Pharma agency challenges and opportunities

QUICK READ: According to Setup 30% of Brand marketers say they’re likely/somewhat likely to switch Agencies in the next 6 months. While the consolidation of agencies may be a priority for some pharma companies a good digital agency can add a lot of value. There is a lot of downside to letting your main ad agency do your digital work.

Setup also found that one third of brand marketers want their agencies to better understand their business + seek greater transparency and communication between Agency and Brand. Additionally, over half of Agencies crave transparency and better communication with a partner who sets reasonable expectations and listens.

Where to start…

Let’s talk about digital marketing for a minute. Digital marketing has become more complex than just building a website and purchasing some paid media. Real-time analytics can provide almost immediate insights into how online health seekers are considering your brand. Online ads are full of fraud, especially programmatic, but there is a correlation between online creative and metrics. An agency that specializes in digital knows this, and they should be creating your online ads.

The other issue, which is the elephant in the room, is the failure of so many product websites to be optimized with new content while unused content remains unused. Your agency should have access to your website metrics and should be recommending changes/additions based on what they see and what they hear on social media. Can your all-in-one agency do that?

Now about the agency integration. If you treat your agency like a vendor, they will act as a vendor instead of a strategic partner. When I was in charge of the Cialis online launch, I developed a website for our agencies to share insights, timelines, and creatives. Also, we had bi-monthly agency integration meetings to ensure everyone knew what was happening and why. All of our agencies also had access to all of our research.

I understand that it can be hard to bring on a digital agency given the hurdles that procurement can throw up but if you hire a good digital agency they are going to make you look good and, more importantly, they will provide a better ROI. Make them accountable and make them partners.

I personally don’t believe that big offline agencies can execute digital as well as digital agencies only. When the big agencies started to acquire smaller digital agencies, many people left because they couldn’t work in a big agency environment. I’ve analyzed a lot of digital metrics for clients and have found, when they used bigger offline agencies, the ROI was way below average. On the other hand, I’ve had digital agencies call me and tell me that a certain tactic is not working well and recommending changes to improve ROI.

The last issue that warrants attention is the switch of CPG brands in shifting MORE money to digital. While I’m a digital marketer, I feel this is a huge mistake. More people were shopping online during the pandemic, and they are using this as a selling point for marketers to spend more money online. However, we see now that many people are starting to “shop” again at stores. Why? People are tired of shopping online and are eager to spend the money they have saved.

If your audience is big enough, TV is still the best way to generate awareness, but your website has to close the gap between awareness and asking their doctor about/for an Rx. My analysis for clients shows that DTC marketers are really dropping the ball here and losing potential customers. Again, this is one reason you need a deep analytic group or an agency that can be proactive rather than reactive to your brands’ needs.