In this new and turbulent year, the capabilities of technology and the dreams of marketers are beginning to look much the same.


Lurking behind all the sound and fury in the political realm, 2017 is bringing new opportunities to marketers that have nothing at all to do with orange hair. A whole generation of technologies are growing to maturity together – predictive targeting, virtual reality, behavioral science, interactive video, big data, and more – all of which are transforming the ways in which brands can communicate with their audiences. But of course politics will matter too in this Year One of the Trump administration, as the continuing debate over drug pricing and the impact of the new president’s policies on the pharma industry remain very much up in the air. So to find out the pharma industry’s agenda for 2017, we at Med Ad News asked folks inside the industry what we thought were the key questions for the year. Here’s what they told us.

MED AD NEWS: What’s up next for marketing technologies in 2017? What new tech tools in the brand manager’s toolbox will make the biggest impression? And what tech tools are wearing thin? Why so?

Keith Betz, VP of client services, Butler/Till: I think virtual reality is a really promising technology. As this technology is more widely adopted with consumers (Google’s Daydream View, Samsung’s Gear VR, etc.) the application for pharmaceutical marketers becomes more of a reality (no pun intended). Taking a virtual “walk” through the human body can be an amazingly impactful experience for consumers and healthcare professionals alike. Using the elements of sight, sound and motion innate to VR technology to engage patients with their health provides a huge opportunity to make a long-term impact that’s not easily forgotten. Imagine patients using VR to understand how a specific treatment is working within the body or how their current condition impacts the body. Healthcare professionals engaging with VR content can open the door for new CME opportunities, enriched patient conversations, modified doctor/rep discussions and enhanced trade show/conference interactions. We’re just scratching the surface with VR and the future looks bright for this technology and its applications within the pharmaceutical marketing landscape.

Jay Carter, senior VP, director of business development, AbelsonTaylor: CRM will shift as pharma embraces the ability to promote to people with only their Facebook ID. There are lots of people who don’t want their disease states made public. We can engage them using this important feature.

Ramon Chen, chief marketing officer, Reltio: In 2017, more pharma organizations will adopt an integrated approach to data, enabling marketing to work more efficiently. Various business units within an organization typically access, use and manage their own data sets to solve their own business challenges in marketing, sales, and compliance. CIOs and CDOs at leading pharmaceutical organizations have already implemented technologies that enable a single, complete and reliable pool of data accessible by all employees. With cloud data management platforms dramatically lowering typical cost and resource barriers to achieve shared data nirvana, many more will follow suit in 2017. These capabilities will shorten time to market for new drugs and therapies and support new commercial models in the pharmaceutical industry.

Personalized medicine is a boon for the industry and patients, and it can also be a tremendous advantage for the pharmaceutical organizations that adopt this integrated approach to data. New platforms and data-driven applications can make data across multiple sources reliable, and distill all of the noise down to the relevant insights and recommended actions that are unique to each patient. This will lead to better efficacy, outcomes and actual justifiable value delivered by each pharma company’s product. Data-driven applications will also enable companies to hyper-personalize the delivery of their drugs, and close the loop on their outcomes. As drug statistics and efficacy data becomes available and transparency becomes commonplace, the channels of influence and distribution will become more data-driven, reducing the costs previously associated with legacy methods of sales and marketing.

Greg Chu, chief operating officer, InTask: By now, even the most casual student of consumer behavior and decision-making has heard of at least a handful of behavioral economics concepts. Thanks to the popularization of the discipline through the works of Daniel Kahneman, Daniel Ariely, and Richard Thaler among others, terms like “loss aversion,” “temporal discounting,” and “bounded rationality” have been widely assimilated into both professional and cocktail conversations.

In 2017, the most effective marketing technologies in the brand manager’s toolbox, regardless of hardware or software platform, will more fully integrate the insights of behavioral economics into their very design to optimize behavioral change communications and programs. In essence, we are talking about making technological interventions smarter by engaging key audiences more effectively and speaking more directly to the heuristics which guide their decision-making.

Take tablet-based detailing. Greater interactivity in tablet-based details built around the treatment of “virtual patients,” for example, can reveal important openings in real time for better conversations with physicians. The secret is building an understanding of physician problem solving patterns into the design of these patients. The result is more effective sales calls and more effective sales representatives. In other tools such as professional and layperson websites and apps, optimization of what behavioral economists call “choice architectures” can greatly improve the performance of these tools in stimulating targeted behavioral change.

The bottom line is that novelty in platform technologies will take second place to the incorporation of behavioral change intelligence into existing technologies. So the question is less about which tools are waxing or waning, and more about how current tools better mesh with stakeholder heuristics. At the same time, an increased focus on validation and accountability for the results of behavioral economics-inspired interventions will also move to center stage in 2017. Accepted wisdom and anecdotes will yield to more rigorous experimentation and, as a consequence, a larger role for innovative market research and analytics tools in the brand manager’s toolbox.

Hensley Evans, principal, ZS: Stand-alone trackers (think Fitbits) are getting smaller, more fashionable and have evolved into true health monitors that track breathing, heart rate, brain waves/stress, sleep, etc. Importantly, while collecting and tracking data is helpful, interpreting the data is critical for consumers to gain the most value from wearables. It will be interesting to see how various players do or don’t enable the integration of data across wearable platforms, and how new “gee whiz” devices such as Oculus Rex will integrate with health apps and wearables.

Also, we expect outcomes-based approaches that leverage real-world data and analytics to identify specific interventions that will drive impact and create tailored, cost-effective solutions for individual patients. Additionally, personal interactions are often incredibly effective in driving change. Identifying the right time for the most appropriate intervention is critical. Lastly, there is a lot of discussion around virtual reality (again). While there’s a lot of promise and even more ideas, most marketers will pilot smaller projects first to see what makes sense for their strategic needs and priorities.

Justin Freid, senior VP, search engine marketing and emerging media, CMI/Compas: Machine learning/artificial intelligence – By utilizing machine learning, we can finally put all of that ‘big data’ to use. Looking through a marketing lens, by leveraging machine learning and constantly supplying it with updated consumer behavioral data, our marketing programs can self-optimize, customizing the user experience to what resonates with the end user the most. This type of learning goes beyond current forms of behavioral targeting or delivery of content. Think of CRM. Imagine being able to change the content, channel, and device on which your message is delivered based on real time data. Ultimately, creating a program that is unique to the individual and most likely to get your target to take action.

Internet of Things – The connection between ourselves, our devices, and our environment continues to grow at an exponential pace. With new health devices and applications being developed and the advancement of technology, the health sector is set for rapid advancement through IoT. Imagine connecting EHRs, your smart watch, and your MyFitnessPal app. HCPs will be able to monitor your exercise, medication adherence, and health virtually. Patients will easily access their health data from the comfort of their living room, receiving medication or exercise reminders from their Amazon Echo.

Debra Harris, senior director, marketing strategy and solutions, Healthcasts: This past year has seen lots of innovation in “technology” – from further enhancements in wearables to strides in using virtual reality and even in AI. When thinking about “marketing technologies” though, we should consider first and foremost how these technologies are used to improve patient care and outcomes. Tools are just tools. What’s needed are strategies that leverage insights on how physicians can improve their practice. Those that help to educate and inform better physician/patient conversations and speed the flow of information will never “wear thin” – regardless of the technologies used to drive those outcomes, whether they are traditional or invented yesterday. The key is deriving actionable next steps from the use of these technologies – on an ongoing basis, to improve the practice of medicine.

Pete Mehr, principal, ZS: Many companies leverage an array of promotion channels and receive customer data from those channels. The question now shifts to: What do we do with that data? Customer suggestion tools use data science techniques to obtain customer preference insights and use those insights to serve up the next best action – a combination of channel, message and timing – to the customer within the context of the overall customer journey.

Ritesh Patel, executive VP, chief digital officer, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide: Our prediction for 2017 is the dawn of the connected commercial organization, with data from clinical, sales and marketing coming together to enable the ability to market from an informed perspective. The combination of the rise of the do-not-call list – as well as the climbing cost of the sales rep combined with the ability to segment and target customers using data and in a consolidated CRM – will see the surge of non-personal promotion, especially in the digital realm. Marketers will embrace data-driven marketing, targeted marketing, and marketing based on actual behavior data and knowledge of the customer. We will also see the increase of innovative channels for this targeted approach, such as the EHR/EMR. Marketing automation that consolidates data into a CRM and then enables behavior-based segmentation for sales and marketing will be the new toolset for the pharma industry. We will also see the growth of social again, as more and more companies embrace social as a way to reach patients and caregivers. Mobile and mobile apps will wane as pharma finally realizes that most HCPs and patients will not use an app from the industry unless it provides true value in the day-to-day life of that customer.

Jesse Pease, head of digital, Triple Threat Communications: Home automation is becoming more and more commonplace, with giants like Google and Amazon leading the way. As these systems take hold, the breadth and depth of integrated home services will continue to expand rapidly. What does this mean for marketing? It means the potential to have 24/7 access to parts of people’s lives that weren’t possible before. For healthcare marketers, this could mean better integration with a patients daily routine; refills and adherence reminders that trigger automatically, predictive compliance measures, and even transportation assistance for important doctor appointments. This will take time to mature; new marketing methods will need to be developed in this space, and marketing teams will need to figure out how best to engage customers without overstepping the boundaries. So, it may not take hold in 2017, but it’s coming. Soon.

Interestingly, it seems the more complex technology gets, the easier it is to use. Once a home automation system is set up (which is already fairly easy) there is no simpler way to engage technology than simply talking (okay, maybe just thinking, but that’s a few years away still). Imagine the value of that simplicity to the older healthcare population that is often challenged by technology. Need to find a pharmacy or order a refill? Just ask. Want to look up what drugs are available for your condition? Say the word.

iPads have been on the decline in the consumer market for some time, and now seem to be officially fading away for marketing, especially for sales rep materials. Once the device that all pharma reps needed/wanted, the iPad has seen a continual decline in focus and spend among marketers. While they are great for presentations, they are still not optimal for all the other tasks the field needs to perform. Phones became phablets, and laptops are thinner and lighter, putting a squeeze on the tablet market. As newer devices emerge that allow greater utility without sacrificing size and weight, sales teams will say goodbye to their iPads (if they haven’t already).

Paul Shawah, VP of commercial strategy, Veeva Systems: In 2017, the entire life sciences industry will continue to shift away from single-domain, on-premise software systems to unified, cloud-based solutions to address these inefficiencies, enable end-to-end processes, and streamline commercial operations globally. Specifically, we’ll see commercial teams move to a single platform to manage content and digital engagement to deliver a more coordinated, valuable customer experience across many touch points.

Additionally, we’ll see companies start leveraging higher-quality customer reference data that is kept up to date in near-real-time. Old data leads to frustrated sales reps, missed opportunities, and an increased compliance risk. Sales teams today still often work with outdated information, such as physician specialties or information preferences; because data change requests take weeks or months to complete. The standard should be at most three days – even less if that is what your business requires.

Samrat Shenbaga, principal, ZS: With the increasing popularity of social platforms and around 40 percent of the world online, the pharma industry’s customers are also growing their online presence. This expanding dialogue offers pharma companies an opportunity to learn in real time about customer behavior, preferences, reactions and influencers. These social insights amplify when this data merges with other structured data. Social platforms can also be used to engage with customers, and these discussions can affect product perceptions and usage. Manufacturers must join the conversation.

David Windhausen, executive VP, Intouch Solutions: For years, pharma marketers have dreamed about becoming more customer-centric. In the last several years, there has been a steady adoption of technologies that can finally realize this elusive vision. In 2017, we will continue to see pharma marketers move toward enterprise-wide cloud technologies, with the ability to integrate customer engagement across a multitude of touch points and channels. With them, we can begin to truly continuously optimize, and see ever-greater return on our marketing dollars.

But there are still several factors we need to overcome to capitalize on this era of modern marketing.

Often, enterprise platforms create a mindset that focuses on standardization efficiencies. This, in turn, can lead to a belief that marketing collateral is best created in a siloed, decoupled model. This introduces two challenges in embracing the new benefits of modern marketing.

First, by isolating development, marketers find it difficult to create truly dynamic cross-channel ecosystems to deliver the personalization consumers expect. Second, when development is separated from strategy, innovation can lag, lacking customer insight.

The good news is that with these new enterprise technologies, it’s possible to be both efficient and strategic. The modern marketing agency is capable of delivering a standardized approach that drives efficiency while also maintaining the integration of development and strategy required to drive innovation.

How does it happen? This new frontier will be unlocked by the effective use of data.

Marketing in 2017 will increasingly leverage data to drive engagement. Starting with predictive analysis of target audiences, data informs marketers about the behaviors that influence their audiences. This deeper understand enables us to create and measure the delivery of personalized dynamic content. As customers engage with brands, advanced analytics and machine learning adapt messaging to each individual, even before they’re aware of what they need next. Finally, our data-driven approach provides us with deep insight into customer engagement and true ROI.

The “trend” of consumers expecting brands to be connected, relevant and personalized is no passing fad. As consumers continue to experience this from brands outside of healthcare, they will expect the same level of engagement from health brands. It’s up to us to lead the charge, and today, we have the technology and data are available to make it possible.

Tim Wohlgemut, senior VP, TGaS Insights: Technology-driven transparency has been a slow growing trend for the past several years. 2017 is the year where it will start to feel ubiquitous. The future of pharma will make more sense if you start with the assumption that all of your stakeholders (patients, colleagues, regulators, vendors, physicians, payers, etc.) expect the unvarnished truth from you, and you expect it from them. That is reality. Rather than fight reality, pharma will find ways to create value from it. Indeed, this is already happening.

The drive to transparency, a technology-enabled cultural shift that goes far beyond pharma, will continue to transform the industry. Transparency is already transforming pharma for better and for worse. Make no mistake. It will create value for those companies that embrace it and learn to live with transparency rather than avoid it. 

Why is this happening? Technology is such that people will learn the plain truth regardless. They will look for reviews, pricing, deals and other advantages. They will seek information about you and about your behavior before you even meet. Increasingly, that information is captured in multiple ways. These transparency-centric behaviors are most apparent in consumer-driven markets and are becoming prevalent in institutional, professional, and business-to-business markets as well. Pharma, of course, plays in all of them. The industry may currently be seeing some of the negative impacts of transparency because of the focus on pricing that permeates the news and has made payer negotiations so difficult.

In the long term, however, transparency also presents an opportunity for marketers because it goes both ways. You can now expect transparency from your stakeholders in return. And the result can and must lead to value for everyone.

TGaS has spent significant time working with pharma executives around outsourcing decisions and best practices. Traditionally these relationships have not been transparent to anyone. Executives and vendors often protected their relationship from scrutiny for obvious reasons. Yet the proliferation of consumer review sites such as Trip Advisor, Yelp, Consumer Reports and others have demonstrated the value of transparency to buyer and seller alike. The pharma industry has also begun to utilize similar methods to promote both internal and external transparency to their vendor relationships.

What TGaS has found is that transparency in vendor relationships involves very little sacrifice while creating real advantages. These advantages are particularly acute when it comes to partnering with vendors to achieve goals. We’ve found, for example, that “broken stuff” gets fixed. Faster feedback both ways encourages iterative improvement and stops unsustainable activities in their tracks. We’ve also seen that greater trust between stakeholders is created through transparency. When both you and your vendors know that mistakes will be obvious to all, you spend less time building trust and more time accomplishing results together. Integrity wins every time. In an environment of transparency, those who do things right win in the end.

We have witnessed first-hand how our customers benefit by promoting transparency both internally and with vendors through simple technology-based solutions. The drive to transparency in pharma will have many bumps along the way, but the long term trend is inevitable because it is driven both by technology and cultural expectations.

MED AD NEWS: How do you see predictive targeting tools developing and improving in the coming year? What are the potential risks and rewards for marketers looking into predictive?

Ramon Chen: In order to stay relevant and useful in 2017, predictive targeting tools will need to be able to pull information from a single pool of reliable data that includes not only profile information, but also transaction and interaction data and history from all internal, external and third-party sources – including data from all business units within the organization. Marketers who are armed with this information about targets in real-time and at their fingertips will have a much higher success rate than those that do not. Innovation in predictive analytics and machine learning will also provide easily-accessible complete views of stakeholders, so users can better orchestrate customer engagement to achieve commercial and R&D goals.

Sam Johnson, senior data scientist, Intouch Solutions: Acceptance: Before we consider the impact of predictive targeting tools, the industry must understand what they mean for targeting. The Mad Men-era “push and pray” art-driven marketing era is ending, replaced by “pull and play” marketing. Retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target have fully embraced predictive targeting, but healthcare is only beginning to open to the possibilities. The benefits of individualized marketing – getting the right message, to the right person, via the right channel, at the right time – are unavoidable, even in our highly regulated industry.

Individualized approaches: HIPAA guidelines limit individualized marketing to patients, but predictive modeling puts the power of data into the hands of marketers to reach healthcare professionals. Predictive tools put focus and efficiency front and center: an organization with 10,000 potential targets but limited budget needs to know which of the 10,000 to target. Data and predictive tools make that possible, informing every step of the process, from content development to targeting to ROI.

Testing: As marketing becomes more personal and individualized, marketers must explain its impact. Testing (particularly champion/challenger or A/B testing) provides the measures of success that drive change. Testing drives results, results drive return on investment.

Predictive tools development: Platforms like Salesforce and Adobe are becoming more prevalent for a number of reasons, including for content management. Content management supports the creation of more dynamic content, but dynamic content cannot be served unless we know when, and to whom, to serve it. That’s where predictive becomes important. Elements of data science such as machine learning and predictive modeling support the development of dynamic content, which supports individualized marketing.

Risk and reward: Predictive tools support individualized marketing to an extent marketers could once just daydream about. Industry regulation, historical reticence, marketing’s past, and the implementation of platforms supporting individualized marketing are what limit growth today. Pharma companies interested in a more focused targeting approach, willing to open their MLR perspectives, and invest in machine learning and data science, will lead the way into 2017.

Paul Kallukaran, executive VP, audience insights and performance analytics, CMI/Compas: The new competitive advantage is customer centricity – deeply understanding them better than anyone else. What that means is you really need to be able to garner more insights and focus on using them to drive business growth. When someone says, “Can you predict this,” my first question is, “If I do that, what will you do with the results?’ If it’s not actionable, then why do it?

People have to be willing to expect situations where they say, “This isn’t working,” or, “This seems to really be driving the business in a new direction.” And it’s not just about talking about what happens, but also being able to provide some sort of prediction about what might happen. The mindset needs to be, given the market situation as we understand it to be, given the information I have, here is the probability I will achieve a certain N. We don’t know things for certain. We make assumptions. We need to be ready to take those assumptions and make something of them.

John Lopos, executive VP, commercial strategy, Triple Threat Communications: Surprisingly, many pharma marketing organizations haven’t found their footing yet with today’s predictive targeting, so it’s likely to still be a testing ground for them in 2017. Even if there have been specific challenges in our industry, predictive modeling and analytics are real, and the evidence is growing to support the promise of newer predictive tools to improve effectiveness, especially in digital. What could make or break the approach might not be the tools themselves, but whether marketing organizations can stay committed to the practice. They’ll need the discipline, patience and runway (time, budget, regulatory support) to work through enough rounds of trial/tweak in the market before they can judge whether the latest approaches to these tools can work for their brand.

This can be hard in pharma, because project lead times and approval processes are long and results are needed quickly. With consumers, assuming up-front targeting concerns like privacy/HIPPA compliance have been worked out, marketers should expect to make several back-end adjustments to messages after they’ve done comparative (A/B) testing and measured their effectiveness. This takes time. With prescribers, the tool’s inputs need to sufficiently account for their range of behaviors and key environmental factors that influence prescribing, but still yield output that’s executable on a smaller scale across channel tactics. This takes discipline. In the end, salesforce feedback about customer interactions can help gauge the tool’s impact.

Ritesh Patel: IBM Watson and the cognitive computing companies have been promising predictive capabilities for a number of years. The issue we face in the pharma industry is siloed data, and the only way true predictive modeling will come to fruition is when the data sets we need to create those models are in one place. Our prediction is that while one or two companies may be able to get closer to predictive modeling for marketing, the industry will still struggle with siloed data that will hinder progress in this area. The continuing silos between clinical, commercial, and IT, as well as call centers and patient access programs, are all things the industry needs to focus on dismantling to truly achieve the capacity and ability to create predictive models as other industries have for marketing.

Mike Powers, principal, ZS: Biopharma has dreamed of crystal ball targeting for decades. The idea of engaging customers with the right message, via the right channel, at the right time is nothing new, although past generations’ call planning and physician targeting could only make incremental progress. Now, next generation capabilities – driven by the explosion of data volume, variety and velocity – are available to biopharma marketers.

Marketers finally have information to predict which promotional channels work best for individual physicians, how different content (or offers) affect behavior and how to coordinate sales and marketing tactics for each customer. Moreover, Big Data tools corral this information quickly for analysis by leveraging advanced data science techniques.

Now, biopharma marketers must harness this new data to shape future customer engagements across promotional channels. This means much more than refining target lists. The real power of recent data advances is the ability to design an individualized customer experience and engagement journey. In other words, how can marketers best integrate different tactics to drive a cohesive, long-term experience for specific customers? First, they must use data to learn where customers are in their individual journeys – what have they seen, where have they engaged and how does this align with their treatment decisions? Then, predictive targeting algorithms can leverage channel and offer affinity data to anticipate engagement and suggest what’s next. Ultimately, this leads to an integrated promotion plan with tactics and content sequenced across sales and marketing channels to help customers move forward in their unique journey.

There’s a big payoff to doing this well. Companies with integrated promotional plans can see a 5-10 percent increase in incremental revenue and 10-15 percent savings on promotional costs. It isn’t easy, though. Marketers must take customers’ long-term journeys into account, with knowledge of how individual behavior changes over time and firm grounding in how each market works. Just dropping data into an algorithm and finding a short-term “next best action” will only create confusion. Leveraging recent data advances in the right context, though, will finally enable biopharma companies to engage in the crystal ball targeting they chased for decades.

Paul Shawah: Data-driven, predictive interactions will finally come of age this year. The rapidly growing volume of data has created tremendous opportunity for this already as have advancing analytics tools, but delivering contextual insights and making it easy for commercial teams to take action has continued to hamper predictive success. Today, the spectrum of a sales rep’s insight capabilities ranges from having to go to multiple places to get the information to having no quality insights to use at all. The workflow isn’t optimized, hindering the commercial team’s ability to turn valuable insight about physician preferences and behaviors into a competitive advantage.

Advancements in cloud technology will make it easier for life sciences companies to deliver relevant insights, when and where commercial teams need it, so they can take immediate next steps. For example, with Veeva CRM Suggestions, a sales rep out in the field can get real-time recommendations based on actual physician data to inform their next action with a customer (i.e. send an email, make a call, drop off a sample). With these new data-driven insights delivered right to their fingertips, sales teams can make better decisions about which resources to leverage, and what messages to deliver, at what time and through what channels for improved customer engagement. This is the intersection of data, analytics, and real-world utility – where the rubber meets the road. The ability to turn vast amounts of data into digestible and actionable insight about the customers will significantly improve the success of commercial teams’ sales and marketing strategies in 2017 and beyond.

James Woodland, chief operating officer, CMI/Compas: There will be continual efforts made toward automating the predictive analytics process. Today many of the targeting tools require heavy input and analysis from data scientists and other data savvy resources. As these processes become more automated, marketers will be able to test and learn with new models more quickly, to see what is most effective. One risk is that with so many attributes being collected on every customer – sometimes in the thousands – marketers may miss the key drivers of sales for any given prospect. Maintaining accurate and up to date data across all those attributes will be paramount, as the predictive models will only be as good as the data that power them. The rewards naturally are more precise targeting, and more importantly, a more relevant engagement with each individual customer. Another critical benefit to pharma marketers is the ability to identify new customers that are likely to drive sales with nominal incremental marketing spend against them. Over the years, brands have narrowed the number of customers they are proactively targeting with promotion which has left an increasing number of doctors behind.

Denis Wyrwoll, senior director, business intelligence, Healthcasts: Predictive analytics are a marketer’s dream. They key to making this work is to look beyond the data to derive insights to make the marketing spend more efficient. For instance, you can look at programs doctors have done in the past and predict how that might drive success in the future for similar programs. Or you can go deeper, beyond just the data or type of program to look at the content that resonates on a 1:1 basis, and then use that work to supplement segmentation and inform execution. Rx data supplemented with these insights are ideal – can you evaluate which of your doctors are knowledgeable about the category in general, but know less about your drug? Do some segments understand both the category and benefits of your drug? Are some more proficient than others around patient identification? Are they up-to-date on patient population statistics? Messaging can then be optimized around these insights to reach physicians more efficiently – driving ROI.

MED AD NEWS: Our lives are now inundated with interactive video content, but very little of it is coming from the world of health care. What can pharma brands do to step up their interactive game?

Marty Canniff, senior VP, executive creative director, Intouch Solutions: Pharma brands can participate in the emerging prominence of video by being honest and transparent. Patients want and need to hear from other patients. They can find a ton of patient videos on YouTube – but have no idea how credible the person or the content of the video is. This is an unmet need that pharma should be addressing. We should be working with patients to tell their stories – developing videos that are frank and honest, addressing fears and hurdles in addition to positive experiences. Videos like that can address emotional needs and develop a sense of community, while giving patients important information credibly and develop a sense of community, with credibility, they can make a real impact.

Gregg Fisher, managing partner, The Stem: The world of marketing has rapidly begun to accept “content marketing” as a marketing discipline that can establish relevant connections with customers through valuable content, and in so doing, deepen engagement with brands. The shift to “content marketing” in pharma has been far slower (hence the relative lack of compelling pharma content), but the promise remains great.

There are several fundamental changes that pharma brands must make to step up their interactive games. Chief among these is to develop integrated content strategies that span the full customer journey and cut across internal functions (e.g., commercial and medical) and channels. Brands must stop planning content in company silos or for discrete tactics in isolation. And they must think beyond pure product-specific content to support the full spectrum of customer needs. With such an integrated view of the customer journey, content managers will see the big picture and a plan a robust mix of content that is tailored to particular channels and customer moments.

Next, pharma brands must diversify their use of content formats. Many brands are pleased with a few static web pages when the content opportunity is much broader, including animations, slide shows, infographics, videos, white papers among others. Developing content formats creates engagement value for customers while enabling a brand to maximize exposure of its key messages over time and across content platforms (email, social media, web, events, etc).

Another imperative is the need for pharma brands to evolve their review processes to mirror the digital world we live in. Many MLR teams insist on all reviewing all content elements in their channel context. This is inefficient and creates a dis-incentive to produce more and varied content. Instead, MLR processes must be evolved to enable content elements to be approved for re-use across different channel contexts.

This is but a partial list of many changes that are needed in the discipline of “Content Excellence,” which is arguably one of the most important marketing opportunities in pharma.

Justin Freid: Pharma brands need to start creating content that their audience wants and in the mediums they want to receive it in. Too often brands say, “I have these videos, we should create a YouTube channel,” or, “Other brands have Facebook channels, we should too!” Today, we have a significant amount of data that can be analyzed to understand where your audience spends their time and what kind of content they are digesting on those sites. When it comes to creating new pieces of content or destinations to engage with, there is no one size fits all. Each brand should develop an understanding of their specific audience. A plan should then be executed and destinations built that provides them with the greatest opportunity to engage their audience. This may mean creating new video content or using a new social media channel. The important part of it is, making quality content easily accessible by your key audience members.

Debra Harris: We see a tremendous amount of interactive video content from our clients. Our most innovative clients are looking at ways to either repurpose/reimagine the content they have already or extend other programs through video. For instance, when investing in a speaker meeting, leverage that event to capture your trained speakers on film – those clips can be invaluable across various marketing channels from ads and web content to targeted NPP channels. Or, chapterize existing content into more digestible pieces of information that can be optimally targeted and sequenced. When re-imagining content from trained speakers, or approved content Med-legal review is more streamlined.

Carly Kuper, VP, public relations and corporate communications, CMI/Compas: This is an opportunity for audience-centricity. There are many best practices coming from non-healthcare brands that have already created a rulebook on how to have success in creating engaging content. For example, we know that video content viewed on TV needs to have strong audio because people are often looking down at their mobile devices or magazines while they watch TV; the same video needs to have subtitles when posted online because we know people keep the volume down or off when they’re checking out Facebook. The same content can be slightly tweaked medium by medium to fully engage the audience where they are and whatever the rules of that medium. And by making those audience-centric tweaks, we greatly improve chances that it will lead to interaction like sharing with friends and clicking through for more information.

Ritesh Patel: Pharma continues to cling to the KOL and MOA video as the only type of content they will create. Most marketers hide behind the legal and regulatory environments they live in. Last year we saw the rise of patient videos and User Generated Content videos, with the likes of the Storyvine app truly enabling this capability within the legal and regulatory framework, but the adoption rate was slow. While we predict that this area of video will continue to progress slowly, we believe the use of AR and VR, and making interactive content in those mediums, will explode. In particular, this year you will see more VR use in pharma than ever before. VR will be at tradeshow booths, in sales presentations, at meetings, and the way interactivity will be achieved.

Jesse Pease: The challenge here is creating content that people want to interact with. Consumers engage with brands via interactive video because it’s engaging content; it’s entertaining. With few exceptions, entertainment is not something pharma does particularly well. Due to regulatory restrictions, we can’t often be entertaining even if we want to be. Nevertheless, pharma can create content that makes people want to engage through storytelling. This means starting with a story. All brands have a story they want to tell in some way. Perhaps it’s a patient story; perhaps it’s a mechanism of action story; or perhaps it’s just telling the standard efficacy/safety/dosing story. Then give the audience some options to choose from as they hear and see your story. If done well, interactive video can be a tremendous reusable asset across all your major marketing channels: non-personal, personal, conventions, etc. And it’s a great way to tell your story to the ever-increasing masses of low-see/no-see customers.

Brent Scholz, group creative director, Intouch Solutions: As marketers, we’re in the business of creatively solving problems, but we need to watch to be sure we actually ARE solving a problem. We need to guard against falling in love with a tool and looking for ideas to support it. We need to remember to let the ideas lead, and then use the right tools to make those ideas amazing.

In the case of interactive video, some use cases make a lot of sense, particularly instructional videos (e.g. how to inject). When a person faces a new diagnosis, their life has turned upside down, and it can feel overwhelming to adopt foreign routines. Video is a great tool for illustrating complex new topics to ease people’s fears and give them confidence that they can handle a task. Interactivity makes this even more reassuring, as users have the ability to ask questions and clarify points.

A second use case for interactive video is a “day in the life” scenarios, to help people understand the difficulties that a disease or condition presents. It’s educational and awareness-raising in an empathetic, emotional way. There’s a fantastic platform called EKO that allows for seamless, real-time interactive videos, making it possible to “choose your own adventure.” It’s been in high demand for music videos, and many brands have been already incorporating it into marketing, including Revlon, Pepsi, Heineken, and Intel. Some of their examples are very inspiring, and really lead you to consider what could be possible here for a pharma brand.

Paul Shawah: As consumers, making video calls is simple while online meetings in other industries are easy and commonplace. In life sciences, unfortunately, online engagement has been difficult and largely out-of-reach due to regulations and technology limitations. Facilitating a video call with a physician, for example, has required awkward workarounds and multiple presentation technologies to share approved content, ultimately leading to a poor experience for the field rep and the customer.

For the first time, online meetings and virtual events will be easy and compliant. New, integrated software applications built to meet the industry’s unique needs and regulations are expanding and maturing so that this digital channel will become more ubiquitous. When integrated with a multichannel CRM application, these applications become part of a sales rep’s natural workflow and allow for easy reuse of approved presentation content, minimizing compliance risk. And, all customer interaction data from these meetings can be aggregated and combined with insights gained across all channels for a complete customer view. This holistic understanding of physician needs will finally enable the industry to deliver more valuable information to HCPs and meet their growing expectations for online and interactive engagement.”

With such a united digital platform, life sciences companies can:
• Improve customer engagement: Deliver the information customers need with compliant online content sharing and collaboration.
• Increase productivity: Ensure greater coverage, frequency and reach with the same resources.
• Ensure consistency: Enable a coordinated experience across brands and channels
• Strengthen compliance: Built-in controls for managing and displaying approved content minimize risk

In addition, more attention needs to be placed on the overall commercial digital supply chain, which includes all of the digital capabilities used to deliver compliant messaging and marketing content about new drugs, still relies heavily on multiple, disparate systems to function. While many other industries have long since adapted business processes to fit the digital and mobile landscape, the most massive shift – and significant opportunity – is yet to come for life sciences. Until a few years ago, companies wouldn’t consider re-engineering their commercial content processes due to the complexities associated with such a highly regulated industry. But trying to keep pace with a dizzying amount of digital assets including video, changing customer models, globalization, rising cost pressures, and new regulatory requirements requires a new approach.

The key is a fully integrated digital approach because this enables the most efficient reuse of content, including interactive materials and video. This also makes it easier for all of the stakeholders internally and externally involved to collaborate more effectively, and improves compliance, visibility, and cost savings across the organization. Most of all, it connects healthcare professionals with rich content in a variety of ways and at the most opportune times throughout their customer journey.

As you begin building your digital supply chain, first evaluate and refresh your processes, organization, and content structure. Once the heavy lifting is accomplished in these three areas, the right digital asset management platform will easily support your new model and enable companies to leverage video and other interactive content for customer engagement.

Donna Wray, VP, digital and multichannel marketing, TGaS Advisors: What can pharma do to step up their interactive game? It’s crazy after all this time, but the answer is still, “Better mobile sites!” Some sites now get more than 50 percent of their traffic through mobile devices, and yet we still see sites that don’t work properly – the font is tiny, there’s a pop-up that gets in the way of the content, or worse. In our June 2016 TGaS Mobile Landscape, an analysis of mobile performance across 400 brand websites, we saw an average home page load time of 2.9 seconds, an eternity compared to the expectations of mobile users today. We also found that only 75 percent of sites passed Google’s online test for user-friendliness. For another perspective, mobile has increased in importance in our annual trends study. Mobile went from a rank of No. 4 for 2016 to No. 3 for 2017 when we analyzed the answers of 57 pharmaceutical marketers across 23 companies to the question: “How important is this to the success of pharmaceutical marketing in the coming year?”

MED AD NEWS: Drug pricing generated even more sound and fury in 2016 than in 2015. What do you think marketers can do to calm the waters? New pricing models? More outcomes data? Clearer value prop? Something no one has mentioned yet?

Jay Carter: The buzz on drug prices has heated up every election year since Bill Clinton ran in 1992. This ain’t no new thang. Granted, there’s more heat as organizations like Turing and Valeant and Mylan make bonehead pricing moves, but the efforts of organizations like Allergan, promising to limit future price hikes, will hopefully help. That doesn’t mean outcomes data aren’t essential; managed care isn’t going to turn a blind eye to pricing anytime soon.

David Day, executive VP, client services, Triple Threat Communications: While the topic of drug pricing has long been prime for debate, the recent sound and fury has been primarily about drug price hikes rather than the setting of new drug prices. Cases of aggressive price increases taken on long-established products by companies such as Mylan and Valeant have been well-publicized and commented on by both candidates in the recent Presidential election. While these cases are outliers and publicity around them will subside, they have increased the sensitivity of the market to prices in general. That makes it all the more important for marketers to have a realistic understanding of what value their product brings to market and effectively communicate this to payers and patients in order to justify the price. Marketers should continue to seek to maximize revenues by setting the highest price the market will bear, but understand that a higher level of scrutiny will exist. That places greater demand on outcomes data and other means to support the value delivered at that price.

Debra Harris: The solution lies in a combination of demonstrating better value of the drug, and prominently informing physicians of savings initiatives. In a survey we recently conducted among physicians, a large majority (77 percent) said the pharma industry does a poor job, or at best a fair job, at helping physicians and patients manage the costs of prescription drugs. More than two-thirds (69 percent) called for greater transparency from pharma companies – particularly regarding R&D expenditures and manufacturing costs – to justify the high prices of their drugs. In light of these findings, pharma companies individually and as an industry can generate more effective outreach efforts about what they do and how and why they do it and programs available to make their products more affordable. In the face of an increased focus on patient centricity, many people are still highly skeptical about the goals of pharma. Physicians can be strong allies advocating for medications that truly make an impact on their patients’ lives.

Raymond Johnson, VP, management supervisor, Ogilvy CommonHealth Payer Marketing: Far from the hordes of number crunchers – some huddled over pricing models designed to squeeze rebates from manufacturers (found within the government/payers/insurers), others trying to protect their return on investment for drug development (manufacturers) – drug marketers are challenged with the task of translating “price” into “value” for many indications and many types of stakeholders. Traditionally, drug comparisons are often based on AWP (average wholesale price), AMP (average manufacturer price), MLP (manufacturer list price), or WAC (wholesale acquisition cost) – perhaps an appropriate acronym. This aforementioned price list, while confusing, is by no means exhaustive; attempts to understand it are obscured by discounts, rebates, and/or chargebacks. None of which are useful to help marketers convey the true value that a drug can deliver across the broad range of relevant stakeholders.

Under the Affordable Care Act and with guidance from the Triple Aim based on cost, outcomes, and patient experience, there has been a push to redefine the value equation from one based on price and volume to one based on outcomes. Under this more holistic approach, marketers are starting to be able to evolve the discussion of value toward one that examines (and rightly so) a drug and its total impact as part of a solution for improving patient care. For example, clinical differentiation demonstrated through head-to-head studies, real-world evidence studies, etc., can be key components of value delivery used to justify drug pricing. Wrap-around services such as patient support programs, viewed as a part of the “price” of entry when launching a drug, are not all created equal. A manufacturer’s investment in facilitating each patient’s pathway to drug access, utilization and adherence – often resulting in better overall patient outcomes – can be another key component of value delivery. Other resources and services such as telehealth, behavior modification, patient portals, and even patient educational brochures can all help tailor support programs to improve how individual patient needs are addressed.

Within the ever-evolving healthcare economy, stakeholders will increasingly need to continue finding new ways to work toward optimal value delivery and improved patient outcomes, while managing the pressures of price and economic viability. Partnerships across stakeholder groups that create a shared vision focusing on redefining the importance of value in terms beyond price, cost, rebates, etc., designed to align efforts and incentives, could potentially help toward achieving that goal.

Joseph Perri, senior VP, payer strategy, Ogilvy CommonHealth Market Access: The Greek philosopher Heraclitus, known for his doctrine of change being central to the universe, famously stated “The only thing that is constant is change.” For pharmaceutical manufacturers today, this has never rung more true. The industry as a whole has been under intense scrutiny from both the private and public sectors, whose relentless questioning around drug pricing are forcing a fundamental sea change in the way manufacturers market and sell their products.

In large part, the industry itself is to blame. Manufacturers, reticent to get ahead of the problem, have instead adopted a “wait and see” attitude while the press continued to vilify the industry. Over several years, this has eroded public confidence in pharma by uncovering a flawed system that is mired in secrecy. At the same time, unconscionable pricing actions by several “bad actors” (e.g. Turing and Mylan) have only further catalyzed the issues.

To deal with the onslaught of media attacks, prudent manufacturers would begin developing new pricing and discounting strategies that allow them to rationalize their market position with confidence. How? By demonstrating and effectively communicating value to both payers and patients.

This evolution will need to be anchored on financial incentives that are aligned to value and tied to performance. Risk will be syndicated among the increasingly concentrated and integrated providers industry-wide, requiring new strategies to effectively market and contract products with payers. As such, we should anticipate further acceleration of novel contracting approaches from manufacturers, based on clearly defined outcomes and performance guarantees aimed at population management.

A case in point is Cigna, a company that is leading the payer industry in implementing some of these new contracts. In early 2016, Cigna was the first health service company to reach value-based agreements for its commercial business with both Amgen and Sanofi/Regeneron for PCSK9 inhibitors. While the contracts are independent of each other, they share the same overall objective: a guarantee on performance. In short, if the drugs perform to the same extent (or better) than they did in their clinical trials, Cigna pays a pre-negotiated net price. If the drugs perform less well than expected, Cigna pays a reduced price.

Of course, the devil is in the details and the jury is still out on the effectiveness of this strategy. Still, Cigna has generated considerable “free advertising” from their novel approach to an increasingly expensive and competitive pharmaceuticals sector. By focusing on value, rather than cost, Cigna can more effectively manage — rather than simply restrict — access to medicines.

Our flawed pricing system will undoubtedly undergo other significant changes over the next several years as the market becomes more transparent and evolves from a “siloed,” highly centralized delivery model to one that is decentralized – where consolidation, integration, care everywhere, accountability, and comparative effectiveness rule.

As marketers, we can do little to influence the effectiveness of our clients’ products. However, by identifying and articulating the features, benefits, and overall value these products bring to the public, we can help our clients to safely and smoothly navigate the voyage through this new pharma world.

Ed Schoonveld, global leader, value and access solutions, ZS: As drug pricing continues as a topic of popular debate, pharmaceutical marketers should expect little to change in 2017. Media and public attention to prescription drug pricing may subside temporarily, but will not go away, as the fundamental issues have not been resolved. Trump’s temperament and midnight Twitter behaviors may impact specific timing of reoccurrence.

The drug industry needs to continue to pay close attention to its actions and communications. The following six elements are critical:
1. Focus on providing evidence of value to all key decision makers and their influencers (i.e. payers, medical societies, media, employers, patient organizations, prescribing physicians, patients, etc.). Concentrate on benefits that each stakeholder cares about, rather than pushing the industry perspective on value;
2. Communicate value more broadly to reach the above audiences within the existing legal restrictions; explore new opportunities that the 21st Century Cures Act specifically offers to expand communications on economics and outcomes. Lobby for the FDA to provide additional guidance on this topic;
3. Demonstrate compassion toward patient cost and its impact on access to health care; continue to seek solutions with other stakeholders, including medical communities, patient organizations and political organizations;
4. Consider modifying launch pricing and price increase strategies to reflect the current market; evaluate whether there is an upside to gaining stronger medical community and payer endorsement in building market share;
5. Build public awareness on net price increases and level of rebates paid to MCOs and PBMs. Johnson & Johnson’s recent announcement on publishing list and average net price increases across the portfolio sets a helpful precedent on balancing public information needs with confidentiality needs for individual agreements with payers;
6. Explore new pricing models and advocate to modify or eliminate federal pricing mechanisms, such as best pricing mechanisms, that impede these options.

Peter Weissberg, group director, market access, Intouch Solutions: Most marketers have little to no direct role on drug pricing, so their ability to truly influence the pricing discussion is very limited. However, that doesn’t mean that marketers should remain on the sidelines and not engage in pricing discussions.

Astute marketers are digging below “the list prices” that are grabbing all of the headlines, to more deeply understand the true financial impact their drugs have on payers, hospitals and patients. That means learning more about the contracting process, the pharmaceutical supply chain and the nuances of different copay programs.

By taking the time to do this, and more fully understand drug pricing, a smart marketer gets a clearer sense of the realities of the audiences who influence product selection and sales. These marketers will be able to use these insights to generate commercialization strategies that have greater material impact on their brand’s performance.

James Woodland: The short answer is all of the above. A lot will be learned with Novartis’ and others’ efforts to trial value-based pricing for some of its most promising drugs. This may well serve to be a model for other products in the future. That said, while pharma sets list prices for the market, there is an entire value chain influencing those final prices and there is often a large gap between the price pharma lists a drug for and what a patient ultimately pays for it. There are sometimes several intermediaries involved in capturing pieces of that difference. While potentially risky, there may be an opportunity for pharma to lead in shedding more light on these dynamics.

We will also see what impact recent efforts to better communicate the realities and benefits of drug discovery and commercialization will have. There is unquestionable value the pharma industry brings to society, I think we need to explore every avenue to ensure the public clearly sees and experiences that value.

MED AD NEWS: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2017 that they might not have expected in 2015 or 2016? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Keith Betz: From a media agency perspective, one of the increasing trends over the last few years has been a need to better measure how media expenditures correlate with the brand’s business objectives. There are many technologies, consultants and vendors that can assist with this but it requires a more collaborative approach to media – one where all parties involved agree to optimize based on a finite set of KPIs. These KPIs need to be determined based on research – in the case of digital media, identifying the highest value digital actions that your target audience can take and being confident that those actions will impact sales. Testing and learning is important but the speed in which this happens is increasingly in the forefront of marketer’s minds – how can we impact business today to show results and reinvest in those activities that are moving the needle. Finding key partners that can think beyond media strategies/tactics and will concentrate on the client’s business, and ultimately the patient outcomes, is crucial.

Wendy Blackburn, executive VP, Intouch Solutions: Recent years have seen seismic shifts in, and dramatic expansion of, the expectations marketers have of their agencies. In 2017, this trend will only speed up. Specifically, modern marketers will demand that their agencies hold expertise in creating a connected customer experience, in technology and marketing automation platforms, and in using data to drive decisions. Agencies that will thrive will be those that can provide these integrated solutions while continuing to adapt to the new realities of marketing, of technology and of healthcare.

Connecting the customer experience
Long goneare the days that a single traditional creative agency can do it all. Creativity still matters, but it’s far from the only thing that matters. Marketers need their agencies to evolve from delivering brand-centric programs siloed by channel to customer-centric, fully connected experiences.

The digital divide widens
The digital bar keeps rising, and the digital divide between agency skillsets keeps widening. Today, being able to build a responsive website is table stakes. Companies need agencies well versed in enterprise-level marketing and digital transformation. This includes expertise in infrastructure architecture, technology strategy, system integration, marketing automation, cloud services, and acumen in enterprise-level automation platforms such as Veeva, SalesForce, and Adobe Marketing Cloud.

Seeking decision science
Big data isn’t just a buzzword in marketing anymore; it’s our new reality. Any agency that doesn’t know how to take advantage of these new mounds of data is already behind. And we’re not talking about monthly PowerPoint reports or basic Excel dashboards. Brand managers have moved beyond counting impressions and clicks. They (rightfully so) expect their agency partners to be able to provide complex solutions such as predictive modeling, real-time segmentation, multivariate testing, complex clustering algorithms, and attribution modeling. Increasingly, they seek firms with the know-how to leverage data to make critical business decisions.

Adapt or die
Marketers are looking for adaptability from their agencies. They are in desperate need of speed, agility and true innovation to move their brands forward in the marketplace. And they look to their agencies to stay on the cutting edge. No matter where they came from, agencies must follow new media wherever it leads. As traditional agency services converge and become commoditized, standing still is not an option. Agencies that can adapt the quickest to change, and are the most willing to embrace new opportunities, will be the ones that rise to the top.

Jay Carter: Don’t go setting up that programmatic trading desk next to your VR development station just yet. Shiny new things will always mesmerize a brand manager who’s as interested in the performance of his career as he is in his brand, but pharma has tightened the budgets and increased its focus on ROI in these leaner times. The brand manager who gets ahead will be the one who focuses on the blocking and tackling skills that drive his business. “Tried and true” tactics are called just that because they have been proven to work.

Gregg Fisher: In 2017 and beyond, to maximize business impact, pharma marketing programs will increasingly be planned and executed as integrated customer experiences, versus isolated tactics. As a consequence, brand managers will place greater value on firms that can a) plan cross-channel customer engagement strategies and b) effectively manage implementation. Most brand managers simply don’t have the time to master all channels and technologies, nor do they have the bandwidth to stitch them together into compelling experiences.

In this environment, customer engagement planning and program orchestration skills will be paramount. On the planning side, managers will seek talent that is commercially focused, offers deep customer insights, and is proficient in channel and content strategy. On the execution side, they will seek talent that can integrate a wide array of internal and external groups to deliver a successful solution.

This shift will favor a new breed of consultancy with core competence in strategy and program management and the capability to integrate talent across a wide array of specialties to satisfy client demands. (The Stem’s “networked consulting” model is one example of such a firm). Meanwhile, traditional agencies that are heavily focused on selling ad campaigns that maximize the billability of in-house talent will be an increased disadvantage in this environment.

Tim Frank, managing director, Triple Threat Communications: “Do more with less.” While we have heard it for years, it seems that over the past year or so, brand teams really mean it. With the days of blockbuster PCP brands quickly diminishing and budgets getting even tighter, brand managers can no longer afford the number of ambitious programs they have in the past, nor the layers of overhead and multiple processes that have driven agency revenues for years. What brand managers now need their agencies to provide is focus, simplicity and discipline to their services, programs and tactics. Increasingly, pharmaceutical clients must deliver on smaller opportunities and their agency partners must to be able to do the same. To do that, agencies need to be vertically integrated without thinking they have to cover every communication channel for a client. Good agencies keep a laser focus on the most important communications priorities for their clients and deliver services that efficiently address them. They also have more experienced personnel staffing their teams with fewer layers in order to meet the strategic and tactical needs of a brand. The best agencies demonstrate flexibility and agility so they can adjust their strategies and staffing as the needs of a brand changes — not just year to year, but sometimes quarter to quarter.

Both marketers and their agency partners need to be ready to seek out and support alternative communications research and testing techniques. The industry has been doing the same kind of in-vitro, one-on-one or focus group interviews for decades but haven’t gotten any better at gauging messaging impact by what we hear in these insular cocoons. It’s vital that we find new and better way to assess true intent. Rather than relying on what people “tell” us, we need to dig deeper so we understand the true emotional motivations behind brand choices and preferences.

Debra Harris: Today’s healthcare communications landscape is growing more complicated – with publishers, agencies, researchers, internal brand teams, digital teams etc. all working to inform and execute upon brand decisions. In response, many of these entities are merging or developing new departments to gain greater scope, and in the process re-defining who they are. This confluence of expertise across partners can offer additional value, but it can also make it more difficult to streamline information and delve deep into the right tactics to achieve brand objectives. Marketers should choose their partners carefully as their expectations rise. They should clearly define from the start what they want from each vendor, suppress competition among vendors, and have in place standards by which they can work together in a more streamlined way, as a team.

Shaun Urban, managing partner, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide: In 2017, brand marketers will strengthen their desire to more effectively leverage data to ensure the right content or message is being delivered to the right customer based on channel engagement and consumption preferences of their customers. This data-driven marketing approach provides both brand managers and agencies the best chance to truly change desired customer behaviors, and more accurately measure the impact of marketing efforts and spend. In addition, the digital fluency of brand marketers and the industry will continue to grow, somewhat out of necessity as their customers become harder to reach via personal promotion efforts. This will require agencies to ensure that digital strategy and innovations are integrated into the fabric of agency client teams. Mobile-first approaches, social media’s reach and effectiveness, the behavior-change potential of chat bots, and the point-of-prescribing potential of EHR communications will become more consistently part of the marketing mix for brands in 2017. Finally, as reimbursement policies and restrictions continue to tighten, especially across the specialty pharmacy category, the importance, effectiveness, and investment in patient access services will grow. There is tremendous potential to automate various elements of these offerings in support of HCPs and patients along the “Rx journey” while leveraging the power and reach of EHRs in doing so to improve the impact of these access services programs.

James Woodland: It may sound cliche but brand managers will and should expect their agency partners to be better collaborators with one another. As marketing becomes increasingly fragmented – and complex – the number of specialized partners has grown. This has enabled pharma to make big strides in the strategy, deployment and measurement of their marketing. The problem is many of these new competencies are still being practiced in silos. Pharma will get the biggest return on these investments by having partners that work seamlessly with the client and the other partners involved. This requires the sharing of strategies, data, and sometimes even people. The ability to collaborate is a skill that cannot necessarily be learned, but one that is critical for agency partners to exhibit to contribute to the success of brand managers in the future. Given that you will continue to see agencies – particularly the large ones – seek to better integrate their disparate offerings into something that is custom built for each of their client engagements.

Nicole Woodland-De Van, senior VP, buying services and deliverables, CMI/Compas: Clients are going to continue to expect agencies to provide and do more with data and analytics. It goes hand in hand with predictive. Clients continue to see shrinking sales forces, so they are all building models and databases to help analyze data and behavioral patterns of their audiences so they can better communicate with them via NPP channels. Agencies that can assist their clients with these sorts of efforts will be in high demand and prove to be very valuable to the brand.

Donna Wray: The biggest difference we’ve seen in what our pharma clients expect from their agency partners is in analytics. More and more, pharma is taking control of that area, with responsibility either within the digital/multichannel marketing center of expertise, or within the business analytics group that looks at other analyses such as ROI studies. Agencies have to be more nimble in providing their data in a common format for pharma analysis, but even more importantly, they have to be on their best game and already using analytics to optimize for the best results for their clients. In the last year, we have seen agency and vendor turnover based on poor analytics performance (once, on dodgy data), whereas that was less common in previous years.

MED AD NEWS: What impact will the advent of the Trump Administration have on the business of pharmaceutical marketing? And what impact WON’T it have?

Faruk Capan, CEO, Intouch Solutions: The first 100 days of a presidency have been used to gauge an administration’s success for nearly a century. A great deal remains uncertain about the first 100 days of this new presidency, but one of the few safe bets is that the pharmaceutical industry will remain in the spotlight.

The Affordable Care Act hasn’t left headlines for months, the 21st Century Cures Act was signed into law on Dec. 13, and the president-elect has already said, “Our drug industry has been disastrous.” A great deal of debate is on the way about insurance, approvals, promotion, pricing and more.

These are uncertain times. But this is why it’s more important than ever to effectively communicate to patients, healthcare professionals, payers and caregivers about the vital role that pharmaceutical products play every day, and to double down on our efforts to bring innovative, helpful solutions to complement those products in helping people to be well.

Debra Harris: This is a question that can be answered only in the future. Mr. Trump has been vague and varied in his pronouncements on healthcare, and his party has signaled what they don’t like, but not what alternatives they have in mind. It depends on how the ACA is altered or replaced, how he handles pricing issues and rules enforced, or broken to keep manufacturing here. All we know for sure at the moment is that there is some unanimity on the medical device tax. As with everything else…he’s already caused a further divide in the community with many taking a stand for or against repealing and replacing the ACA…

Bob Hogan, executive director, creative and strategy, Triple Threat Communications: Donald Trump’s positions on pharma haven’t always been clear or detailed. He’s held back on some issues, but sounded more definitive on others. For one, Trump has proposed slashing the corporate tax rate to somewhere around 15 percent, nullifying any tax reason for U.S. pharma companies to seek moving their headquarters outside of the United States. So that should be a good thing for anyone against such “tax inversion” mergers. After earlier hints, Trump’s post-election comments on competitive bidding and drug prices had an immediate, negative impact on pharma – an estimated market loss of almost $25 billion in 20 minutes – even as industry executives were making pledges and promising self-regulation on pricing. So he’s had an impact while experts and the public wait to see if his claims are executable. We’re left trying to reconcile comments such as “…they’re getting away with murder” with his earlier proposals to focus on innovation and reform at FDA.

On a more radical note, if there was ever a time to broach simplifying the insanity of “fair balance” requirements as they presently are in DTC, it would be during this Republican administration and Congress. When more DTC commercial time is spent and paid for to spew a litany of incomprehensible, possible side effects at consumers, versus making sure they know what the drug is for, there is something very wrong. We don’t know what the administration’s receptivity to this would be, but it would certainly be a good time to find out.

Pratap Khedkar, managing principal, ZS: As the new administration takes shape, two uncertainties loom large for the pharmaceutical industry: What form will the ACA repeal-and-replace take? And how will Mr. Trump act on his numerous promises to “bring down drug prices” and, as he said in his latest press conference, “create new bidding procedures for the drug industry because they’re getting away with murder”?

The ACA replacement will definitely reduce revenues from Medicaid and the exchange populations, but it’s unlikely to roll back all of the extra fees and rebates that the industry is subjected to. This may be a worse net outcome than not having the ACA at all. As for the pricing question, the “bidding procedures” mostly exist already, if you focus on net and not list price.

But instead of talking about the unknowns, let’s talk about what’s very likely to happen in the U.S. First, the new HHS is likely to work toward ending the previous administration’s explicit government intervention to incent the shift towards value. Second, with the repeal of the ACA and without additional funding, the Medicare Part A trust fund likely will become insolvent as early as 2021, so the elderly are likely to be pushed towards Medicare Advantage plans. Third, if the new FDA relaxes drug approval criteria, the power will pass to payers, who will be happy to say “no.” Consequently, the private sector will continue to gain power, and will continue to push harder for value and reining in costs, even if CMS doesn’t (with or without the latest bidding threat).

Even with some self-discipline and transparency on prices, as exemplified by Allergan and J&J, this isn’t the time for business as usual. The industry has to learn to prove and communicate value to powerful institutional customers in terms that they care about. Pharma hasn’t been very successful at this to date, but there’s reason for hope. The 21st Century Cures Act opens the door for stakeholder collaboration and facilitates data exchange. And to match pharma’s value to the customer’s needs, the industry has to undertake a fundamental redesign and re-execution of its so-called key account management and offerings beyond the pill.

Trump might work to repeal the healthcare changes that President Obama ushered in, but pharmaceutical organizations shouldn’t expect a return to their pre-Obama ways.

Curt Staab, VP, Emerging Life Sciences Network, TGaS Advisors: As with any new administration, there will be new opportunities and challenges for pharmaceutical marketing. While no one can know for certain what will change with the new administration, here are some issues that pharma companies should already be planning to address:

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act
Repeal of the Affordable Care Act was a campaign promise that appears will pass in the Republican Congress in the new Administration. While what will replace the ACA is unknown at this time, pharma companies should prepare for the angst even the discussion of repeal has on their current customers. Pharma should be mining their patient call centers to hear from patients concerned about the end of the ACA and how that impacts access to their product. In a recent TGaS survey, just over 50% of companies are listening to excerpts of conversations from their patient call centers. This is an opportunity to hear directly from patients regarding their concerns about the impact of the ACA and to assuage concerns about continued access to the products they need. While those in the industry are aware that the repeal of the ACA would not impact 2017 (or likely 2018) coverage, patients may not be that politically savvy.

Changes in FDA leadership
As of this writing, it is not known who will be named to lead the Food and Drug Administration, but two of the rumored candidates, Jim O’Neill and Balaji Srinivasan, are Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who seem to have a more Libertarian bent than previous FDA Commissioners. This could present opportunities as well as challenges for pharma marketers. One likely opportunity is the possibility that pharma companies would have more latitude to promote on published studies before they are approved as part of the labeling. In a recent TGaS survey, all companies replied that they train representatives on published studies for various reasons, even those studies that may not be allowed in promotion. This prohibition could change with the new administration. Pharma companies must decide how aggressively they should pursue this opportunity and through which channels. Roles such as Medical Science Liaisons could be more promotional in a Trump Administration with new FDA Leadership.

Patient centricity
One thing unlikely to change with the new administration is the continued focus on patient centricity. A recent TGaS survey showed that over 80 percent of pharma companies have “patient centricity” as a formal goal. By continuing to focus on patients through innovative medications to cure their diseases, pharma companies can show they are part of the healthcare solution. This patient-focused approach could help mitigate Presidential tweets on high drug prices. Just as in the past, pharma companies must continue to show the tremendous value the industry provides to make all of society healthier and more productive.

James Woodland: The incoming Trump administration will not impact pharma’s ability to attract some of the most dedicated, talented and passionate marketers in the business. The industry will continue to make life-changing medical breakthroughs and successfully bring them to market. Pharma marketers will continue to have to deeply understand the needs of its customers and deliver on them through effective, efficient communications. Predicting anything beyond that is above my pay grade! 



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Med Ad News asked our sources what key questions for 2017 we had left out. This is what they told us.


Jay Carter: What are YOU doing to address the distinct needs of our millennial employees? They have different training needs, sharing needs, tech needs, and a profound desire to positively impact our society. The good news? They can offer enormous returns to their agency employers, as they are truly digital natives and align with the good things that our industry does for humanity.

Andrew Grojean, social media manager, Intouch Solutions: Social media spent about a decade on the top of every “What’s new in pharma marketing” list, while the industry worriedly asked for guidance that the FDA eventually provided. Social media in pharma isn’t cutting-edge anymore, but as a result, it’s actually even more exciting. Social tactics are making a difference in the real world, not in theoretical exercises. We’ve seen how they can move the needle, and we can answer regulatory concerns with real-world use cases. It’s more than pushing a branded campaign via Facebook or Twitter – there are a world of new and better options.

By users and brands alike, social apps are increasingly being used for one-on-one conversations, instead of only public posts. Facebook Messenger, Gchat, Skype, Slack, Twitter, WhatsApp, Kik and more are being used by billions, and these platforms hope to engage brands in the ability to talk directly to their customers on them too.

Chatbots, providing automated one-to-one conversations, are now available to brands through social platforms like Facebook and Twitter, and are improving vastly in their conversational sophistication. Health start-up GYANT launched a Messenger chatbot to help users ask diagnostic questions about their symptoms, using emoji and memes. Its first product focused on young women in Zika outbreak regions.

Between chatbots and messaging apps, the “conversational experience” may become the new preferred channel for marketing. Chatbots can do everything from remind a patient to take their medicine, to help them find their HCP’s office, to provide a first line of screening for diagnosis. They can be used for games and surveys, for gathering user-generated content from active patient communities or for helping a newly diagnosed patient begin to learn about their condition.

As social media evolves, it provides new ways for pharma brands to engage with our customers, meeting them where they are and having conversations that add value – and health – to their lives.

Debra Harris: Maybe the fact that less drugs were approved last year? Or that more “breakthrough” drugs were launched?

Marketers can no longer just sit back and wait to market a new launch drug – they need to find more innovative ways to differentiate their drugs in ever-more crowded categories. Innovative NPP platforms can often be the most effective vehicles when targeting can by hyper-segmented to reach the highest priority targets.

Or conversely many new drugs (especially in oncology) are growing more complex and marketers need to streamline communications in the most effective ways possible to educate physicians on when to use drugs, and for which specific patients. Marketing in general has become more complex as medicine advances – messages need to be simplified to make the strongest impact, leveraging behavioral insights to tailor messaging for unique physician segments.

Bob Hogan: Which stakeholder should own adherence? Pharma companies? Health care professionals? Health insurance companies? Pharmacies? The answer to that lies in not only which stakeholder has the most to gain, but also in which has the ability and motivation to deliver the best patient adherence experience.

It only makes sense for pharma to take the adherence lead in cases of a single patient morbidity for which sustained use of their drug alone will produce a positive outcome. But these instances are the exception. Do patients on several medications really want to sign up and get separate alerts and reminders from marketers of each drug they are taking, many of which are on different dosing and/or refill schedules?
HCPs have a vested interest in ensuring their patients take medications as prescribed, especially if they are being evaluated and compensated on outcomes. But practically speaking, they don’t have the time or tools – or inclination – to spearhead this task.

Health insurance companies have a lot to gain by their members taking medicines as directed, especially those with co-morbidities and on several different meds. This can drive more efficient outcomes and avoid medically expensive complications. But the infrastructure to aggressively manage adherence is costly to build and maintain, especially in a business where margins are relatively thin.

Pharmacies have the most to gain from increased adherence. They serve large populations of patients taking several different prescription medicines. They make money on virtually every prescription filled; the more that are filled, the better. The pharmacy serves as a gateway to the rest of the store and other purchasing opportunities. The pharmacy has ready access to patient dosing and refill schedules. Large pharmacy chains serve millions of patients nationwide and deal with a variety of different health insurance companies. In short, pharmacies are in the best position to provide an effective adherence service and patient experience.

So are they doing this? There seems to have been an uptick in the big chains’ efforts to get patients on the refill reminder stream, though we do not have numbers to confirm this. But cold, impersonal refill reminders alone do not produce a positive patient experience. Are these chains also offering medication reconciliation services? Do they proactively help patients on several different medicines coordinate refill schedules and copay burden to optimize efficiency and affordability? Do they offer easily used tools to help with dosing schedules and physically taking the prescribed medicines? Do they provide incentives and rewards for patients to take their medicines as prescribed?

Paul Shawah: Enterprise sales and marketing technology continues to evolve but its adoption in life sciences is still, comparatively slow. How might we see this trend change in the coming year?

Cloud computing has proven key to helping life science companies modernize business processes over the past five years but we are still in the early innings. While this first wave of cloud-enabled companies is seeing efficiency gains, the next phase will usher in an era of unprecedented transformation for life sciences. In 2017, the next evolution in cloud technology will be the industry cloud – and this will lead to tailored solutions that meet the very specific needs of an industry like ours. In North Bridge Venture’s 6th annual “Future of Cloud Computing” study, 50% of respondents indicated they will use an industry cloud offering within the next 24 months.

The industry cloud market will accelerate in 2017, as companies look to leverage vertical cloud solutions that provide technologies, business services, and specialized applications, tailored to their industry for more transformational gains. For pharmaceutical organizations, this means solutions that will enable faster time to market with greater efficiency, less waste and duplicate effort, improved compliance, global harmonization across brands, and improved patient delivery, access, and outcomes. You will also see that these industry-specific enterprise applications will serve as the great unifier…enabling greater collaboration between internal teams such as commercial and medical, as well as development of more strategic external partnerships. Everyone globally will be in better alignment, working towards the same goal with the same purpose. It’s where this industry is moving and where it must go if it wants to succeed.

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