customer/patient/HCP journey mapping, a focus on ethical AI practices, the use of AR and VR in marketing, optimization for voice search, and other advancements to provide more immersive and tailored experiences for customers are expected in 2024. Brands are likely to evolve their strategies by leveraging these technologies to a greater extent than in the previous year.

Darrick Li: As pharma moves increasingly into CTV, marketers need to be more cognizant of the consumer experience – diversifying the creative to mitigate common complaints like ad frequency. AI will not only enable pharma marketers to generate different creative options but also provide lower production costs, still ensuring they include the fine print.

Michael Monovoukas, CEO and founder, AcuityMD: In 2024, field sales reps will spend more time in transit as the makeup of their territories changes to reflect a new type of health care landscape. Notably, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) – a safe, convenient, and inexpensive alternative to hospitals – have and will continue to grow especially as more medical technology manufacturers engineer more streamlined robotics products that fit the smaller footprint of ASCs. Already, ASCs perform more than half of all U.S. outpatient surgical procedures. Since Q1 2018, total knee and total hip arthroplasty procedures done at hospitals have decreased by 1.3 percent per quarter, whereas ASC volumes have steadily increased by 5.4 percent per quarter. ASCs now perform over 15 percent of TKA and THA surgeries in the United States plus an increasing number of other types of outpatient procedures.

The result is a wide dispersion of surgeries, requiring reps to spend more time driving long distances and adding to their already two-plus hours a day in transit. AI and large language models (LLMs) will help reps make better use of this “dead” time by enabling hands-free audio productivity. When they are driving, reps will be able to listen or talk to their management system to prepare for their upcoming meeting, respond to email requests, and more. The top-performing reps will leverage LLMs to be more dramatically efficient and make the most of their longer travel stretches.

Looking beyond 2024, AI can also bring a similar audio experience into the operating room, audibly guiding surgeons what screens to view when, and capturing surgical context that can be automatically transcribed into notes for highly individualized post-operative care.

Lauren Ohlsson: Data linkage will be top of mind for pharma marketers. Building a deeper understanding of patients and HCPs through data-driven narratives will help sharpen marketing efforts. Exploring ways to integrate diverse data sources and mining the data to uncover patterns and timelines can help fuel predictive modeling.

Chris Rudnick, managing partner, and Arek Zarycki, VP, director of creative technology, TBWA\WorldHealth: In 2024, marketing technologies are set to undergo transformative changes, focusing on enhanced customer engagement and streamlined communication. A significant advancement lies in the realm of always-on customer care, where chatbots are becoming more connected and capable. These AI-driven assistants provide 24/7 support, answering queries and offering solutions with human-like understanding, thus ensuring continuous customer engagement. Alongside, the rise of voice search optimization marks a pivotal shift. As voice-assisted devices become ubiquitous, optimizing content for voice search is crucial for brands to remain visible and relevant in voice-driven search results. This shift necessitates a more conversational and natural language approach in content creation. Moreover, brand authenticity takes center stage with user-generated content (UGC) becoming a powerful tool. UGC and being authentic and relatable resonates more with audiences, fostering a sense of community and trust around a brand. This trend underscores the shift from traditional advertising to more organic, customer-centric marketing strategies where real experiences and stories drive brand engagement.

Additionally, brands are poised to leverage AI and data science, primarily focusing on hyper-personalization and predictive analytics. Hyper-personalization represents a quantum leap in customized marketing, where AI algorithms analyze vast amounts of consumer data to tailor marketing content to individual preferences, behaviors, and needs. This approach goes beyond traditional segmentation, offering unique, relevant experiences to each consumer, thus increasing engagement and loyalty. Predictive analytics, on the other hand, is set to revolutionize strategic decision making. Utilizing AI to interpret complex data patterns, brands can now predict future trends, consumer behaviors, and market dynamics with unprecedented accuracy. This enables proactive strategy adjustments, optimizing marketing efforts for maximum impact. By harnessing these advanced capabilities, brands will not only offer more personalized and relevant experiences but will also anticipate and adapt to market changes more effectively — staying ahead of the curve in a constantly evolving digital landscape.

Collectively, these advancements in marketing technologies are redefining how brands interact with and engage their audiences, making marketing more personalized, responsive, and authentic.

Dan Schulman, partner, Beghou Consulting: In 2023, many pharma companies responded to the rise of generative AI capabilities by excitedly allocating budgets to AI initiatives, building roadmaps for AI-enabled commercial operations and adopting AI tools. In my view, 2024 will be when companies find out if the efforts they kicked off in 2023 will bear fruit. As the initial excitement around generative AI wears off and companies grapple with the reality of standing up an AI-enabled commercial operation, they will be forced to place renewed emphasis on their data and technology fundamentals. To succeed with AI deployments, companies must have an organized and robust data and technology infrastructure. A crucial piece of this infrastructure will be thorough processes around compliance and data confidentiality.

In addition to reinforcing infrastructure, companies will rise or fall with AI based on their approach to adoption. Some companies will allow themselves to be driven by technology and try to force-fit tools into their commercial operations. We believe this is a mistake. Instead, a use-case based approach – where companies identify use cases where AI can help them address core business needs and build successes from there – will help companies more quickly generate commercial impact from AI.

Amar Singh and Mary Brett Whitfield: In 2024, marketing technologies will evolve, with a greater emphasis on AI and data science. Brands are expected to leverage advanced predictive analytics for market segmentation and personalized marketing. AI-driven tools will also enhance customer engagement through chatbots and personalized content, a step beyond what was common in the previous year.

Justin Thompson: We’ll see AI making incremental improvements, particularly with better predictive modeling in many areas of marketing. The key will be the accuracy of a brand’s first-party data, given the loss of many third-party cookie signals within the ecosystem. A focus on individual identity and matching will become more important as a result. I also believe that AI technologies will not take a massive leap forward in 2024, despite expectations. There will likely be some additional breakthroughs in the next year, but testing, adoption, and implementation will take longer than a few months.

MedAdNews: What do brands have to do to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales rep teams in the new year and going forward?

Jenny Baban: For too long personal and non-personal promotion have been treated as separate and unique marketing strategies. To maximize effectiveness, sales and marketing must be considered jointly to create a truly omnichannel approach across all audience touchpoints. With today’s technology fueling data sharing across all marketing channels, we can generate better customer experiences and maximize the effectiveness of both sales reps and NPP efforts.

Jay Carter: I started my career in a sales territory for a long-dead pharma in August of 1983. It saddens me to say that the way to optimize and maximize rep effectiveness today is to look hard at trimming and training. Trimming because I don’t believe that pharma sales forces today are right-sized. The most impressive company I saw this year planned to launch an oncology indication with a very small sales team, and equally sized MSL team, and intense focus upon omnichannel promotion for both patients and clinicians. The power of buying groups mandates that strategy. Training is about truly making the representative the “hub” of an omnichannel promotion strategy designed to push every target clinician through a “funnel.” Unfortunately, many sales representatives are not very adept in such a role, requiring an investment in training them properly.

Liz Deutch, managing director, Ogilvy Health: Arming the sales team with actionable insights about HCP and patients/caregivers is how we empower them to have relevant conversations that convert to sales. A way to enhance what is provided to the sales team is to use predictive modeling to inform a segmentation strategy to help guide conversation outcomes and enable the development of customized content. Brands should use an intentional mix of digital-first sales aids, CRM, and account-based marketing to drive effective demand generation.

Jose Ferreira:  If we rewind all the way back to the pandemic, a leading-edge theory started to emerge that sales reps would evolve into a kind of territorial brand manager, leveraging their on-the-ground knowledge of healthcare professionals and their patient populations to play a greater role in influencing media and general marketing mixes.  I think the idea was slightly ahead of its time.  This industry isn’t known for moving fast and this requires a profound reorientation of how organizations think about their sales and marketing teams.  Going into this year I think we will start to see some organizations empower their sales team to make more decisions about media or at the very least use their subjective knowledge as a key data input for home office marketing teams to take decisive actions.   

Gregg Fisher, founder and managing partner, The Stem: NBx (or next best) is fast becoming a standard approach for improving biopharma field force productivity. NBx programs apply business rules or advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to various data sets to improve the quality of customer insights, the relevance of sales force targeting and the impact of omni-channel customer interactions. Through our work consulting in this area, we’ve seen time and again these programs are about much more than data or technology, and require a methodical cross-functional approach to execution, encompassing organization and planning, design and build, and measurement and optimization. The following are a handful of best practices that cross-functional brand teams should think about to maximize their success.

Organize and Plan

  • Vision: Define clear rationale of NBX value to drive brand objectives. Clarify NBX is the “Intelligence Engine” that provides a continuous, dynamic approach to customer engagement.
  • Governance: Define roles across functions to support decision making and collaboration. Assign sponsors and core team responsible for delivering the NBX program.
  • Program management: Use agile, “sprint” focused, management for quick builds, learning, and experiments from proof of concept to soft launch to builds. Drive alignment with cross-functional teams for clear scope of work, due date expectations, and regular communications for awareness and agreement to project deliverables.
  • Vendor selection: Select for expertise in data science with predictive and generative AI/ML to allow for  growth in complex use cases and data. Assess strategic guidance from real-world experiences with data sources, agile design approach, reuse of system connectors, KPIs, and experimentation process for new and refined use cases.
  • Field engagement: Drive early and consistent field engagement for buy-in and continued learnings for ongoing NBX value. Use peer-based communications, training, and case studies to build trust in “real-world” field usage.

Design and Build

  • Use case planning: Start with “User Story’ real-world design as input to use case requirements. Triangulate multiple, real-time data signals to increase the value of customer intelligence.
  • Data and systems architecture: Define an architecture that is flexible with modular, configurable and adaptable features. Prioritize reuse of data connectors for similar data objects to minimize implementation complexities.
  • Omnichannel integration: Optimize pre-Launch learning from HCP activity (i.e., channel preference, content affinity and knowledge level) to leverage during launch phase to personalize engagements. Design an activity scoring system across “data signals” to assess HCP targets and digital utilization value to reduce “noise” to field.
  • Field interface: Reduce admin and simplify NBX response for field users. Plan for efficient view and access for NBX across Territory, Customer, and First-Line-Manager dashboards.

Measure and Optimize

  • Success metrics: Differentiate between response KPIs and quality KPIs. Take an “ROI” approach to each Use Case to verify the value based on outcome intended.
  • Operating model: Design an operating model to establish process to evolve and refine use cases. Educate internal stakeholders and field end-users on the update process and schedule for expectation setting and refinement validation.

Kimberly Jones: For brands to optimize their sales rep teams in the new year and beyond, they first need set the foundation of their marketing and sales team working together in lock step. Avoiding duplication of efforts, allowing for true full funnel tracking, and the ability to identify and implement the right tools and platforms are all benefits that are found when sales and marketing teams are closely linked. Perhaps most importantly, teams need to identify the key objective at each phase of the process to assess where optimizations can be made and what success looks like.

Toby Katcher: Brands can accomplish this by investing in ongoing sales training, leveraging technology, implementing data-driven strategies, emphasizing personalization and relationship building, establishing clear goals and metrics, encouraging collaboration and communication, adapting to remote work dynamics, encouraging continuous improvement, incentivizing performance, adopting a customer-centric approach, and incorporating social selling strategies. These measures are intended to boost sales team productivity, customer satisfaction, and overall success.

Michael Monovoukas: Too often, medtech companies send reps data dumps – clunky spreadsheets or standalone reports – expecting them to make sense of it all. Reps are salespeople, not data analysts. For them to be successful, they need easy-to-use and intuitive data that quickly identifies the best opportunities and helps them better understand prospective buyers. What research is this healthcare professional doing? Who did they attend medical school with? Are they shifting their practice to another facility? All of these insights allow a personalized, consultative sales approach, which is what healthcare providers are demanding, and will help reps gain a competitive edge.

Christine Mormille: Brands need to be fully transparent with their sales rep teams and relay all objectives, strategies, and goals for the year ahead and beyond. If supply chain issues are anticipated, it’s okay to say that but they need to prime those teams to understand how they can best discuss the situation with physicians when marketing the product. This will help set expectations for challenges ahead and help physicians know how to best educate their patients.

Lauren Ohlsson: Brands should provide access to real-time data and push that data out to the sales field, which will greatly increase efficiencies with sales efforts. For example, if my company serves a creative to an HCP and they engage with the video, then this could trigger an activity to the field sales team. Data timeliness and relevance are crucial to field sales team members.

MedAdNews: How do you foresee pharma’s marketing media mix changing – or not changing – in 2024? How will the various channels develop and change in the new year?

Jason Attanasio: The pharma industry will experience the same shift in marketing dollars as others, moving from broadcast and cable into CTV and ad-supported streaming, but at a slower pace. Traditional linear TV audiences still lean toward older demographics, who still make up the lion’s share of most key pharma audiences, so linear will continue to be a big source of reach for pharma brands.

Sarah Caldwell, general manager, Veeva Crossix Analytics: In 2024, marketers will continue to follow consumer behavior with more investment in streaming and online video. While linear TV remains an effective reach channel for marketers – and the largest media investment for biopharma brands – online video and streaming will continue to increase their share of media.

In the first half of 2023, Veeva Crossix data showed streaming and online video accounted for more than a third of all digital impressions, a trend that continues. We also anticipate a continued increase in programmatic buying of online media, enabling efficiencies and flexibility beyond the manual process of booking directly through media partners. This automated approach will also drive increased investments in digital video and streaming inventory in 2024, as programmatic platforms enable more streaming/CTV capabilities.

As a part of this media evolution, 2024 will bring opportunities to reach patients via new channels, especially those enabled by data. Although their share of the media mix remains small, channels like digital audio and out-of-home will likely continue to see high growth if they can continue to show positive returns on investment.

In 2024, the deprecation of third-party cookies will change how biopharma brands target and measure digital advertising. We anticipate brands will pay a premium for addressable media, such as streaming/CTV, linear addressable, and mobile, that aren’t dependent on third-party cookies. Media that is no longer targetable and measurable without cookies, like open web non-endemic content, will likely see a reduction in investment. Measurement solutions such as direct media feeds of first-party publisher data will also drive more accountability and transparency from media partners.

Carlos Dorenbaum, VP, planner, Ogilvy Health: In 2024 we can expect healthcare marketers to expand their channel mix to adapt to the rapid retailization of health care. In 2023 alone, Amazon finalized its $3.9 billion acquisition of One Medical, CVS closed the deal on its $10 billion buy of Oak Street Health, and Walmart sizably expanded their health care center footprint. Costco partnered with Sesame to offer special discount pricing on outpatient medical care services and Kroger made notable invests in value based primary care centers.

The retailization of health care is expected to disrupt the existing primary care model and rapidly improve access to routine care. As such, the retail channel will grow in importance for healthcare marketers and there will be new opportunities for marketers to offer patients value by helping them navigate a more fragmented system.

Susan Dorfman: AI is getting a lot of attention mainly because of generative AI, but GenAI is a small piece of the puzzle in healthcare marketing. AI currently enables and will continue – exponentially – to enable the use of tech and data to automate everything that does not need human touch. This will enable us to start thinking more about human touch for the right occasions, particularly in the journeys of our patients, caregivers and HCPs. In 2024 and beyond we will start seeing a true experience creation, omnipresent approach that focuses on delivering valuable, meaningful information to customers where they are. As part of this, we will see examples of intentional decisions around where a human is needed and where technology can step in. This will include a greater reliance from the field force on alternative channels of communications beyond owned. There will be a confluence between owned and paid channels of conversation becoming much more fluid. Digital will become a subset of personal communication. Marketers will need to focus on creating fluidity in conversation and leverage the channels we have to get information to those who need it most, with a deep understanding of what our customers need and how we can utilize the latest innovation to get us there.

Matt Durham: Internationally we see a huge variety in the channels HCPs prefer to use or have access to. Even in neighboring European countries, levels of digital adoption among HCPs working in the same specialty can be drastically different. Across the continent we have seen HCPs increasingly having a mobile-first approach to viewing medical content, though. We have also noticed a flurry of audio content coming out of some markets, noticeably Spain, France, Germany, and the Republic of Ireland. This offers new opportunities in the global pharma marketing mix, albeit ones which need to be managed carefully to ensure Rx campaigns remain in alignment with local country marketing regulations.

Toby Katcher: The pharma media mix is expected to continue to shift further towards digital channels in 2024, with significant increased use of video, specifically in connected TV, and social media, personalized content via data analytics, integration with telehealth, podcasts and webinars, native advertising, and influencer marketing in health care. Regulatory compliance challenges and adherence to industry regulations, on the other hand, will remain critical considerations for marketers.

Darrick Li: This year will continue the trend of dollars shifting from linear to CTV. In fact, we’ll probably see pharma do more in overall video advertising this year as their share of video dollars among all ad types have room to grow, when compared to other major categories such as CPG, automotive, retail, and financial services.

The pharma category is slowly but surely learning from other verticals, as they are just now coming up to speed with practices that CPG/auto have had for years. They’re now on the bandwagon, moving dollars into CTV, leveraging programmatic technology, and targeting using first party patient health data.

Finally, we might see the retail media network trend start to play out in pharma as well this year as media begin leverage their first-party data even more by monetizing their audiences.

Christine Mormille: Point of care continues to evolve as brands increase overall investment given the cluttered digital landscape. It is becoming more challenging to obtain the attention of HCPs and patients alike, therefore point-of-care programs are adapting to the way audiences prefer to consume content to gain attention. For example, platforms providing short form video content such as TikTok are creating demand to continue use of that format in physician offices and AI technology is changing how marketers customize and target messaging more than ever as it is becomes more of an expectation for marketers to be relevant at point of care.

Lauren Ohlsson: In 2024, CTV will significantly chip away at traditional pharma TV spending and become a more significant percentage of marketers’ media mix. This has been an upward trajectory over the course of several years, but 2024 will see CTV getting the budget increases it deserves for such an efficient and targetable medium.

Terence Prudhomme, media strategy director, AbelsonTaylor: I believe the accelerated pace of martech, and integration of AI, will further democratize the accessibility of a true omnichannel presence. This impact will be felt strongest across marketers with more confined segmentation and/or limited fiscal capacity. What once required heavy upfront investment across disparate platforms and channels will be streamlined through the connective tissue technology provides.

This will effectively reduce the investment criteria across media mix development as marketers that were only able to operate across mid to lower funnel channels can now align directly with the consumption habits of their desired audience.

Ultimately, as we look towards the upcoming year, many more marketers will truly be able to “fish where the fish are” as the limitations of where they can cast their rod will be removed.

Justin Thompson: For programmatic advertisers, I think we’ll see a shift in platforms from those who haven’t been able to plan and adjust for cookie deprecation compared to those who have done so. The proof will be in the performance on many of the platforms. The impact when Threads implements an effective advertising service will be interesting. Right now, Threads appears to be the preferred alternative to X/Twitter and with the reach and engagement numbers being reported on the platform, there’s an amazing marketing opportunity for brands to take advantage of when Threads is ready.

MedAdNews: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2024 that they might not have expected in 2023? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Jason Attanasio: The lines between traditional and digital media are getting more blurred every day, making it imperative for advertisers – and their agencies – to invest in true omnichannel targeting and analytics. This need is magnified by the small, targeted audiences that are relevant for most pharmaceutical products. Knowing who you are reaching and how often you are reaching them across channels is the cornerstone to creating the outcome metrics needed to optimize holistic ad spend. Agencies with practices that can do this well, at scale, will succeed. Agencies that can leverage AI and ML automation to do this at speed will occupy the pole position.

Jenny Baban: Brand managers will expect partners to be increasingly omnidynamic by utilizing technology to modularize content, improve speed to market, and leverage real-time learnings to optimize campaigns and increase personalization.

Jeff Berg, president, AbelsonTaylor: Along with data analytics and omnichannel marketing, artificial intelligence (AI) will be the sharpest tool in brand mangers toolkit. Last year brought the rollout of AI to the masses, with ChatGPT, Bing, chatbots, and a plethora of new tools and applications flooding the market. In 2024, brand managers will expect that their marketing agency partners have done their due diligence and have become proficient in orchestrating the appropriate deployment of each of these tools to optimize the customer experience. With AI in particular, agency partners will need to guide brand marketers to experiment with and understand AI technology limitations. Agency partners will have to demonstrate fluency in quickly moving between each area of specialty and understanding the integration across each area.

Mike Dennelly, chief strategy officer, TBWA\WorldHealth: From my lens as a strategist, the most pressing skill set brand managers will expect from agency marketing partners is expertise in content strategy. As we move further into an omnichannel world, a brand’s content strategy becomes the cornerstone of a brand’s go-to-market approach.

Our managing partner at TBWA\WH, Chris Rudnick, has a great saying about the transformation of creativity in our space that captures this sea change: “The healthcare creative process used to be 20 percent strategy and 80 percent creative, and now that is flipped.”

What this means is our creative product has become intrinsically strategic. It requires new people, processes, and tools that allow for creating things like modular content, creative testing plans, and editorial calendars to guide our work. At TBWA\WorldHealth, we’ve placed content strategy at the center of our Experience Design practice. And we are just getting started.

Another skill set I see clients wanting most from their agencies at a more macro-level is a strategic partnership. As more tactical work is done in-house or in collaboration with client teams, and AI begins to solve some exceptional elements of our creative process, clients now want a trusted partner who knows their business.

What does this mean for agencies and the people working at agencies? It means you must know your client’s business better than your clients themselves, you have to continually bring fresh thinking and innovations to the table that solve business problems, and most importantly, you have to see yourself as a strategic problem solver — no matter your focus or discipline within your agency.

Christianna Gorin, chief growth and strategy officer, Ogilvy Health: In 2024, brand managers will expect their agency partners to be proficient in the new set of skills AI presents — something of a departure from 2023, when agency capabilities were the areas of focus versus “my team’s” capability.  The expectation moving forward is for human talent to use and seamlessly co-create with machine “talent” in daily work, reflecting a shift in an understanding of what co-creation means in today’s world.  Marketers will be increasingly harnessing AI to drive insights, inform strategy, and fuel creativity.  If you are not co-creating with AI in day-to-day foundational work, you are already behind. 

As the role of AI in co-creation expands, we anticipate growth in the need for intercultural insight mining, as well. This involves training machine collaborators to be inclusive and representative of our diverse world. Understanding and navigating cultural nuances is an essential human skill I hope marketers will prioritize at a moment when the industry is debating whether DE&I is dead or in need of a new iteration. 

In addition to technological advancements, the agency world is undergoing shifts as they navigate employee expectations regarding work-life balance. The seemingly never-ending discussion regarding return-to-office policies highlights that the challenge is not just about the future of work but also the future of living. Many brand managers and agency professionals have made lasting changes to their residences, locations, and lifestyles, influencing their career expectations.

If we aren’t careful, women in the industry may take a hit as they pick up the life slack in a work-life balance equation reset by the pandemic.  We begin 2024 with more women continuing to work from home to support their family’s shift in priorities while more men head back to the office. Agencies with cultures of advancing women must create policies that prevent a backslide in the progress advancing women to leadership and C-suite roles.

Kimberly Jones: As we see user privacy regulations as a recurring trend, we recognize that third-party data for targeting paid media continues to become scarcer and brands need to pivot to find new ways of reaching their audience. This means advertisers need to focus on building and leveraging rich, first-party data assets to decrease reliance on third parties and be in control of our own data. Advertisers are investing in analytics more than ever before, building proprietary tech solutions that solve unique problems in the pharma space.

Toby Katcher: 2024 will likely see brand managers expecting marketing firms to be highly skilled in data analytics, artificial intelligence, and ethical data practices. It may also become increasingly important to prioritize sustainable practices, flexibility to new platforms, immersive technology, and inclusion and diversity in content. As the sector develops, agencies with experience in crisis management, remote work, and a focus on quantifiable effect and return on investment can also become more in demand.

Christine Mormille: Brand managers are going to expect agencies and suppliers to be well-versed in how to best communicate with all target audiences. Agencies should understand how to reach all targets to synchronize marketing strategies, maximize efficiency, and yield higher ROI. There will be some exceptions for suppliers who exclusively reach a select target audience subset but there will be an assumption that they can also understand how those audiences will communicate with their doctor or patient based on the messaging being promoted.

Lauren Ohlsson: Data will be the heart of agency efforts and will create a scientific approach to reaching patients and HCPs alike. Data is not limited to campaign results but can take the form of data partners, research studies, and metrics like prescription lift and claims data, which can help agencies make real-time optimizations to their campaigns. Other changes include more of a willingness to nudge pharma marketers to test, learn, and innovate, which can be challenging in a highly regulated environment.

Amar Singh and Mary Brett Whitfield: Brand managers will expect marketing agencies to have expertise in AI and machine learning in 2024. Agencies will need to provide solutions for data-driven marketing and personalized patient engagement. Additionally, there might be a greater demand for agencies that understand regulatory compliance in digital spaces and keep an eye on retailer media networks for holistic campaigns.

Justin Thompson: We’re seeing an increasing expectation from brand managers for marketing agency partners to have expertise in first-party data and marketing lists, as well as campaign measurement.

MedAdNews: What do you think is an important trend for pharma marketers that is flying under the radar?

Jason Attanasio: I’ve mentioned it a few times now, but I would have expected the clean room trend to be more prominent in the pharma space.

Jenny Baban: There is still a significant missed opportunity within most organizations to market at the customer level, rather than at the brand level. Instead of orchestrating marketing campaigns on a brand-by-brand basis, marketers should focus attention on understanding each customer’s informational needs, interests, and preferences. This customer-centric approach creates the opportunity to provide individuals with the most needed tools and information to best treat their patients, or themselves. Moving away from each brand trying to build their own omnichannel campaign, or even marketing technology, to enterprise-level efforts to orchestrate communication will create a profound impact in marketing efforts.

Carrie Bartholomew, director, engagement strategy, Ogilvy Health: Everyone wants to feel valued, understood and prioritized, especially when it comes to their health care.  In today’s world where companies like Amazon shape our expectations for customer experience, patients are accustomed to receiving effective, personalized communications to help guide their purchase decisions.  When it concerns their healthcare decisions, they expect the same attention.  As we move into 2024, even with the advent of third-party cookie deprecation, being patient-centric through personalization, and providing the most relevant experiences possible will continue to play a key role in pharma direct to consumer marketing, and will be essential in to order to engender trust and credibility,

Personalization can be implemented in several ways, not only through the obvious use of personalization tokens such as name or geo-targeting. First, by providing content that is the most pertinent to the patient in terms of not only their condition, but also where they are within their treatment journey at the moment – helping to activate key moments that matter.  Content should be carefully curated based on patient insights and any engagement information available and provided in a personal, but non-invasive way that respects privacy.  This may also include being in their preferred language or relatable in terms of imagery and use of the patient voice telling a similar story to theirs.  In addition to targeted messages, customized landing pages, modular or dynamic content and avatars on site can all aid in directing patients to the right information.

It is also important to be aware of what channels patients prefer and try to meet them with the right content within those preferred channels at the appropriate time, telling a seamless story across the ecosystem.  Today, patients are attuned to quick bites of highly-relevant snackable information in a mobile format.  Marketers need to strive to anticipate what the patient needs next before they might even know it themselves and therefore help to move them through their treatment journey, extending the one-to-one approach into their patient support programs with enhanced customer support.

As of January 4,  one percent of Chrome users have had third-party cookies restricted, following suit with its competitors. Digital marketing campaigns for years have been reliant on third-party cookies to enable targeting and omnichannel campaigns.  In the wake of the “great cookie crumble”, first-party data will become even more important in powering 1:1 initiatives.  Marketers will need to create new opportunities to collect first-party data in a compliant way and strive to build databases by being forthcoming and transparent about the use of information as well as providing a clear value exchange for providing the information. Profiles should be enriched along the way through interaction with surveys, polls and SMS responses. AI and machine learning can then help to analyze the data and determine patterns in behaviors, building personas to enable marketing automation to provide a more engaging experience.  Continual optimization, of course, will be paramount. To align with a patient’s journey, there will be more reliance on contextual advertising to capture high-intent patients at the point of consideration and encourage other lower-funnel behaviors. There will also be the need to find partners that have their own data that can be leveraged for enhanced targeting. Walled gardens such as Meta and Google will continue to have a role with first-party data matching capabilities.

Susan Dorfman: To genuinely think about orchestration – below brand, above brand, across brand, for both marketers and leadership. It’s important to think of the customer as part of your overall enterprise. We’ve all had experiences where we’ve worked with one company that has multiple divisions but doesn’t know us – and as customers that doesn’t feel good. Orchestration is an important initiative that shouldn’t be bypassed. We should find budgets and criticality and time and importance to service them in that way.

Kimberly Jones: Waste is a big problem within the marketing industry. Programmatic advertising waste is the byproduct of buyers focusing on the wrong metrics (namely CPM). As an industry, we need to find metrics that relate to quality and business outcomes rather than just efficiency. The constant push of more for less will continue to produce waste. That waste is bad for everyone – not just the buyer. Waste manifests in the form of highly irrelevant and/or over-saturated impressions. This results in eroding audience trust and receptivity for advertising messages.

Additionally, in 2024, we are seeing infrastructure built at a rapid pace to access data and technology in an on-demand and distributed fashion. Forms of marketing that do not leverage digital transformation or move these things forward will be de-prioritized and potentially defunded. Agencies must rethink the strategies they are putting in front of clients and take a fresh look through the lens of digital transformation to achieve a competitive advantage.

Darrick Li: Pharma marketers should keep their eyes (and potentially their budgets) on podcasts and audio formats. Despite the astronomical revenue growth audio and podcast advertising have generated in the last year, smaller pharma marketers will benefit from leveraging these niche channels, guaranteeing efficient CPMs that reach the same audience that they are targeting or are seeking to target elsewhere.

Michael Monovoukas: Medtech marketing has historically taken a clinical approach; companies aim to educate physicians on their products’ efficacy, health outcomes, indications for use, etc. While this is a critical piece, marketers need to focus on additional stakeholders – namely,  procurement, supply chain, contract management departments, and IDN stakeholders.

The medtech sale has changed. Sales teams need to be equipped with resources and data that help these additional stakeholders understand how they can keep costs down while improving patient care. Notably, understanding whether a product is under contract or if a company is an approved vendor will help sales teams penetrate accounts more effectively. Marketers need to harness this data and effectively share it with their sales teams so reps know who to talk to, what to say, and where to go. Having this information will not only help reps get in the door, it will also help convert more doctors to product users.

To do this, marketing and sales need to speak the same language. Marketing teams often spend significant time and resources triangulating data, identifying targets, and committing to numbers, only to be met with frustration from their sales counterparts who note that their model doesn’t capture what’s actually happening on the ground. Working from the same data allows sales and marketing teams to challenge each other’s assumptions, refine their models, and answer questions like, “which doctor is using one of our products, but could be using another product in a tangential area?” These insights are especially critical when launching new products, and they provide a holistic view of customers that will help medtech companies grow their business faster.

Christine Mormille: HCP and DTC marketing can no longer work in silos and the most successful campaigns work best when they work together. How a brand is promoted to a physician needs to mirror how the brand is marketed to a patient or caregiver, so media strategies can work better together. It’s still common practice to see pharma marketers split to focus on HCP-targeted initiatives versus DTC-targeted initiatives. For the overall strategy to work best, marketers need to work together for the overall success of a brand to ensure they are telling a cohesive story that does not feel disjointed.

Khari Motayne: Health equity has consistently flown under the radar, especially around AI’s potential to change the conversation. There are nuances in patient and HCP journeys based on social determinants of health that were difficult to capture through manual mapping. Automation can make those mappings possible and unlock new insights for marketers and healthcare professionals. As many healthcare organizations look to increase the sophistication of their own data lakes, it will open up more possibilities for increased personalization in medicine and marketing that can ultimately help bridge gaps between patients and better outcomes.

Lauren Ohlsson: A great deal of marketing innovation is flying under the radar. Many organizations are nudging up against the boundaries of what is possible in a highly regulated environment. Innovation can come in the form of data, communication, or technology and although there is a natural hesitance to be “first to market,” it is clear that pharma organizations have an open mind to doing things differently.

Amar Singh and Mary Brett Whitfield: An important yet under-discussed trend is the growing importance of mental health in pharma marketing. As awareness of mental health issues increases, pharma marketers will need to consider how their products and messaging can address this vital aspect of health care. According the Kantar’s ShopperScape research on health and wellness, fewer than one in five shoppers rate their mental health as “excellent,” and that rate has not materially improved in the past several years.  While getting more sleep and making “me time” a priority are top approaches to managing mental health, a quarter of all shoppers report using prescription medications to manage mental health. Women and more affluent shoppers are most likely to manage mental health with medication.

Justin Thompson: Not to sound redundant, but the Google third-party cookie deprecation will have significant impacts that many pharma marketers are ignoring. If you don’t have a strategy or point-of-view on this change, you need to move quickly. Google is deprecating third-party cookies in one percent of their browsers in January, and the goal is for them to be deprecated by the end of Q3 2024. I believe many will be caught off-guard and left scrambling for alternatives. Traditional methods of campaign measurement will also be significantly impacted for many cookie-based solutions.