It’s time to address the shifting tides of content in pharma

SXSW 2024, CMI Media Group

 It’s time to address the shifting tides of content in pharma

By Josh Simon, CMI Media Group

A consistent theme from SXSW is the downturn of brand advertising. Consumers don’t want to feel marketed to but are open to content that is entertaining or provides some value exchange. Value is not a new concept, as content marketing has been a consistent tactic for a long time. But more often we see consumers’ ability to block or tune out brand content. Couple this with the fact that content looks much different than it did even a few years ago, and it’s clear that this is an area where pharma needs to innovate.

Right now, it would be challenging to create a list of brands that aren’t taking a brand marketing heavy approach. This is difficult in pharma as everything needs to be planned meticulously and messaging is somewhat limited. The effort it takes to create a single video is enormous; creating one that entertains or provides value is even more challenging. The industry isn’t going to shift overnight. We all know the saying that no one wants to be first in pharma but we don’t need first or second, we need to a true movement similar to that of the initial adoption of social between 2015 and 2020.  

By focusing on two key areas, pharma brands can make progress on this shift away from a total reliance on brand content, and provide more value and authenticity.

Simplify brand content

While there is still utility to brand content, there are ways to simplify to ensure effort is shifted to other key areas like producing items of value exchange or more engaging video content. While I think we are closer than expected to prompting AI to create entire ads, there is no AI trained on the intricacies of pharma ad creation yet. By using elements of AI, content can be produced faster.

  • Reduce complexity – Content moves quickly. Years ago the guidance was just to “make it move” and brands doubled down on animation. While animation looks great, it doesn’t necessarily translate to better results. Keeping things simple can reduce production time without a drop in performance.
  • Tap into AI – While AI can’t create full ads, it can help with inspiration for copy and imagery. This space is moving quickly with proprietary Gen AI models that are sourced for commercial use.
  • Optimizations – By planning messaging appropriately, modular content can be created to circulate messages to account for stages in the purchase cycle and make quick to market changes based on performance.

Co-creation as a mandatory

Content creators are not just influencers, they are a new form of entertainment. They aren’t just amusing but also educate and discuss important issues. Media and entertainment outlets also serve this purpose, creating content of their own. For a number of years, repurposing a hero video in an interesting way served as a north star, but now if it isn’t social first, it won’t feel organic. I see more and more brands working with creators, which is a good step, but still lagging behind our consumer counterparts in a few key areas.

  • Original video – I still see brands publishing static influencer content even though the rest of the creator’s feed is video. This is the easier path in MLR, but is not the way to make it feel like the content is authentic and in their voice. Original video should be the primary reason you are partnering with creators.
  • Consistent programs – Consumer brands look at creators and a channel that is additional to social, one that should be always on. Right now, creator partnerships feel like a win if there is one launch per year, but we should be thinking of it more like an ongoing content calendar.
  • Loosen brand guidelines – Nothing feels more inauthentic on creator content than slapping a big logo overlay on the video. While you will likely need some post-production for safety information, keep non-native elements to a minimum. It should look and feel like the creator’s other content.

These are the areas that I and my team are focusing on and solving for, to pave the way for the future of pharma marketing. There is a need for creative solutions to reduce effort in places that have solidified guidelines and to get more creative in providing valuable content. If we don’t make this shift, we will fall even further behind.  

Josh Simon, CMI Media Group Josh Simon is senior VP, Social Center of Excellence, CMI Media Group.