The ephemeral vision of digital pharma

KEY THOUGHT: I am very disappointed, again, in the Digital Pharma conference that just took place. I would have hoped that the people presenting would have acknowledged the elephant in the room, but they ignored him. How can we expect the industry to change of we can’t even understand that pharma, right now, is in a crisis?

How do we, working in digital marketing, focus on trying to repair our battered reputation? What do the digital analytics mean for us and what is needed to ge back on track with online health seekers? These are important issues that were all but ignored at Digital Pharma East.

I have access to an ongoing quantitative study of online health seekers use of drug company websites, and it’s apparent that they are having minimal effect of driving behaviors.

Not to take this research at face value I dove into some click-stream and online analytical tools for various drug company websites. What I found made me say out loud “what in the hell are these people doing?”. Bounce rates that are extremely high, time on site is dismal and click stream analysis clearly shows online health seekers are going to other sites to get information and make decisions.

None of this seems to matter at the conference. I then put in a call to a pharma company executive who was hired from the CPG industry to lead a digital transformation and asked him “what’s going on?”. His response was terrifying. He said he is hugely frustrated by the culture within his company and that it’s taking months just to make simple breakthroughs.

When the last Gallup Poll broke, I had two calls from people and the media asking me, “what does this mean?” and “do you think the industry will change?”. My answers were it means a lot to people who need guidance in making healthcare decisions and that “no, I don’t think the industry cares.”

As I read some of the Tweets from the conference I kept seeing data that lacked context and people who were willing to accept stats that should have been questioned. 50% of people watch TV monitors in doctors offices? of course, they are bored! What good is talking about a shingles do when the vaccine is being rationed because of short supply?

There is not one elephant in the room there are several. The first is the short supply of digital marketing talent and the second are the agencies and vendors whose only goal is to get new clients. Not one person had the guts to stand up in front of the audience with a first slide that says “we’re an industry in crisis!”.

Perhaps I was expecting too much but then I have always tried to be someone who tries to communicate the reality of the barriers we face everyday. In this conference ignorance is bliss and by the way I’m earning a good salary so “why would I want to rock the boat!”.