By Justin Freid, executive VP, growth and innovation, CMI/Compas.

Have you ever tried to seesaw alone? Imagine the scene: a playground with two seesaws. On one sits a doctor. On the other one, a patient. The seesaw itself is your brand’s messaging – one seesaw has just HCP messaging and the other only DTC messaging. The doctor and the patient are both interacting with their seesaws – sitting motionless, perhaps even trying to make the seesaw move. But the magic really happens when you introduce one seesaw that integrates the messaging, placing both HCP and consumer together. The seesaw can finally move, and they’re together, interacting, integrating.

Integration to overcome a complex environment

Getting the seesaw to move is particularly important in today’s environment. Think of what people interact with just related to their health alone. Each day, you may see seven different ads on Instagram telling you about the latest meal prep option or one of your high school friends selling the latest weight loss shake from a multi-level marketing company. But when push comes to shove and you are sick, how do you know where to go? How do you know that OTC drug is right for you?

You may be educated from your friend’s fitness blog, but the internet is not a degree. There is a balance that needs to be struck between you as the consumer who needs treatment and the decision maker who would prescribe that treatment.

So you head to the doctor. Someone with years of schooling and experience whose job it is to diagnose you. Let’s look at things from the doctor’s frame of reference. She’s also seeing messages everywhere – on her personal social media, in the journals in her mailbox, emails, her EHR, and so on. But when she gets in the exam room with her patient, she’s listening to what the patient has to say too.

We have all seen the stats, when a patient and healthcare provider are communicating and on the same page, outcomes are significantly better. In fact, 53 percent of HCPs and 54 percent of consumers believe pharma ads prime them to have better shared dialogue, according to our Media Vitals research. So how do we get there?

The first step is integration. By having a patient and healthcare provider on the same page about your drug, the more likely it is to be prescribed and the more likely the patient is to stay on treatment.

Align budget to make integration easier

Budget allocation is an area ripe for improvement. Today, due to patient audiences usually being significantly larger than the size of HCP audiences being targeted, patient marketing budgets significantly outweigh HCP marketing budgets. This occurs even more drastically when TV is in play, as it can heavily skew investment toward the patient campaign.

We often hear, “I will probably have the same budget level as last year,” or, “All I could get was X amount.” Knowing that brands go through significant changes from launch to LOE and other bumps in the road like competitive launches and decreases in sales force call out the need for adjustments in media investment.

This should be approached through something called Zero Sum Budgeting. When applying Zero Sum Budgeting, every dollar is accounted for – even “leftover” or “saved” funds. If you used this process for your personal budget, you may devote 35 percent to your mortgage, 20 percent to your car payment, 15 percent for groceries, and 10 percent to entertainment, but you must also identify where the remaining 20 percent is assigned – you identify 100 percent of your budget in advance. This process eliminates waste and makes your investment work as hard as possible. It is all about investing in areas that will provide a return. No wasted money. This is a process that is continuous and as elements around your landscape change, so should your investment.

When it comes to integration, Zero Sum Budget can be applied when planning investment levels into your patient and HCP marketing efforts. By looking at the media investments needed across both audiences and assigning every dollar to do a “job,” you can ensure you are investing the right amount in each audience. At the end of the day, when it comes to prescription drugs, you can invest $100m in TV, but if no healthcare provider believes in your product, scripts won’t be written. Or you can invest $20m in a 360-degree surround sound HCP program but if a patient doesn’t believe in the treatment, they won’t stay on it.

Most pharmaceutical companies are quite siloed when it comes to their HCP and DTC marketing efforts. The media agency can sometimes be the link between the two teams. Being able to sit on top of the silos and see across all efforts can truly help you determine where your next dollar should be spent.

Let’s also not forget that healthcare providers are consumers too. A cardiologist is just as likely to see an ad on Facebook as you are. At the end of the day, we are all humans and we are taught through behavioral economics that enough touchpoints or ‘nudges’ will influence our decision-making process. This point here makes it even more necessary to understand the potential overlap between HCP and DTC marketing efforts. If there is a specific plan to reach an HCP 15 times per month to change their prescribing behavior, what is done about all of the exposure they could potentially get through DTC marketing efforts? Those TV impressions, YouTube ads and programmatic mobile ad impressions add up, potentially changing the behavior of an HCP through DTC marketing.

An opportunity for integration: location

A huge (often missed) opportunity for pharmaceutical companies is the use of location. Yes, many companies run geo-targeted campaigns in areas where there are patients with a high risk of a specific disease. But so much more can be done.

From an integration lens, we can use HCP writing behavior and geographic location data on potential patients to truly drive scripts.

Let’s think through it:

All pharma companies use target lists for their sales forces. Within that list, there is a group of high writers or ‘loyalists’ who almost always write a specific drug. By mapping these locations out, you have a set of geographic areas that if a patient is activated in, they will most likely receive your script.

You also need to understand how far a patient is willing to travel to see a specific specialist. Most people do not travel more than 10 miles to see a PCP, but would travel up to 200 miles to see an oncologist. By overlaying your patient audience targets with the HCPs on your target list, you now have a set of individuals to target who when activated, will go see your loyalist.

In cases where this patient audience in identified, increasing bidding strategies for programmatic efforts and search, alongside increasing frequency caps and heavying up on local media, are all tactics that should be implemented.

First next step toward integration success

A technique related to integration that we preach often is priming. This strategic and concrete tactic is underutilized, but it can work for every brand. Essentially, you prepare your audiences with the same message so thoroughly that they become an advocate for your brand. And priming is an important aspect for integrated communications because your consumer and HCP audiences are ready to converse with the same words, messages and ideas relating to your brand. Once you have made the decision to integrate messaging, aligned your budget against it and considered smart strategies like geo-targeted campaigns, your audiences will be on that branding seesaw, making magic happen.