ASCO 2023 highlights innovation in drugs and exhibits

ASCO 2023

ASCO 2023 highlights innovation in drugs and exhibits

By Tim Anderson

Most in our industry would agree that there is a significant value in face-to-face interactions. At conferences, we can share ideas, connect with each other on common goals, and uncover new approaches — all within a span of a few days. It’s no surprise, then, that more than 43,000 attendees descended on Chicago to learn and to network at the 2023 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). It is, according to outgoing president Eric P. Winer, M.D., the single largest attendance they have experienced.

The success of ASCO 2023 demonstrates the organization’s standing as the preeminent group representing all oncologists. The theme, “Partnering with Patients,” also brought the patient-centric focus to the forefront with the message that without them, innovations, breakthrough therapies, and first-in-class drugs would never have occurred. Collaborating with patients is more critical, according to Dr. Winer, as medicines become more complex and difficult to access by certain patient populations.

Another clue to the return of conferences to prominence is the number of exhibitors showcasing their brands and wares. At ASCO, more than 525 companies and organizations occupied the exhibit space. To draw physicians in, pharma embraced technology and improved their use of audio, video, and digital enhancements to connect physicians with new experiences and with the hope of sharing much-needed information to enhance patient care.

ASCO 2023. GSK

All images courtesy of Fishawack Health

Rise of immersive technology
Several large pharma companies designed their booths around immersive experiences using augmented reality (AR) videos. The videos appear above the exhibit or on nearly floor-to-ceiling walls. Molecules, mechanism-of-action sequences, clinical data, water streams, and abstract designs seemed to pour out, attracting onlookers to stop, look, or come in for a closer view. GlaxoSmithKline, Jazz Pharmaceuticals, AstraZeneca, and Janssen Pharmaceuticals were four that stood out.

More space and QR codes
Many attendees noticed a significant difference in the exhibits. The booths offered wider footprints, giving physicians space to move and explore. Rather than packing the space with multiple products, people, and brochures, many opted for a more open concept, streamlined approach. QR codes also adorned the walls, video screens, and displays, offering physicians the option to download copies of clinical data or brochures to their phone or tablet.

ASCO 2023Appealing to modern palates
Snacks and beverages still dominate the exhibit floors as effective ways to draw physicians into the booth. However, several companies offered a new take, such as boba taro milk tea, gourmet waffle cookies, Dippin’ Dots ice cream (in seven flavors), tiny chocolate lava cakes, and ice-cold frappuccinos. One company combined its beverage counter with an immersive experience. While physicians waited in line for coffee, they were given an opportunity to take photos of themselves standing under a storm-brewing cloud. While no longer common, the aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking and popped corn can still draw physicians in.

An event defined by innovation
As marketers, we support our clients at these conferences through medical content, brand launches, and visual storytelling in the exhibit space. For marketers, designing an exhibit space is an opportunity to create new ways to tell a traditional story. 

If we could summarize ASCO 2023 in one word, it would be “innovation.” The conference brought together physician researchers and clinicians from 10 countries to demonstrate clinical and drug advancements, extend patient survival, and reinvigorated commitment to patient care. Innovation is equally encompassing of the multi-sensory exhibits tailored to convey brand stories in new and exciting ways.

Tim Anderson is a general manager, oncology and rare disease at Fishawack Health. He’s a talented agency leader with more than 20 years of experience in new product launches, digital strategy, integrated marketing, advertising, oncology, and brand management.