Why adding outside digital talent won’t help big pharma

  • Pharma companies have been hiring senior digital executives from CPG companies.
  • One executive is not going to change big pharma’s culture.
  • Digital is a way of thinking and the whole organization has to be aligned in digital thinking.

Pfizer made news this week by hiring a senior digital executive from outside pharma.  I hope they paid him a lot because he has his work cut out for him.

I recently spoke to someone who was hired as a senior digital executive by a top 10 pharma company last year.  He is frustrated and wondering if he made a mistake coming into pharma marketing.  Among his  frustrations, in his own words..

“I keep hearing why we can’t do something as opposed to how we CAN do something”

“The IT department has way too much power and influence in a digital initiatives”

“Regulatory and legal people don’t really understand today’s digital online health seekers”

“Everything, and I mean everything, takes weeks of meetings and Power Points wasting valuable time”

“Most of our current digital spending has a negative ROI when we deep dive the analytics”

“The engagement metrics on our branded websites are terrible and the brands don’t seem to care”

This guy is making a great living with a great six-figure salary, but he said that everyday, for him, is a battle.  “I’m trying to get people to think digital but I have never seen a culture so ingrained in Tv as opposed to digital.” he told me.  He went on to say that every bit of research, he has shown that digital drives brand objectives, but the lion’s share of money still goes for TV.

Every report from the top consulting organizations clearly shows that in order to succeed in digital the organization needs to be reshaped to think digital but big pharma is a big ship that is slow to change course.

Bringing in outside digital people may sound great, but make no mistake about it; it’s going to require a lot of time and hard work to change pharma from the love of TV to digital where people go for online health information.