Will pharma ever “get” emarketing?

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: CPG companies have been investing heavily in building digital capabilities because they understand that traditional interruption marketing is not as effective as before.  But pharma companies seem to be stuck in neutral when it comes to emarketing for DTC marketing.  The primary reasons are the pressure on the pharma business models along with gaps in retaining and acquiring talented emarketing people.

As a consultant, I am getting more calls from CPG companies who want to explore new avenues in digital marketing including mobile.  The key difference is that they are not looking at “CPM” models for ads, rather they are looking for ways to consumers to see their brands as a valuable part of their lives. ” [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]There is too much content out there right now and we need to find a way to help consumers better manage their daily lives”[/inlinetweet] one prospect told me.


Yet pharma emarketing is crawling.  I do not expect the percentage of DTC marketing budgets to increase for emarketing this year.  Too many marketers are in love with TV and don’t understand basic marketing concepts like “effective reach”.  They also are not spending more on developing best-in-class health sites. They, too often, see emarketing as an expense, not a valuable tool to help patients chose healthcare treatments.


The other persistent problem is the continued exodus of emarketing talent from pharma.  They get frustrated constantly having to fight for budgets, spending all day in meetings and working with IT departments that are too territorial to understand why “we need to do this”. When a senior C suite executive called me and asked why pharma was so behind in emarketing my reasons were…

1ne: The excuse that we are a regulated industry leads to conservative emarketing.

2wo: Agencies, which often suggest budget allocations, too often recommend TV so they can make more money.

3hree: DTC marketers don’t understand “effective reach” and the impact that the internet is having on healthcare decisions.

4our: DTC marketers aren’t doing enough research to learn what patients want online from pharma companies.

5ive: Exodus of emarketing talent from pharma.


6ix: Conception that “creating an online site”is all about site design and not about what patients want.

7even: Lack of understanding of digital marketing’s impact of all of their marketing.

8ight: Belief that people are going to run to their doctor after seeing a DTC commercial.

9ine: FDA’s inability to understand online behavior in the healthcare marketing model.

So will pharma ever learn?  I’m not sure.  This is an industry that woefully underestimated the impact of high drug prices and sees consolidation as the only way to increase sales.  Last week a Cambridge based client asked me “why I wasn’t employed full time by a biopharma company given my expertise”. My response was that frankly, I think they are afraid because I try not as much to “fit in” as I do to put patients first and do what’s right for the brand and customers.  He responded “I could see that, you tend to tell it like it is and that’s an exception in this industry”. Sigh..