Why pharma digital budgets are stagnant

KEY TAKEAWAY: TV is still the king when it comes to DTC budget allocations.  Digital will still get “a budget” but until the pharma organization is realigned around digital marketing it will always be under funded.

We are entering a critical time for all digital marketing.  Google is trying to eliminate ad fraud, it’s estimated that up to 90% of all online ad metrics could be questionable and software companies are adding ad blockers to their browsers.  So should pharma invest more in digital marketing? Yes!

Pharma is unique in their marketing because very few people are going to run to their doctor to ask for the product without going online to conduct research.  So the head scratcher is “why doesn’t pharma embrace digital marketing a lot more?”  Here are the reasons per my observation(s)..

1ne: Exit of digital marketing people and failure to recruit digital marketing pirates.  It’s estimated that 40% of people quit their jobs last year to leave for better opportunities.  Digital marketing people tend to be “pirates” in that they think differently than traditional marketing people.  In pharma they often get frustrated with endless meetings and legal/regulatory restrictions.

2wo: Too many big offline agencies taking on digital.  Let’s face it, big ad agencies are not equipped to leverage digital and often tell the clients that “TV is where to put your dollars” because they make more money.  Ad agencies that have purchased smaller digital agencies often loose the people who made that agency great because they don’t like working with big process driven organizations.

3hree: Metrics that don’t tell a story or identify opportunities.  I can’t tell you how many times I get metrics from clients that still ignore key performance issues like bounce rate and number of pages viewed.

4our: They’re not listening.  Social media is ripe with opportunities to help patients navigate the complex world of online health, but pharma just isn’t listening and by the time they do listen online health seekers have gone elsewhere for answers.

5ive: But what’s the ROI?  Too many emarketing people are burdened with constantly having to show ROI o everything they do.  One emarketing person had to wait 6 months and convince managers that converting their website into a responsive platform was needed.

6ix: “Look what I did”.  DTC executives love TV because it makes THEM a star.  They also get to go on shoots often to exotic locations and have great dinners with agency people on the company nickel.

7even: “Why do we need a usability test?”  Failure to follow a process that consistently delivers best in class websites because of either ignorance or budget restrictions.

So we are almost at the half way point of 2017 and what I am seeing is digital getting whacked, budgets, and more TV ads.  Our group just had to stop work on a major digital initiative with a client because they shifted more dollars into TV, despite our work testing very well with the target audience.

Pharma should be concerned.  They are loosing people who can make a difference at an alarming rate while corporate insiders stay loyal to their paychecks instead of patients and pat themselves on the back at pharma conferences.  I wish I could say it’s getting better….