Can pharma build in-house digital talent?

istock_000007867680xsmallPOST SUMMARY: While more CPG brands are building a digital marketing talent in-house and relying less on agencies most pharma companies are loosing digital marketers.

According to the 2014 Sodareport;

Digital expertise on the client side (CPG) has continued to grow for a number of reasons, including:

• A wave of new talent at both blue-chip and challenger brands around the globe.

• The development of more elaborate client-side teams with direct responsibilities for digital.

• The hiring of former digital agency professionals.

• The embedding of agency partners within internal client teams to build stronger digital expertise.

• Quite simply – due to the fact that digital is now infused in all aspects of marketing and the customer experience.


While consumer packaged goods companies are bringing digital talent in house pharma and biotech seem to be loosing digital talent in droves.  Most of the healthcare digital marketing agency people that I have talked with say that “business is really good” but they are spending a lot of time educating pharma marketers on the changes within internet marketing along with some online marketing basics.

In the CPG arena the number of marketers working with zero agencies has risen, again indicating that more and more of the responsibility for digital marketing efforts is resting with brands. The report goes on to say “one of the most significant changes in the past 12 months has been the increase in the percentage of agencies providing education and training services to clients who have developed internal teams to handle digital production and maintenance. That figure rose a whopping 25% in relative terms, from 28% of respondents in 2013 to 35% in 2014.”


Why is pharma loosing digital talent:

1ne: The culture within most pharma organizations is not consistent with the risks needed to really leverage digital marketing initiatives.  The only way to respond is by changing your approach to risk. You’re not out for a leisurely drive, sticking to the straightaway and steering clear of danger. You’re a Formula 1 driver, using every hairpin turn and unexpected development as an opportunity to secure the lead. Back to back to back meetings are not the way to implement risk within pharma.

2wo: Demand for digital marketers outside of pharma has increased dramatically.  CPG companies are adding more and more people with digital marketing backgrounds and paying them very well.

3hree: Digital marketers within pharma are getting frustrated at the snails pace rate of new digital marketing initiatives.

4our:: Digital marketers are tired of dealing with regulatory and legal people who don’t understand digital marketing.

First, let me say that I believe that it’s our job to bring the whole organization up to speed on new digital marketing opportunities, but in doing so it’s also essential to realize that there is always going to be some risk in executing cutting edge digital marketing programs.  Today’s consumers of healthcare are hard to reach and have more online resources to manage their health than ever, so we need to push the envelope and get others within our organization excited about the possibilities of digital marketing.

In the end our success is more about patients than attending a conference and saying “look what I did”.  For every success we have translates into more patients getting the information they need to ask their doctor about our products which is the first step in better health.