Will pharma ever get digital?

SUMMARY: Digital marketing is too damn important to leave to your agency. Pharma needs to develop digital marketing expertise in-house and have marketing people integrated within each brand team.

There it was again. I was hired to do an analytic report for a client’s website, and the results were poor. Although the raw number of visitors was in the thousands, the bounce rate was 89%, time on site was under a minute and pages viewed was 1.8. My recommendation was to review the research used to develop the site, and after two weeks, I’m still waiting for that research.

The other problem that I noticed was that they had spent six figures on paid search with just as bad metrics. The amount of money that was wasted was beyond comprehension when expenses are going to come under more scrutiny.

The pandemic has led to a surge in online health seekers as they become consumers of their health choices. Pharma’s response has been, to say the least, disappointing. Websites look like ads from medical journals, and I have yet to find one product website that actually “talks” to the audience rather than trying to sell them on therapy.

I’m still seeing clients use programmatic advertising and seeing their ads appear on questionable sites, including anti-vaxxer sites. One programmatic buy I analyzed had a fraud rate of close to 50%. That’s unacceptable.

It’s elementary. To get digital right, you need to build in-house capabilities for EACH brand team. A centralized marketing group can’t integrate enough to understand how to leverage digital to drive brand objectives.

Another reason you need dedicated marketing people is to help cut through the hype versus reality when it comes to digital marketing tactics. It’s one thing to try something new and evaluate the results; it’s another to waste money on something that looks great but doesn’t do a damn thing for your audience.

Pharma alienates people because of their stance on price negotiations with Medicare and high prices of COVID vaccines and treatments developed with taxpayer money.

Digital marketing can be a bridge between building patient trust and restoring pharma’s reputation, but the time to talk about it is over; investment in digital is needed NOW.

Product websites need to be launched with as much research as TV commercials. Copywriters are required to write in a language that people can understand and relate to. Side effects need to be put into perspective, not justlisted.

The hiring of digital professionals is essential for the industry NOW.