Agenda 2022: The new normal

Or, the old normal isn’t coming back, and what that means.

By Joshua Slatko • [email protected]

Remember back in March and April and May of 2020, when people prefaced their plans for the future with, “When we get back to normal”? We never did, and we never will. The COVID experience has forever changed how all of us view the world, how we interact with each other … and, of course, how we interact with healthcare brands and what we expect from them. In seeking out insights from pharma’s wise heads for Med Ad News’ annual Agenda report, we tried to maneuver around COVID at least a little, to see what else was going on in the industry. But the plain fact is that we couldn’t, not really. Everyone who’s lived long enough has a moment or two in their life that creates a binary, before and after. COVID is now such a moment for all of us; and those who accept that and update their thinking about healthcare and brand communications accordingly will be the winners in this new normal.

Med Ad News: What was the non-word of the year in pharma marketing in 2021? Why? What will the non-COVID word of the year be in 2022? Why?

David Bonnem, associate director, SEM and emerging media, CMI Media Group: 2021 – Video. In the second year of the pandemic and many still quarantined at home, video consumption continued to rise. Marketers pivoted as a result, also accounting for the growth in market share for streaming services and consumers moving more and more away from linear TV. From 2020 to 2021, connected TV ad spend grew 48 percent (Source: Deep Intent). Aside from increasing their reach, establishing a presence in this space can drive efficiencies for pharma marketers as well. CTV is more cost-efficient than linear TV. Much of the inventory is even biddable and grants the marketer the flexibility to set the maximum price they are willing to pay for placements. Furthermore, CTV is more targeted than linear TV. Specific audiences can be reached through optimization levers or 1P/3P data segments. In general, connected TV gives pharma marketers an avenue to have a targeted TV presence without paying traditional TV prices.

2022 – Personalization: With targeting becoming more and more precise over the years, advertising giants are now turning their attention toward making the user experience more personalized. Whether through omnichannel, custom messaging, or machine learning – the focus is YOU. For example, YouTube now offers an ad unit where the same user will see different video ads in a specific order to tell the story of a brand – even if that user continues their browsing later. Google’s advertising product and algorithm has also been updated to deliver a more personalized experience. Responsive search ads will be the only ad unit offered for search marketers by summer 2022 so that the most relevant message will always be delivered to the user. We’re also expected to see the right of a smarter broad match type on Google, with signals like user location, search history, and predicted performance also being taken into account aside from just the search. The algorithm can now even distinguish between rose (flower) and rose (wine), and Paris Hilton (hotel) and Paris Hilton (celebrity) searches. By leveraging these personalized features and custom signals, pharma marketers can get the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

Jay Carter, executive VP, chief strategy officer, AbelsonTaylor: The 2021 word of the year was NONPERSONAL. The reason is obvious, but it wasn’t just employees of pharma and their agencies that retreated to electronic communications. Pharma invested heavily in reaching their customers, HCP and otherwise, with nonpersonal outreach in a big way.

The 2022 word of the year for Pharma marketing is BIOSIMILAR. The biosimilar industry will roar in 2022 and 2023 as key branded products come under siege. It’s been a slow roll thus far, but the desire to cut costs and the availability of quality products will make itself seen.

Victor Chiu, senior director, Marketing Excellence, Takeda:

2021: Cookieless. While it didn’t quite manifest into the doom and gloom some thought it to be, it was a few shots off the bow for what’s to come and inspired numerous conversations on both first-party data and authenticated experiences.

2022: Community. When we combine two years of intense discussion on health inequities, the rise of purpose-driving positioning, the enthusiasm around Web2/Web3, the popularity of content creators, and the experiential/business value of identity, pharma has no choice but to find a way to engage directly with its community of patients and caregivers in a compliant, responsive, but ultimately authentic manner.

David Davidovic, founder, pathForward: In 2021, the word was “Remote” – everyone went remote (starting in 2020) and tried to make the most of it.

In 2022, and into the future, the word will be “Hybrid” – which means a more permanent, better thought-out and better resourced way of working in ways that combine remote work and in-person work – and this also will translate to customer engagement and experience.

Sally Lam, senior director, marketing, Reata: 2021: WFH.

2022: Volatility. Why? Volatility driven by supply chain issues, hence driving inflation. Volatility driven by workforce demands; a stronger need to retain talent; resignations; shortage of workforce. Volatility driven by 2022 elections.

Neil Matheson, chairman, Atlantis Health: The word of the year in 2021 was “virtual.” Pharma is now facing the fact that the future will likely be a hybrid of the virtual world in which we have been living and the traditional “live” world in which we used to live. This will apply to every aspect of the commercial cycle – virtual clinical trial, virtual ad boards, virtual congress participation, virtual MSL and sales calls, virtual training, and remote “work-from-home” employment conditions. The medical community is trying to return to live congresses, but the attendance has been very low and with virtual attendance also not optimal pharma has to reconsider the value of congress support. MSLs and sales reps have had no live access to healthcare professionals, and this has placed pressure on justifying the cost of a sales force that cannot get access to the people they need to talk to.

The word for 2022 will be “access.” This word applies across the commercial cycle as well. Access to patients for clinical trials is a very real issue due to COVID but the more fundamental issue is the competition for patients in areas where multiple trials are being conducted for many new drugs in development – for example oncology and breast cancer in particular. The word access also applies to access to KOLs – not just physical access to their place of work (many teaching hospitals now restrict access to pharma employees) but also to the limited amount of time that KOLs have for attending meetings such as advisory boards and their non-attendance at congresses which is one time when meetings can be scheduled without interrupting clinic time with patients etc. And of course the most often used definition of access is patient access to new medicines based on reimbursement by payers – a challenge in terms of real world evidence, value creation, pricing strategy, and payer strategy.

Garth McCallum-Keeler, managing partner, chief growth officer, Calcium: ONWARD – Through all the chaos of the past few years, pharma has marched onward. Agencies showed their adaptability and innovation—we showed how obstacles can become opportunities, how non-personal can feel personal, and how true problem-solving between agencies and client partners yields the best path forward. Agencies come out of 2021 with an enhanced drive to make things happen, regardless of how steep the challenge. This charged feeling of accomplishment and momentum will translate into a year of ACCELERATED CHANGE in 2022, of further exploration of how to best engage with a changed world.

Chris Mycek, senior VP, strategy and growth, Greater Than One: Convergence. Digital transformation, omnichannel activation, in the end it’s all about learning more about customer journeys, triggers, and context. They all converge in experience.

Ellen O’Brien, associate director, media, CMI Media Group: 2021: Community. COVID forced us all into a virtual world in 2020 and left many patients and HCPs alike missing their in-person interactions. Brands that were able to create and/or build on current communities, even in a virtual format, allowed consumers to feel supported and empowered. For HCPs, virtual meetings left a gap since a main reason physicians attend conferences is to connect with colleagues and key opinion leaders to learn how they can provide better treatment for their patients. However, this meant HCPs were able to attend Grand Rounds and meetings all around the world, so while the in-person community aspect was lacking, virtual communities created the sense of community that many patients and physicians were missing.

2022: Authenticity. It’s no longer enough just to have a great product – brands need to ensure they are thinking about their customers in all steps of the process. Consumers not only want to see themselves in advertising efforts and feel like products are personalized to them, but they also want to ensure companies aren’t just talking the talk. Consumers are doing the research to ensure the products they are buying align with their values and brands need to create a trusting relationship with consumers in order to be successful.

Lauren Ohlsson, senior director, account management and vertical lead – pharma, My word for 2021 and 2022 is the same: CTV. As consumers have opted to cut ties with traditional TV and cable services (at a height during the pandemic), the pharma industry has quickly adapted to increasing their reach via CTV. Traditional large-scale TV advertisers are allocating more and more dollars to CTV and it will become a larger part of the estimated $11 billion-plus digital spend from the pharma industry. We are seeing many of our partners starting to ramp up CTV investments and although the long-form content that pharma companies rely upon is scarce and expensive, pharma advertisers have adapted and often times have developed shorter form content or are looking to work with a partner capable of implementing ISI as part of their CTV framework.

Michael Oleksiw, CEO, Pleio: Like all societal trends that influence marketing, “Empathy” seems to be everywhere, but for pharma brand marketers and their companies the key is to realize “empathy” is not a marketing strategy but a breakthrough strategy. It challenges marketing tenets by relying on emotion and authenticity as door openers to education around what your medication can actually do for them. It is not selling your product first, it is selling you, your beliefs, culture, commitment to the customer and in doing so, delivers your “messages” in a way that gets heard. In this case, who needs more empathy than a patient starting or switching to a new medication? “It’s seeing things from inside their world. You know you have empathy when you listen in a way that makes you feel them as a human being,” notes Dr. Jodi Halpern, M.D., Ph.D., and UC Berkley professor.

Susan Perlbachs, chief creative officer, Intouch Group: 2021: Directness. In 2021, we didn’t have time to fool around. Work from home, homeschooling, and burnout plagued our society. Culturally, we were more willing than ever to not beat around the bush, to tell it like it is. Thus, the proliferation of campaigns like Phexxi’s “Welcome to my vagina” and Intouch’s campaign, “Erase the line” and BC Navi program, blatantly calling out systemic racism in the healthcare – and introducing a rating system to hold the healthcare system accountable.

2022: Super app. Super apps like Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram are becoming one-stop shops for news, friends, gaming, shopping, etc. They’ve been trending that way for a few years and there’s some overlap with the metaverse since each app’s goal is to be “THE” place to be and do everything, with multiple channels rolled into one. It’s relevant for marketers since gaming, communities, news (ads), were part of marketing campaigns already, so super apps are part of the next evolution. The benefits of super apps would be appreciated in healthcare more than any other industry.

Amanda Preto, VP, marketing, CMI Media Group: 2021 = Diversity. The year 2021 created an awakening for marketers to better understand, engage, and serve healthcare audiences, and for our industry to take a hard look at where shortcomings exist.

2022 = Action. We’re seeing the next phase of this conversation turn from one of acknowledgment to one of action as leaders in our industry take a much more intentional and inclusive approach to their marketing, advertising, and messaging.

Kate Zwizanski, executive VP, Media Center of Excellence, CMI Media Group: 2021 = Omnichannel. Being able to curate an iterative experience for customers is becoming commonplace and can lead to better engagement.

2022 = Privacy. Once again, evolving policies are going to be the topic of conversation as Apple and Google are creating disruption here.

Med Ad News: How might the various political and regulatory battles in Washington impact the lives of brand managers and marketers in 2022?

Jay Carter: Shameless plug time … What happens in Washington is only slightly less employment is only slightly less important to your livelihood than air, water, and food. Our industries require strong and diligent advocacy. Support your PhRMA and Coalition for Healthcare Communications advocacies to share your voice in our nation’s capital!

David Davidovic: The industry will get a bit of a reprieve because of so many other priorities in government and the temporary (hopefully not) rise in reputation capital of the pharma industry as a result of the vaccine and therapeutic innovations to help with the COVID-19 pandemic.

So, in essence, marketing work, from a regulatory standpoint remains consistent. One big change from last year is the regulation around speaker programs. I predict that at least one major company will simply stop doing in-person speaker programs.

Maha Elashri, executive VP, chief client officer, Calcium: The COVID pandemic has shown a harsh light on healthcare inequities in the U.S., with certain socioeconomic and ethnic/racial groups suffering disproportionately in terms of access to quality care and, most importantly, health outcomes. And these inequities are ultimately political in nature. Rebuilding trust and bridging the gap between Washington and these groups is an important first step.

Sally Lam: Vaccine mandate battles will drive decisions around layoffs in businesses and organizations where there are already workforce shortages.

Adoption of DEI cultures within companies will spill into our marketing practices to include programs for under-recognized and under-resourced groups.

Neil Matheson: There appears to be a concerted effort by the present administration to address the ”old chestnut” of pharmaceutical pricing. This has been going on for many years and previous administrations have threatened action, but they have always backed off. The reliance on the industry innovation to address the multiple issues related to COVID may be an important factor in any discussions between the administration and the industry. Companies such as Pfizer, Moderna, J&J, AstraZeneca, and the many other companies working on new vaccines have shown that the industry can respond and address critical health issues in record time while also highlighting the massive costs associated with researching developing and brining a new drug/vaccine to the market. The industry needs to communicate the value of these achievements while the audience is primed to listen and take notice—it’s a chance to educate the public about the development process and the significant costs associated with it.

Courtney Mullen, VP, SEM and emerging media, CMI Media Group: Ideally outcomes in Washington this year will expand the pool of patients that brand managers and marketers can impact with their life changing and often times lifesaving therapies.

Susan Perlbachs: The list of healthcare priorities is lengthy. I anticipate that drug pricing reform will continue to be a hot topic. That said, I don’t think we are likely to see sweeping changes in 2022. Between trying to get the pandemic in check, (i.e., testing availability and managing new Greek letters coming our way) and mid-term elections (surely a heated battle), pharmaceutical policy will probably get knocked down on legislators’ to-do lists.

Sandy Sexton, senior director, consumer marketing, Regeneron: I think patient OOP cost and insurance coverage will be the focus related to political battles and their impact on pharma.

Joe Warren, executive VP, media investment, CMI Media Group: Inequality in the USA. If you were educated and able to work from home, if you held stocks within your 401k, and if you were fortunate enough to own your home, you’ve probably fared well financially. However, many in the United States, including the elderly, those working in blue collar jobs, and the sick have been financially devastated by COVID. This inequality will become a political issue in terms of access to healthcare, access to health insurance, access to telehealth, and being able to afford prescriptions. While pharmaceutical brand managers cannot fix the broader societal issues, successful brands will need to navigate the inequality in U.S. healthcare and continue to grow.

Med Ad News: COVID continues to suck up most of the oxygen, but what do you think is an important unrelated trend for pharma marketers that is flying under the radar?

David Bonnem: The rise of automation is flying under the radar because it’s accomplished on the back-end and isn’t necessarily “visible.” While it’s been around for a while now, automation has been much more accessible to consumer goods/ecommerce marketers rather than pharmaceutical marketers where compliance is paramount. Med legal review concerns and lack of control have made the pharmaceutical industry slower to adapt machine learning. However, ad providers have been accounting for this, updating their products with more precise targeting to alleviate compliance concerns and adding cost controls so that pharmaceutical marketers can leverage automation but still set a ceiling on how much they are willing to pay. Given this, automation should only become more prominent in the industry so that marketers can drive performance and cost efficiencies through machine learning.

Victor Chiu: Data security. As reliance on first-party data, a pivot toward hybrid cloud, the number of bad actors in cyber terrorism, and the reputational impact of data breaches become an ever-higher risk, pharmaceutical companies need to guarantee that the patient information that has been entrusted with us is both governed and protected. It would only take one to two significant data breaches to permanently disable all of pharma’s ability to market effectively in the future.

Margaux Copp, senior analyst, paid social, CMI Media Group: The rise of audio. Audio has quickly become one of the fastest growing formats to date and continues to rapidly grow as the space becomes increasingly competitive and more platforms begin to roll out audio offerings unique to their platform. With audio being as hot as it is, there has been a surprisingly limited advertising landscape as brands can be hesitant to make the first splash. With that brings the opportunity for brands to own and dominate the audio space. Investing in your “brand voice” through audio partnerships is often overlooked in marketing but it can build trust while allowing for a new level of engagement. The focus of connecting brands with their audiences through audio will begin to ramp up in 2022 and become a vital inclusion in overall media plans.

David Davidovic: With so much information and discussion about COVID, there is an opportunity to break through that noise if something really interesting comes up. The biggest opportunity, I believe, is in telehealth, and the biggest question is, how can pharma marketers play in that environment.

Brian Ericson, director, video investment, CMI Media Group: The evolution of the video consumption ecosystem has opened up a plethora of opportunities for pharma brands beyond the traditional buying methodologies of linear TV. While linear continues to hold the lion share of viewer’s minutes spent consuming, cord-cutting and streaming content continues to proliferate, and with the continued expansion of streaming properties and content, coupled with the potential for deeper targeting afforded through streaming’s digital pipes, there provides an opportunity to drive awareness and deeper resonance to more targeted audiences in unique ways through video.

Asaf Evenhaim, CEO, Crossix, Veeva Systems: Patient data isn’t new, but its perceived importance has lagged that of prescription data. As specialized therapies continue to fuel most growth in the industry and take up most new medicines hitting the market, companies need data-driven strategies that allow for more intentional patient targeting and a deeper understanding of the healthcare providers (HCPs) they visit–which can only be found in patient history and behavior. Ultimately, it will help commercial and marketing teams assemble a more complete picture of their market.

This data transcends the current tangle of distribution channels and will be critical to identifying disease states, targets, and the decisive moments for commercial intervention and impact. With more de-identified patient data available today than ever before, it is going to become what retail pharmacy data was in the 1990s and early 2000s. Companies can start by leveraging patient data as a foundation for their commercial model, yet, it has to become more complete, seeing into segmentation or targeting gaps previously identified.

There will also be an opportunity to do more analytics on patient data, but artificial intelligence (AI) alone is not the answer, even though we are likely to see more industry-specific AI applications. Data sets have always needed systematic analysis to be of use, but the industry is realizing that the math isn’t hard. What’s hard is translating the math into business strategy and execution. You have to be able to act on the data.

Steve Hamburg, managing partner, chief strategy officer, Calcium: The unpredictable economy, especially the recent, steep rise in inflation, could have a negative impact on pharma, as many patients become inclined to avoid or at least postpone all but the most necessary medical care. This contraction in demand could create even more downward pressure on prescription drug prices, along with increasing opportunity for lower-cost generic drugs, biosimilars, and various drug alternatives, such as nutritional products. Uncontrolled inflation may also have a dampening effect on research, innovation, and investment across the biopharma sector, which could lead to longer-term consequences in terms of global health and the global economy.

Elizabeth Izard Apelles, CEO, Greater Than One: I think the unrelated trend as a result of COVID is the need to work harder to uncover innovation. Because of COVID it is harder to see people, to meet new people, and to gain access to new initiatives, strategies, and products that are emerging, and they are emerging. It will require a bit more effort and a bit more digging. The larger companies will benefit from this trend because they have the existing relationships; the smaller entities will have a harder time finding the oxygen they need. Those pharma marketers that see this as a way to capitalize on innovation will benefit handsomely.

John Kenny, senior VP, managing director, head of strategy, Intouch Group: Digital therapeutics are increasingly replacing the episodic visit to a medical center, with ongoing, remote monitoring – a truly transformative switch. We’re seeing big players like Apple partnering with Johnson and Johnson; 70 percent of clinical trials incorporating some wearable tech in clinical trials by 2025; and already 38 percent of adults willing to spend money on wearables for their healthcare needs. But with this change come threats to established players. Digital therapeutics will increasingly be the intermediary between pharma and healthcare providers, mining real data to identify better care. As we move into 2022, expect to see digital therapeutics to become a fully fledged part of healthcare and a full competitor to traditional providers.

Sally Lam: Supply chain issues, which can impact drug supply – stay in front of this by being informed and having a communication strategy in place. Know where your customers are and where to get to them quickly, should information need to go out.

Inflation. Patients will need to spend more on basics and may forego spend on medication. We need to understand how inflation impacts patients’ ability to pay for their meds. This can impact compliance and refill rates. We will need to stay diligent and focused on adherence programs that take patients’ economic situation into consideration (and not be tone deaf).

Franco Maffei, VP, search engine optimization, CMI Media Group: Doubling down on search is going to be a big concept for this year. The pandemic has been a driving force of change in a lot of different aspects of our lives, but I think one of the most substantial changes that occurred involved how people relied more frequently on search to learn about health. Folks were performing their own research more actively, because temporarily “in person” care was something that came with some challenges. As a result, we’ve seen health related searches grow significantly. People have become more comfortable with utilizing search engines to connect to digital resources that provide valuable information, which is a trend that we expect to see continue this year. This is why focalizing on your search presence and knowing how it holistically impacts your wider marketing strategy is going to be insurmountably important in 2022.

Neil Matheson: There has been total silence on one of the most important factors driving COVID deaths – the high-risk population that has suffered the most from the pandemic – specifically those that are overweight with comorbidities associated with being overweight. Why is there a reluctance to tackle the pandemic of obesity? Are we all too scared to talk about it because we will be accused of “fat shaming’.” Does that mean we should embrace people that are overweight and ignore the significant health risk they carry?

Healthcare marketers should take a more holistic view and look to tackle this issue through broader programs that help patients reduce weight through improved nutrition and increased exercise while also addressing their underlying medical conditions. For example, a company with a lipid lowering drug could support diet and exercise programs as part of patient support initiatives for patients with elevated LDL-C and increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Kristen Maynard, group account director, MicroMass, An Ashfield Health Company, part of UDG Healthcare: It’s challenging to talk about trends unrelated to COVID because, whether we like it or not, COVID has shaped, and continues to shape, so much of what we do. COVID has changed where people get information and how they interact with it. Going beyond the patient to consider the person should always be a focus. We must consider their actions, beliefs, motivations, and resources and how those human dynamics often come into play. When considering the whole person, there’s a few important things for pharma markets to consider:

1. Addressing psychosocial needs: How can we provide support to help people better cope with their illness? COVID has exacerbated feelings of anxiousness and depression among many. Now, more than ever, it’s important to address the psychosocial needs of patients. Research has shown that people who are better equipped to cope with their illness are more likely to be adherent to their medication.

2. Creating resources that are equitable for all: While digital may be the preferred channel for many marketers, is it accessible to the entire population? In today’s digital-first world, we need to keep accessibility top of mind. The use of SMS campaigns and print pieces have flown under the radar for some time now and are making a comeback as we consider how to make support accessible for all.

3. Designing simple, intuitive user experiences: Patients have a lot going on in their lives – how can we continue to reduce their cognitive burden by creating experiences that are easy-to-understand? Something as simple as the QR code has made a huge comeback because of its ability to easily integrate into people’s daily lives. Other simple integration points with patients’ lives, like social and voice, should continue to be considered when crafting experiences.

Chris Mycek: The outstanding need for transportable personal health records. Our vaccine cards are like library cards from 1980.

Ellen O’Brien: Omnichannel efforts build trust and create stronger relationships because content delivery is personalized and feels like it was made just for the consumer to meet their needs. Not only can an omnichannel model improve relationships with physicians and consumers, but it can also directly contribute to better patient outcomes and an overall higher quality of care. Omnichannel is the future and brands need to set the groundwork now to prepare since it will take time and effort to implement.

Lauren Ohlsson: The rapid growth of digital marketing as a part of the media mix for pharma organizations. It has been on an upward trajectory and is forecasted to have grown 18 percent YOY from 2020 to 2021. Although we are waiting on the industry data, I’d wager to say that CTV has experienced the largest growth over the last year and digital video has been something that advertisers have increasingly embraced. One of our clients asked such a smart question: “What are other heavily regulated clients marketing to their clients?” I loved that question because it shows that pharma organizations are looking outside of traditional standard formats to find new and improved ways of reaching consumers in the digital environment, all while maintaining compliance that is paramount to the industry.

Michael Oleksiw: COVID has sucked up “most of the oxygen,” but equally it has changed healthcare and health attitudes forever. Patients are craving to be seen and heard, and COVID has exacerbated that need, making it more important than ever in patient care.

While digital marketing and communications has risen to great importance over the past many years, pharma marketers are realizing the increasing importance of the human connection. Personalization is a business strategy that everyone is aware of – it is more than aligning zero and one data points to messaging hearts and minds and can go far beyond digital-only communications. Establishing a personal relationship with each patient to provide them with what they need in the way they it is paramount to patient engagement. The move in digital engagement recognizes patients as people who are managing and juggling complexities and benefits of new treatment, ongoing care, and the comprehensive aspects of their individual lives.

A better brand experience is realized for pharma brands when a more humanistic approach is established. Digital is NOT the only answer.

Emily Paolucci, senior analyst, paid social, CMI Media Group: Social is one of the newer marketing channels in advertising and it continues to evolve year over year. I think the growth in social media marketing in 2021 can be attributed to both the rising recognition and comfortability with this channel as part of a marketing strategy, as well as the pivotal change in how we have learned to communicate since the pandemic. Social media usage and consumption has increased since last year, with more accounts being created and longer time spent on site. Social media has increasingly become a popular medium for healthcare and pharma discussions, and many platforms such as Twitter and TikTok have expanded their advertising capabilities to make this tactic more pharma friendly. Looking ahead at 2022, I expect to see social channels continue to expand on their offerings as pharma’s presence continues to grow. I anticipate a lot of discussion and learnings from TikTok, which continues to grow in both usage and advertising opportunities. With the increase in health conversations and pharma advertising occurring on social, I also expect to see a shift in how doctors communicate with their patients and with one another.

Nemesh Patel, VP of marketing, Aktana: At Aktana, we are seeing pharmaceutical and medical device companies scale AI capabilities simultaneously across multiple geographies, therapeutic areas, and brands in place of the restrained, pilot-based approach that dominated the industry over the last three to five years. For instance, one pharmaceutical company is expanding the use of our Contextual Intelligence 360 platform across multiple EU countries and Canada. Another top 20-biotech has expanded use of the platform across 46 countries and another across six therapeutic areas and 12 brands. Companies are scaling AI rapidly and widely to address the challenges around omnichannel coordination and customer personalization – two must-haves for commercial success in today’s digital-first world. Failure to coordinate customer engagement can cause unintended relationship gaps, digital fatigue, and missed opportunities to reach HCPs with timely, relevant information that could improve outcomes for their patients.

To do a 40+ country AI rollout efficiently, companies need to take a “build once, deploy many” approach using composable technology—solutions that are modular and designed to scale from the start. Increasingly, organizations will be looking for AI platforms with interchangeable components that can be quickly right-sized for any deployment and easily iterated upon as market needs change. In this way, we can also bridge the intelligence divide and democratize AI to all life sciences organizations.

Michael Picciau, senior analyst, programmatic media buying, CMI Media Group: 2021 was a big year for the programmatic industry. Programmatic ad spend continued to grow at an accelerated pace this year, increasing 29 percent over 2020 and estimated to account for 90 percent of all digital display ad spending in 2021. Video, Audio, and Digital Out of Home saw large spikes in available inventory as people used their digital devices more than ever during the pandemic. CTV and OTT programmatic ad spend increased by 40 percent in 2020, which is a trend that has carried over into 2021. The popularity of streaming audio continues to grow and it is estimated that Americans will spend 90 minutes per day listening to streaming music/radio and podcasts by 2022, where audio ad units can be purchased programmatically. DOOH is forecasted to see an increase of 40 percent this year, as travel restrictions are lifted and people are outdoors and able to consume the ads. This segment is beginning to experience a shift toward programmatic as DOOH gains momentum among supply side partners, allowing this inventory to be purchased using automation on programmatic platforms such as The Trade Desk.

The pandemic has also accelerated machine learning and AI in the programmatic space, providing efficiencies in targeting and optimizations that were unattainable without automation. Advertisers have shifted toward 1st party data as a logical step forward driven by the inevitable deprecation of third party cookies over the next two years. 2022 will be the year of first-party data models and cohorts as the industry scrambles to test new targeting solutions that are scalable under the tighter privacy guidelines that are now in place.

Sandy Sexton: Targeting – with many platforms changing their available data for pharma marketing, the industry will be looking at alternative ways of reaching their audience.

Angela Tenuta, president, full-service agencies, Intouch Group: Something that had a big impact, but feels a bit under the radar, is that the FDA seems to be tightening regulations on what products they will approve. Thirty percent of our planned launches for 2021 were stopped or delayed.

Emerging biotechs face the largest threat: data is not approved in the first round, creating a cascade back to study design. We’ve seen this happen to novel therapies for rare diseases as well as reformulated existing therapies with new MOAs. This type of impact to a biotech will result in the disbanding of marketing and field teams and reallocation of agency teams. Big pharma hasn’t seen the same share of stops, but they have been hit with launch delays. Wall Street takes note, as do community physicians, both of which impact the bottom line. Marketing teams are burnt out running scenarios; sales teams are put on ice; motivation of resources becomes a real challenge.

Joe Warren: Implementing digital strategies – the adoption of technology across the pharmaceutical industry both at the front end and the back end of the business. Technologies that supported the rapid development of COVID vaccinations at record speed such as advanced genetic sequencing. Technologies such as AI and programmatic platforms are being adopted within the marketing organizations for more accurate targeting of important audiences. Technologies such as blockchain (Pharmaledger) support the dissemination of medical leaflets and allowing for frequent and accurate updates. Blockchain supporting supply chain and preventing counterfeit drugs getting into the system, while also tracking drug use in hospitals.

Med Ad News: What’s up next for marketing technologies in 2022? And what will brands be doing with AI and data science this year that they were not doing yet last year?

Brian Cunningham, senior VP, media, CMI Media Group: There is little doubt marketing technology will continue to blaze new trails in pharma as more brands push to leverage data and automation to make smarter, swifter marketing decisions. Brands were at any number of points on the AI timeline last year, but in 2022 we will see many catch up to the pack. Those that have yet to utilize will run pilots to prove the concept, while those who have already tested will expand their scope and sophistication. This sea change will push many marketers and advertisers to adopt new customer engagement models and rebuild their data infrastructure. However, the bigger question for brands may be not whether they leverage AI, but who will ultimately build and house the engine that orchestrates it.

David Davidovic: Sorry to say, but history shows us that the reality of digital technologies, especially apps, have not lived up to the hype and expectations. People are just rolling their eyes. The opportunity will be in taking things down to basics and addressing and evolving those basics instead of going after some magic bullets or hugely complicated concepts. Those who keep it simple and at ground-level will prevail.

Andrew Grojean, associate director, innovation, Intouch Group: This year should be exciting for marketers, since 2022 is when the industry will likely bring to life AI applications that have been widely advertised but not yet truly implemented. Apps like next-best action, real-time content optimization, optimized CRM through dynamic segmentation and AI, and self-service options for patients and HCPs all use AI to make campaigns more efficient and drive more value.

Additionally, we should start to see pharma embrace newer channels for their marketing efforts, such as augmented reality (AR) and the metaverse. AR can be particularly useful for both in-person and hybrid conferences and as an educational tool. Since it requires fewer touch points and is easier to implement than ever, AR and computer vision apps are likely to significantly increase in 2022.

We also shouldn’t be surprised if pharma begins to have a presence in one of the many metaverses, either through advertising or building communities for patients. A singular “metaverse” is years away, but as adoption for the technology grows, so too will options for reaching patients.

Sally Lam: I’m no expert, but in the oncology space, enough diagnostic data seems to have been collected to start putting out information through AI to drive more precise, personalized cancer treatments and protocols. As with all things AI, we need to be careful about how to use this information or how much we should be relying on it.

Robert Lien, partner, Beghou Consulting: It’s easy for pharma companies to talk the talk about customer centricity, but much harder to walk the walk. But as COVID-related disruptions persist across the healthcare industry, companies must work to make their commercial efforts more customer centric and therefore responsive to shifting physician promotional preferences, disruptions in patient-physician interactions and patient treatment journeys, and more.

The core tenets of effective data management and data science will take companies a long way down this path. But in 2022, pharma companies must go a step further and bring disparate pieces of technology together into an overarching infrastructure. Ideally, this infrastructure would leverage artificial intelligence to automate insight generation, enable quicker response to changing circumstances, and facilitate the optimization of promotional efforts.

Organizational shifts must accompany technology enhancements, of course. Companies need to continue to break down legacy siloes (between sales data and marketing data, for instance). Appointing an internal champion who can bridge various teams within the commercial organization, bring disparate data streams together, and facilitate broad dissemination of AI-generated insights will be the right approach for many companies.

The need for enhanced customer centricity and responsiveness to changing circumstances will push companies toward more comprehensive technology systems that overlay all their commercial efforts and combine artificial intelligence and machine learning with solid data management and reporting. When organizational change accompanies this technological shift, companies will become more agile, responsive and successful in their commercial efforts.

Neil Matheson: Apps are like “shiny objects” that attract attention but often have little or no true value. Pharma marketers need to ask themselves the following questions. Why do I need to develop an app? Will the patients taking my drug use an app – will they see any value in it? How will I make them aware that an app is available? And what is the real ROI?

AI is the new “buzzword” but it has been around for several years and consistent with the past the industry has been slow to embrace it – mostly because there is a lack of understanding of how to maximize the value of AI across various pharma company initiatives. AI is therefore used by some agencies to “hypnotize” their pharma clients into believing they are bringing additional value but in fact it’s just “smoke and mirrors.” The true value of AI is yet to be realized but it will become a major factor when applied appropriately to inform decision making and develop programs that improve outcomes.

Data overload is driving the need for the application of data science to uncover the data that will inform decisions and drive the value of pharma sponsored initiatives. Marketers must rely on their colleagues in medical affairs to provide the data that supports a drug’s value proposition through real world evidence (outcomes that the patient values), improved health status including daily functioning, quality of life, and emotional well-being. Addressing challenges such as adherence through behavioral science will be enhanced by data-driven algorithms that address individual patient profiles to change their attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors related to their own health and well-being.

Courtney Mullen: With a cookie end date on the horizon, brands will continue to build their first-party data and customer data collection pools. These large data sets will give way to many very sophisticated ways to not only reach a more relevant target, but also play a role in predicting the pool of future targets.

Chris Mycek: Getting to real segmentation and personalization. We have the technology, now it’s a bottleneck of content constraint.

Lauren Ohlsson: For HCP marketing specifically, matching up impressions and interactions to the individual HCP has become increasingly essential when marketing to medical professionals. The process uses data points to ensure the impressions are reaching the right audience and enables the organization to utilize data platforms to effectively track the sales cycle for a pharma product. What once was a “nice to have” has become essential for our HCP clients.

Michael Oleksiw: While data is fully available across many spectrums of the healthcare industry, what we do with it and how it is understood for use is the critical factor. How it informs us to move toward action and how we breathe life into the data is what will set the path for success. Data is a tool for understanding patients on a deeper level and driving the emotional intelligence pharma marketers will need to realize better patient relationships. Utilizing the emotional intelligence gleaned from the data is what the future looks like.

AI/machine learning is starting to work its way into pharma companies – often through vendors and service providers and sidestepping IT. Like all technology adoption, the adoption curve goes from skepticism to trial to adoption. Pharma is a tough industry for innovation. Proof points need to be established to quantify the investment and establish a sense of confidence in choosing something new. The real adoption is when the technology can draw such intricate interrelations between data points and a pharma marketer positively impacting the success of the brand.

Sandy Sexton: Wearables seem to be a big discussion point for brands. And brands will be working on how patients can opt in for utilization of data.

Joe Warren: Supporting the sales rep. With sales reps struggling to engage in person with HCPs and the recognition that longer term access to HCP may not return to the access levels pre-pandemic, Pharma will be looking to supplement and support their sales force with new technologies. This can be achieved using data science to build a holistic view of the individual HCP and their interaction with marketing materials, and understanding the next best action to take to ensure that pharma brands continue to communicate and educate HCPs. The skilled sales rep will not be replaced by data science and AI but they will be increasingly supported.

Med Ad News: A focus on customer experiences has been a part of the broader world of consumer marketing for some time now, but CX is finally gaining a foothold in the pharma brand world. What do you think the cutting edge of pharma brand customer experience will look like in 2022, both for patients and HCPs?

Victor Chiu: We still have a long way to go here, but the best experiences will be ones that address the fundamental CX truth that no patient wants to be on our customer journey. By the time they hit our radar, patients are carrying a significant amount of physical, psychological, and emotional trauma wrought upon them by the greater healthcare ecosystem, and we must come together to address that before we’ll be able to make any real progress in our own neck of the woods.

David Davidovic: It depends on what “customer” we are talking about. Is it HCPs? Patients? Payers? The customer experience is getting better in terms of helping remove friction for access and reimbursement, but not so much in other areas.

Gregg Fisher, founder and managing partner, The Stem: As consumer technology companies like Apple and Amazon enter healthcare, pharmaceutical companies will be under increasing competitive pressure to develop or acquire customer experience (CX) capabilities. For Amazon and Apple, CX is at the heart of their company cultures, but for pharmaceutical companies it’s a new muscle.

CX in Pharma is about helping customers and patients navigate their disease and treatment journeys. It’s about looking at the world from the patient and customer perspective, understanding their needs at each stage of their journeys, executing delightful experiences aligned to these needs using technology, and measuring impact using thoughtful customer-centric measures. CX brings tangible value because high quality experiences have been shown to have a direct link to positive business outcomes, including higher levels of access and engagement, higher satisfaction levels, positive word of mouth, greater willingness to partner, improved sales and patient adherence, among others.

In 2022, aspiring CX leaders in BioPharma have the opportunity to bring the discipline of CX to areas of significant potential value. First, we expect digital health services that improve health outcomes will continue to be an area of focus, as Pharma companies accelerate their investments in this space.

In the commercial realm, we anticipate leaders will focus on improving experience quality in the areas of:

• Patient support services – omni-channel, cross channel programs that integrate nurse call centers and on-demand digital services.

• Omni-channel field force – efforts to evolve reps, MSLs, and market access account directors to be orchestrators of content and service interactions across channels

• Next generation meetings – programs to elevate the quality of live and on-demand peer-to-peer meetings. Finally, we anticipate medical affairs and market access, who have historically trailed the commercial organization, will step up their investments in CX as they design services to support on-demand access to medical and market access information across channels.

In 2022, leaders investing in CX should bear in mind a few key customer experience principles that Apple and Amazon know instinctively.

• Think horizontally. The customer and patient don’t care about functional silos. So, work in cross-functional teams.

• Map the journey. Research needs, pain points, emotional state at each stage of the journey. Pick the areas that will add the most value and start there.

• Use design thinking methods. Map out the desired experience to illustrate how customer needs will be met across the journey and across channel touchpoints.

• Define customer-centric measures. Develop a score-card that includes KPIs that track customer or patient definitions of value.

• Scout partnerships. Resist the urge to build it all in house. The digital health ecosystem is rich with tools and services that can be integrated to create differentiated experiences.

Julie Hurvitz Aliaga, senior VP, paid social, CMI Media Group: Research, research, research! We have to invest in research tools and opportunities – everything from market research to social listening and intelligence. If we have learned anything from the last two years, it is the need to understand our audiences – from HCPs to consumers – as well as their behaviors, needs and wants. We can no longer assume we know what they all need and want. We need to dig deeper, and ask questions to these groups – whether through surveys or teasing up new opportunities to look deeper and hear what is going on in their minds. This has been a big moment in time for us all when it comes to information, how we consume it, where we consume it, and how to dissect it – and we need to be sure we are understanding feelings and behaviors, and lining that up to the type of media opportunities and content we ultimately invest in.

John Kenny: For most pharma marketers, CX will move from being an orchestrated experience to a predictive one. Orchestrated is where most of the industry still is; segment specific experiences that are aligned with customer barriers, motivators, and channel preferences. This is great, but no longer enough.

We need to keep up with the best customer experiences our audiences are seeing in other aspects of their lives, experiences that are predictive; using behavioral data and AI-driven insights to anticipate customers’ needs in real time to deliver truly personalized and relevant experiences.

Sally Lam: Cutting through increased digital noise now more than ever. Keep it simple: Recognize that we are dealing with new users of the internet as their go-to channel (COVID caused) that perhaps are late adopters of technology … so keep it simple for this group.

Also, never forget the power of personal marketing, e.g., a phone call to a doc, or a handwritten note/card. More so than ever, everyone is trying to sell you a better CX tool. Always ask, “Are you simplifying or making harder?”

Neil Matheson: The past two years have taught us so much about misinformation, education, and the inability to clearly communicate to the community at large. Communication is supposed to be a fundamental aspect of the work of the CDC but they have universally failed to inform and educate the community about the virus and how to respond to it. This leaves the community with only the internet and their friends on social media as sources of information – and most of that is misinformation. The industry has to start with an understanding that consumers have very limited understanding of disease processes, the rationale for the treatment they have been prescribed, what to expect from the treatment, and how to manage the potential side effects. Until they become patients they don’t even think about these things and at that time they may be distressed by the diagnosis and not in a frame of mind to absorb information. In order to address these issues marketers, need to think about how to generate simple, easy-to-understand educational materials (video is an excellent medium if less than three minutes) that explain the disease, how it is treated, and what to expect from the treatment. As patient and caregiver education and support falls on healthcare professionals such as Physician’s Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Nurses, and Pharmacists, there needs to be increased consideration to programs that can be implemented through these professionals.

Liz McShea, director, paid social, CMI Media Group: Customer experience will become more personalized based on data and research that’s derived from multiple sources to ensure marketers are meeting customer needs where and when they occur. Combining different types of research, whether survey data, social listening, or content analyses, will allow marketers to not only understand what customers are thinking and feeling but the contributing factors to help inform more personalized messaging and understand at what point in the customer journey the messaging should be delivered. With COVID evolving the healthcare landscape and shifting perceptions, it’s now more important than ever to re-evaluate the needs of our customers to ensure we are adapting and delivering to meet those needs.

Chris Mycek: While timely, the need for HCPs to gather info remains the same … time to task. They want to find drug-drug interactions in three clicks or less. They are pressed for time and info.

Bonnie Overton, creative director, MicroMass, An Ashfield Health Company, part of UDG Healthcare: Retail or pharma? It doesn’t matter. Customers expect brands to adapt to their needs, behaviors, and preferences and to anticipate their needs based on their last interaction. What’s more important, is that customers expect this in real time, with the brand foreshadowing how the patient experience should continue to evolve.

Personalization used to be a nice to have, but now it’s a must have. Pharma has an opportunity to reach both the patient and the HCP. However, to do this, pharma brands must create an experience that is authentic and truly revolves around the patient and provider preferences.

For a customer’s experience to be meaningful, unique and deliver needs that translates across your brand’s ecosystem, personalization is important. But this personalization needs to go beyond traditional approaches and instead be created in a way that elicits feelings of empathy.

Connection is about trust and relevance. But connection is not one and done. Connection can ebb and flow. To be with people where they are, we have to move with them. We want the customer to trust your brand and realize that this trust will lead to deeper value and engagement. This is a powerful methodology that connects with people and makes more impactful experiences. And that can make all the difference to people – and your brand.

Sandy Sexton: Smart, user-friendly experiences built as mobile first. The world engages on their phones – and all digital experiences should be built to the mobile experience first. Additionally, the experience should be personalized and take the user on the journey, not repeat the same info over and over again.

Sunny Shah: The pharma brand customer experience in 2022 for both patients and HCPs will become increasingly similar to the personalization and convenience of on-demand digital services such as Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb. Digital health companies are already paving the way, driven by the surge in mobile health and telemedicine triggered by the pandemic, trends here to stay.

Although most of the emphasis has been on seamless digital brand interactions, at inVibe we’ve brought a similar experience to healthcare market research. Traditionally, research has often been an arduous chore for interviewee and interviewer alike – we’ve transformed insight gathering into a frictionless experience where test subjects respond from their own phones. Our pharma brand clients are given access to the backend, where megabytes of voice files are transcribed and analyzed using the latest natural language processing and machine learning algorithms, in conjunction with human linguistic analysis. Reports are generated in visualized formats replete with actionable recommendations for optimizing the end-user experience. The overall result for healthcare stakeholders is a barrier-free and user-friendly digital experience where consumer voices are literally heard, and pharma brand teams are able to listen and extract key insights. The end result is an improved patient and HCP experience, interestingly enough obtained by optimizing the market research experience for all participants.

Med Ad News: Sometimes folks forget about them with all the focus on technology, but pharma sales teams are still the ones on the ground – or on the virtual ground, as it happens. What do brands have to do to optimize and maximize the effectiveness of their sales teams in 2022 and going forward?

Victor Chiu: At the risk of being a bit on the nose, I continue to be bullish on AR capabilities – especially as processing power, bandwidth, and graphical fidelity continue to make dramatic improvements and become more accessible to average consumers.

Brian Cunningham: No smart marketer today is averse to the role technology plays in their marketing strategy, especially when putting their personal promotion to work. However, they also continue to be asked to do more with less. With access, budget, and resources all more constrained than ever in this channel, the key will be for sales, marketing, and IT not just to collaborate but unify their brand strategy to deliver relevant, memorable messages at precisely the right time to the right audience and in the right sequence. This is no easy task as it will require a new approach to their brand planning, perhaps adding even more cooks to the kitchen and requiring a longer process timeline to successfully accomplish. And it will not come without road bumps. But the sooner they adopt, the quicker they will learn how to harness the power of a new unified marketing team, pivot faster, and maximize the effectiveness of each precious interaction they have with their customers.

David Davidovic: Omnichannel orchestration has been a widely used buzzword, but when challenged, most uses and solutions have been just more sophisticated siloed multichannel implementations. We still have a distance to go for all the channels to work together, including people and technologies. The efforts are worthwhile, and some are getting there, but not yet.

Kevin Frymire, partner, Beghou Consulting: To succeed in this unsettled environment, pharma sales teams must be flexible so they can pivot quickly in response to changing circumstances (e.g., new variants) and align their promotional efforts with physicians’ needs and preferences.

There are two key pieces to embedding flexibility into a company’s sales efforts. One relates to data management. A company must have a robust data management and analytics infrastructure that enables it to quickly uncover insights and act on those insights in the field. As part of this effort, the company should document the preferred promotional channels for each customer to guide future outreach. The other piece is more strategic, relating to how a company structures and aligns its sales force. This strategic equation is more complex today as companies add more virtual reps to their sales forces and interact with HCPs across a wider range of promotional channels.

Companies must structure and align their sales forces so that they engage the right prescribers at the right times. At the same time, they must provide sales teams with the tools and training they need to pivot back and forth effectively between in-person and virtual environments – and meet physicians’ various promotional preferences. Further, as they add more virtual reps (either as company employees or via outside vendors), companies must ensure these reps are fully embedded in their commercial data infrastructures so they capture all data and insights from these reps’ efforts. It is also a good idea to assess and consider revising sales force structure and alignment more frequently today.By prioritizing flexibility in its sales efforts, a company will position itself to maximize commercial opportunity in the current environment.

Sally Lam: Keep them sane with “less is more” as we find new ways to build their tools. Shinier is not always better. Leverage field input teams to check on the effectiveness of surround-sound marketing with their customers, whether digital tools are interactive enough in their new selling environment. Listen intently. Learn from them as they are selling in a new environment. Invite them to be part of the process with all pieces. Leverage QR codes on all pieces where appropriate. COVID is to thank for opening the world to QR menus!

Greg Lewis, managing partner/president, Calcium: In 1957, my father, who was attending Cornell Medical School, was a sales rep for Pfizer. He would share medical updates with physicians in a truly educational format. He did admit to me that although he was allocated many samples, he rarely handed them out – in hindsight, I should have asked what he did with them. As a medical student, he was a true ambassador for Pfizer and earned the respect from his medical customers as a content expert.

In sales, the interpersonal relationship is at the center of the success equation. Experience + Credibility/Trust/Likeability = Respect. Once respect is established, and if a “need” is present the two driving elements will close a deal. In today’s environment, forming new relationships virtually can be a challenge. How can sales reps gain access to physicians and make an impact?

Access can be achieved by delivering value. The value my father delivered wasn’t in the product sample, but in the education he was sharing with his customers. If a sales rep today can bring new information to HCPs that will empower them to deliver better patient care, they will have an active audience.

Sixty-five years later things aren’t that different. But, today, the trick is navigating the balance between personal and virtual engagement to drive education and value. Marketers must continue to help sales reps not only navigate this hybrid world, but do so in a meaningful way. Once points of value are established the need will become present and will result in a sale.

Neil Matheson: There is a huge opportunity to bring creativity and innovation to the sales rep’s role. There are going to be fewer reps and their role will change. Technology can be used to provide highly engaging, educational materials that deliver key messages in 30 sec, 60 sec, and 90 sec soundbites. Digital detail aids are a waste of time and money. Reps need to be able to focus on the key message and deliver it in a highly creative and engaging way.

Chris Mycek: I was a rep … and my docs valued me as source of information and maybe entertainment. While doc access is down, there is still an opportunity for the “total office call,” where the rep focuses more on building relationships with the staff vs. just the doctor.

Nemesh Patel: Optimizing each commercial channel individually – including the rep channel – isn’t a viable approach anymore. Instead, life sciences companies must approach the customer experience holistically, but this can be overwhelming without technology to help make sense of the data.

The successful sales rep will take ownership of the comprehensive customer experience, and AI will play a critical role in recasting reps as these omnichannel orchestrators. AI is the only technology that can capture and analyze all of the customer data points, provide intelligent next-best-experience suggestions, and ensure sales activity is integrated within the broader customer journey. Visibility into past and planned cross-channel engagement is a must for sales success.

With AI making sense of the data – both internal and external including social media behavior – reps can personalize interactions to meet the needs and preferences of each HCP. Further, as field teams shrink and HCPs embrace new ways of engaging with pharma companies, AI can also help brands prioritize and coordinate outreach, so reps are only being deployed in situations where they can provide the most value.

Susan Perlbachs: I’m hearing that not all reps have adapted well to digital tools. I’ve heard stories of reps having difficulties sharing screens in Google Hangouts and Zoom. In response, some clients have tried to “keep it simple.” Better virtual detailing solutions (and training on the solutions) is needed.

Dan Rizzo, VP, global business consulting, Veeva Systems: While the pandemic wanes in some parts of the world and new variants shake up in-person restrictions in others, some companies will see office openings as an invitation to return to the old, face-to-face way of engagement. But in 2022, we’ll start to see a clear distinction between the performance of these commercial organizations versus those that continue to invest in digital. By being attuned to healthcare professional (HCP) needs and creating tailored experiences, digital-savvy teams will earn the loyalty of physicians by meeting them where they are, helping them outperform the competition.

Nearly nine out of 10 prescribers in the United States expect pharma to engage through a mix of hybrid and virtual channels, and the impact of that is clear as the promotional response to virtual calls is three times greater than face-to-face calls. Especially as physicians become more and more time-pressured, engaging through two-way communication channels will enable them to reach out on their terms across any medium, while making the best use of their time.

To reap all the bottom-line benefits of digital selling, however, companies will need to revamp their rep training, better leverage data, and invest in two-way digital channels. Having a clear vision and strategy that articulates why it is critical to continue investing in hybrid selling will also be key to driving long-term change and impact.

Sandy Sexton: More localized marketing materials that are reflective of the state of affairs in a local area – from COVID restrictions to access and coverage to languages spoken by the predominant patient populations – the materials and tools used by reps need to be appropriate to their audience.

Med Ad News: How do you foresee pharma’s marketing media mix changing – or not changing – in 2022? How will the various channels develop and change this year?

Sarah Caldwell, general manager, Crossix Analytics, Veeva Systems: In 2022, pharma marketers will place a greater focus on reaching patients and HCPs where they are in the evolving, on-demand digital media landscape. While linear TV buys continue to be the majority of direct-to-consumer TV advertising spending, targeted digital video opportunities, such as addressable TV, online video, and video-on-demand (VOD), will increase their share of TV spending. Since consumption of online streaming and digital video continues to see dramatic increases among consumers, there is a greater need for marketers to reach their audience across a variety of channels. And because of the targeting capabilities in delivering online video to specific audiences, marketers will be able to reach them more effectively with less media waste. We will also see an increase in the use of digital health audience segments to deliver targeted advertising. While this has been a growing trend over the last few years, it will become an important part of reaching the right HCPs and patients wherever they are already consuming content. Especially as upcoming regulation changes in social media limit marketers’ ability to reach key people, companies need to reevaluate their audience targeting, shifting tactics to rely more heavily on health audience segments.

Victor Chiu: Post traditional display on social, the next frontier is either gaming or sponsored social content. They both have all the challenges of traditional display, but dialed up to 11. With the rise of content creators and influencers, as well as Roblox and Among Us – the opportunity to drive awareness and engagement in a fun, self-aware, and compliant fashion with a huge, new generation of diverse customers is too strong to ignore.

Cliff Covey, senior VP, digital activation, CMI Media Group: Taking a step back, it is incredibly important to understand that our target audience, whether HCP or patient, consumes a variety of content in a ton of ways. Because of this, we need to continue to think outside of just banners. Of course banners are great at driving awareness when our audience is reading content, but that is only a fraction of their time spend online. Our audience is listening to podcasts and streaming music, watching videos, or streaming content directly to their TV devices. When developing content, we need to continue to take this into consideration and ensure we are creating content that our audience is engaging with, and thinking outside of just the traditional channels. In order to implement an omnichannel experience we need the right type of high-quality content to reach our audience in whatever content they are engaging with.

David Davidovic: The mix will probably stay constant, with the usual tweaks. In-person speaker programs will go down; sales presence and investment in certain restricted settings like hospitals will be reduced; a new world of flexible and adaptable content libraries will explode.

Sally Lam: Many of us saw the pandemic winding down at the end of 2021 to the point where we would return to some normalcy, but this did not turn out to be the case. As we have moved into the next year of this chapter, we continue to put more toward NPP. The companies who win are those that have pivoted and adjusted to a more heavily focused digital mix vs. pre-covid. Also, those who have tracked, followed metrics, and optimized accordingly will be clear winners as they can get the right messages to their intended audiences faster and cheaper.

We see ourselves proven right about virtual conference booths – ROI for the most part is not there with low traffic. The hybrid model is here to stay for a while. Conference spend will remain lower; virtual speaker programs will remain a bigger mix vs. pre-COVID. Spend in nonpersonal promotion will remain higher versus pre-COVID as rep access in offices continues to be limited.

Neil Matheson: Sales forces will decline and the role of the rep will change significantly. MSLs and Clinical Nurses will increase and they will play a major role in clinical trials, real world evidence, and patient support. Digital channels will dominate. There will be a return to focusing on science, evidence of real value, and patient marketing/support. Patients are now actively engaged in their health and the treatments being offered. Healthcare is becoming consumer-driven and the industry has to understand how to meet consumer needs.

Andrew Miller, senior VP, SEM and emerging media, CMI Media Group: Having the right approach to content and messaging is paramount. An omnichannel approach allows for your audience to see the proper messaging in an environment that feels comfortable. Consistency and accuracy will build trust for brands and being able to execute that across all channels will establish authority and drive conversions. Having an omnichannel strategy is essential and without it, competition will easily take advantage.

Chris Mycek: The channel mix will continue to evolve but telehealth and virtual calls are here to stay … and will gain momentum due to the convenience factor.

Lauren Ohlsson: 2022 is going to be the year of digital for pharma advertisers. Growth will remain consistent and emerging formats, such as CTV/OTT will move from testing to a large portion of the digital media mix. TV media budgets will be reallocated with more budget going toward digital. One of the most commonly used digital media tools is unbranded Google SEM. There is tremendous opportunity outside of Google SEM for unbranded initiatives and video products that can create a real connection with consumers as a part of their consumer journey. Branded products, although tied to stringent compliance, can also benefit from thinking outside of traditional digital parameters like standard banners. I’m looking forward to seeing pharma organizations put on their CPG hats to develop compelling digital experiences for both consumers and HCPs.

Michael Oleksiw: Patient education has always been part of the marketing mix. What that looks like and how it is delivered is what is changing. Tried and true print and digital assets still work, but not alone. Elevating a patient’s knowledge about a drug and providing resources for them to access helps build patient confidence, therefore driving better action. Pharma marketers need to examine the effectiveness of their marketing communications with this in mind. Millions are spent on developing patient resources, yet only a small percentage of patients even know they exist – yet desire to access them. Patients want information, so utilizing communication partners to build a bridge toward better patient access is what pharma marketers should be focused on in 2022.

Omni-channel is here to stay. It has gone from a misinterpretation of multi-channel marketing to an emerging powerful tool. The inherent challenge for pharma brands is their natural siloing by budget and responsibility. Omni-channel at its very heart starts with everyone being on board, or it will be like a shiny new toy that looks great, but doesn’t work. The mandate has to go out to all the myriad vendors who can pull together an effective multi-channel campaign to coordinate, share and present together. The brand mandate should be as clear as a version of Benjamin Franklin’s wise adage: “Hang together or you will surely all hang apart.”

Amanda Powers-Han, chief marketing officer, Greater Than One: 2022 will be a year of expansion, sophistication and connection. HCP media will prioritize non-personal promotional programs where physician targeting is down to the individual and engagement data is offered back to inform broader marketing and sales efforts. Social media platforms will continue to expand, offering peer-to-peer connection that HCPs need, especially with the limitations on face-to-face conferences. More recent channel adoption such as podcasts and public social platforms will continue to grow, and with experience, more advanced strategies will connect, content, context and connection. And with all the change and evolution in the marketplace, we must not forget the tried and true – paid search. Paid search is so much more than buying keyword phrases, and for those that understand what’s possible, it has more potential to serve our clients and brands better than ever.

Sandy Sexton: I think we will continue to see a shift toward more digital, virtual, and streaming experiences, and a reduction in more traditional platforms for pharma marketing.

Sunny Shah: Media mix modeling for pharma marketing remains part data science, part experience-based expert intuition. Knowing where precisely targeted HCP and DTC audiences already engage with multichannel content is fundamental; calculating the optimal distribution of spend channel-to-channel demands a proven analytics framework and years of marketing expertise.

Looking at 2022, here at inVibe we predict increased digital spend, with a focus on social media and influencer marketing. The power of peer-to-peer has proven itself throughout the multichannel mix, one where trust and credibility are as difficult to find and maintain as they are valued by patients and healthcare professionals alike.

CureClick, now a division of THREAD alongside inVibe, is structured around the engagement of patient ambassadors and advocates for the dissemination of vital health information. By empowering established influencers with critical data about clinical trials, participants feel more at ease participating and completing Phase III studies.

As pharma marketing evolves during 2022 and beyond, the use of both patient and HCP influencers will help bridge the credibility gap between pharma companies and the important work they do throughout the drug development and commercialization life cycle. Their use will also help level the playing field for otherwise marginalized segments finally given a voice.

Christa Toole, partner, search and analytics, Greater Than One: I predict we will continue to see an emphasis and growth in paid social for pharma. There are three reasons why: more specific targeting possibilities, high performance when it comes to driving action, and more familiarity with paid social in pharma.

Vendors like Swoop and MedData provide overlays that make targeting specific patients and HCPs possible on Facebook/Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. Swoop targeting includes targeting by ICD codes for targeting patients with certain diagnoses and/or those on certain medications.

Both MedData and Swoop can provide HCP level targeting based on a customer’s target list and/or specialty. We have seen performance on paid social only second to paid search in terms of driving action efficiently. But most importantly, pharma clients are getting more familiar with and comfortable with paid social as an advertising channel.

I predict we will still see this increase in paid social be more limited to the top platforms ie Facebook/Instagram for patients and LinkedIn for HCPs where third party overlays are worth the costs for the volume. I predict paid search budgets will remain strong. Both Google and Bing perform well in terms of driving action and clients realize the importance of visibility in search when patients and HCPs are searching. I don’t foresee more spend against YouTube due to its lack of targeting capabilities in healthcare. I predict spends around conferences will remain muted in 2022 and on the decline for print.

Med Ad News: What skills or offerings are brand managers going to expect from marketing agency partners in 2022 that they might not have expected in 2021? Why so? What other changes might be brewing in the agency world?

Brian Cunningham: AI requires the need for speed in pharma asset development and approval timelines. As this intensifies, brand teams are finding ways to manage marketing execution internally. This heavy lifting typically handled by agency partners puts pressure on them to now deliver more meaningfully than ever before. Depending on core competencies, agencies will be asked to step up their creative thinking, strategic guidance and marketing insights more than ever to fill the gaps in brand team disciplines left by the shift towards faster execution.

David Davidovic: The trend that started some time ago, underscoring execution and operations as more critical than creative, will continue … to the chagrin of art directors (sorry). Creativity goes only so far, and even the best will fall completely flat with poor execution.

Agencies, to be successful and survive, will need to be masters of every single angle of commercial capabilities. One can no longer afford to have a separate “marketing agency” from a “sales agency” from a “digital agency” from an” education agency,” etc.

Shyam Desai, VP, SEM and emerging media, CMI Media Group: Alongside the continued trend of omnichannel, marketing agency partners will be asked to be more immersed in the strategy side of the user omnichannel journey. What creative blueprint is most effective in eliciting a desired behavior? How and how often should an audience list be refreshed based on behaviors (or lack thereof) in the omnichannel journey? Marketing agencies, and our publishers have access to an incredible amount of data, which can and should be leveraged to enhance the omnichannel media plan.

Brian Ericson: Changes in video measurement and currency will be significant in 2022. These conversations will lay the groundwork for years to come. Many of the big media companies have already started to pilot tests with alternate monetization and measurement solutions to Nielsen, with the likes to Comscore, VideoAmp and others, and with the continued video fragmentation, cross-screen measurement and homogenized currency solutions will need to keep up with shifts in consumption.

Gregg Fisher: The pharmaceutical marketing landscape today is heavily impacted by two fundamental forces that are impacting client expectations and the model for agencies and consultants. First is “Complexity” and second is “Talent Scarcity.”

1. The marketing landscape continues to grow more complex as new data, tools, technologies and ways of working enter the scene while clients struggle to adopt and embed the old ones into their organizations. In this environment, clients increasingly require seasoned, specialist consulting expertise to help navigate the changes, including analyzing trends and insights, developing strategies and capabilities and managing execution. And, clients expect the advise they receive to be objective and fact-based.

2. At the same, the market for “digitally savvy” talent is extremely tight as the number of seasoned professionals fails to match client demand. Clients and agencies will need to compete find and retain the talent than can provide the actionable advice needed. Notably, in this environment, the most experienced consultants are increasingly turning to independent work to pick the most interesting projects and to structure work on their own terms.

The complexity and talent scarcity trends suggests that agencies and consultancies need to think critically about where they will focus and what they will offer. Will they excel at strategic consultancy? Or will they be more focused on execution? What services, niche areas of subject and domain expertise will be cultivated? Only the very largest of firms will be able to credibly claim they are able to support their clients in all areas. Other firms will want to narrow their focus to building their reputation for exceptional work in that area. That reputation in turn will help attract the precious talent needed.

Sally Lam: More decipherable and actionable analytics, since we’ve had a year’s worth of data to learn from. There is now more of a baseline. Media plans that are tighter and more effective than last year, more effective messaging and better CX, because we should have learned some lessons in ’21. More effective pharma-created patient tools to allow docs to use them during telemedicine visits with patients. This is not all on the agency; marketers also need to take on ownership of understanding our current “norm” better.

Neil Matheson: The recent consolidations in the industry have created some giant organizations and it is too early to determine if size really matters. With the loss of in-person working relationships over the past two years there will likely be a back-lash resulting in clients looking for in-person agency relationships that they value. This may be difficult for the large conglomerates who don’t have the flexibility to work in a more ‘boutique’ manner where every client feels like they are the only client on the agency roster. We need to remind ourselves that we work in a relationship business where accounts are awarded based on “expertise, experience, and creativity” combined with ‘personality and likability’. A client once told me that if two agencies were tied after the second pitch, they awarded the business to the team they liked and felt they would enjoy spending time with.

Courtney Mullen: More businesses and clients will not only expect but demand agencies to make commitments to support diversity in publishers and content with their media dollars. The momentum from last year in the fight for justice among many groups helped open the eyes of corporations to put their money where their mouths are and the public will demand accountability.

Chris Mycek: Agencies need to get lean, with less bodies doing more work. Client partners should be capable of strategy, managing teams, and communications. In the entertainment world, show runners.

Susan Perlbachs: A few years back, there was a trend where pharma companies started taking things in-house, cutting agency budgets. The tide is turning. The savings weren’t there. The talent isn’t there. I think we’ll see a lot of those budgets go back to agencies or off-shore resources.

Kathryn Ticknor-Robinson, director of research, inVibe, a Division of THREAD: Brand managers are going to expect a heightened sensitivity to and willingness to incorporate the patient voice in everything agency partners and pharma marketers do in 2022. Gone are the days of “flying blind” because market research is too costly, cumbersome, or time consuming to perform prior to the launch of a new treatment, campaign, support program, or clinical trial.

Pharma brand teams are increasingly insisting on strategic decision making informed by patient and professional insights. Market research capabilities that augment traditional quantitative and qualitative approaches will be embraced to quickly, efficiently, and cost-effectively better listen to, understand, and incorporate stakeholder voices into every brand decision to be made.

InVibe Labs understood this need, and has filled the gap. Voice recordings of patient and professional responses to stimuli are recorded from their one phones, analyzed with natural language processing software and human linguistic expertise, then reported back to brand teams with actionable recommendations for pharma marketing optimization.

The revolutionary approach helps meet increasing brand team expectations for incorporating healthcare stakeholders voices at every step of the commercialization life cycle. Armed with insights, brands strategize with greater confidence, and create end user experiences that can meet and exceed ever increasing expectations for heightened engagement and relevance.