Does pharma need WebMD?

KEY TAKEAWAY: Pharma does not need WebMD, even though they are the number one health portal, because there are better opportunities for ad placement and integrated content.  If WebMD wants to work with pharma they need to earn it via a clear demonstration of ROI.

One of the services my group offers is to review on and off line media plans for clients who are overwhelmed with the complexity.  More and more we are declining to place ads on WebMD because there are better online properties to place ads.  When it comes to “integrated content” and value added programs WebMD too often fails to provide the hard data that we need to show a clear path between their programs and ROI.

OK, so WebMD is the number one health portal. So what?  As I have talked about many times before the online search for health information does not involve one site.  Online health seekers will go to many sites depending on how big the health problem they are researching effect their lives.

DTC marketers need to think like an online health seeker and place media where THEY are online.  I, for example, have had better metrics with health pages on out top newspaper sites.  We also highly recommend that rather than trying to get someone to click on your ad you deliver the brand message via an integrated online ad as a lot of people surf the web at work and won’t go to a pharma site during that time.

WebMD has had a lot of problems in the past years as well with a new CEO and top talent leaving.  At times I have tried to call WebMD reps to get more information that has never been received.  In a way they are a lot like Twitter, they have the users, but just don’t know how to monetize it.

WebMD can make a comeback, but they need some good independent quantitative case studies that clearly demonstrate to pharma and its agencies that WebMD can help them achieve brand objectives. Until that happens, they are just another web portal.