SUMMARY: Pharma has been relying on digital agencies for too long but agencies can’t begin to understand your audience like brand team members. Having a brand digital marketer constantly communicating with digital agencies is a waste of time and money.
Pharma brands have come to rely too heavily on digital marketing agencies for a range of services, from paid media to actual website development. While some excellent digital agencies out there, outside vendors don’t know what brand team members have when it comes to their audience.
Good brand teams use market research as a tool to help them understand their current customers and target audience. However, what surprises me is that this data is not shared with digital agencies too often. Also, digital agencies tend to rotate people who take with them the knowledge they have acquired in working with your team.
When I was in charge of launching Cialis.com we used Ogilvy One who, at the time, was outstanding. Every one of the people we worked with at Ogilvy One has left the agency. They were the only agency who, when they pitched us, said they couldn’t communicate a strategy because they didn’t know anything about our brand or target audience.
Today, I have found that too many digital agencies have become larger and need billings to cover overhead. Two weeks ago, I reviewed an agency proposal for a client that included more than $25K per month in paid search. When I asked, “who’s going to check the metrics to check the performance of the spend?” I was met with that awkward silence.
The person on the brand team was overwhelmed just trying to get the product website updated and needed help prioritizing spending. She was working 10 hour days and I often would receive emails from her on weekends asking questions.
Let’s be clear: digital marketing is perhaps your most important marketing touchpoint to generate new prescriptions. TV is great at awareness but patients want to know more and Dr Internet is available 24/7.
Forward-thinking pharma companies have to do a lot more than hire a VP of Digital Marketing. They have to hire digital marketing teams to do everything from analyzing paid media to develop content that online health seekers want and need. They need to be part of your brand team so they can understand your audience.
CPG companies are already ditching agencies and bringing expertise in-house. It’s time for pharma to do the same. A VP is not a good start. Instead, you need managers who can quickly evaluate your organization’s needs and add people who will get it done instead of business political savvy.