KEY TAKEAWAY: Why can’t pharma achieve digital excellence and become a marketing leader rather than a follower? There is no one simple answer to that question, but the core of the problem seems to be an acceptance of mediocrity when it comes to engaging patients and then blaming it on the fact that “we’re a regulated industry”. That is a sorry excuse that is contributing to less effective DTC marketing
Here are the challenges of becoming digital marketing pioneers according to the feedback I received:
(1) Lack of Digital Marketers – By far the biggest complaint was that there are too many people in DTC marketing who don’t understand digital marketing and tend to go for channels that are more glamorous. This is compounded by organizations that insist that employees “rotate” to a new position every 2-3 years and are replaced with inexperienced marketers. It is particularly frustrating for some agency people who have to school new people on digital marketing 101 principles thus possibly loosing momentum for ongoing initiatives.
(2) Antiquated Legal and Regulatory Teams – Legal and regulatory teams continue to be a major barrier for DTC marketers. The FDA has been too vague in what is acceptable and is constantly studying the wrong things when it comes to DTC ads.
Now keep in the mind a recent report from Fleishman-Hillard on digital marketing:
Despite the perceived increase of regulatory risk associated with digital media platforms, an examination of regulatory enforcement patterns instead finds that traditional media platforms have garnered more regulatory actions from FDA than have digital media:
- Of the 675 violations examined during the years 2008-2012, 43 percent (n=290) involved digital media vehicles while 57 percent (n=385) involved traditional media.
- Of the 176 regulatory action letters sent to companies by FDA, less than 1 percent (actual n=1) involved a social media platform as the basis for the letter.
- A Warning Letter, the more serious type of regulatory action letter issued by OPDP, was issued nearly three times more often for violations involving traditional media vehicles than those involving digital media.
- The proportion and number of Warning Letters issued against digital media vehicles have declined every year since 2009.
If pharma is to succeed with digital marketing they need people who both understand the channel, but also need to remove some of the chains that hold these people back and prevent success. I was able to succeed at Lilly with allowing posts via social media because I took the time to work very closely with my legal and regulatory team to earn their trust. Today a lot of marketers just don’t seem to have the time to do that because they are in their positions for too short a period of time. Pharma can make the leap, but we need more pharma marketing digital pioneers. Any volunteers?