40 years of E-Marketing
Pharma e-marketers have the Cold War to thank for their craft.
Historical accounts show that in the 1960s, the US Department of Defense's Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) decided to try to connect a handful of computers to share information as a way to communicate in the event of a nuclear attack.
In December 1969, the first transmissions were made over a system called ARPAnet, which had four main hubs—the Universities of California in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, the University of Utah, and SRI International.
Once these systems were connected, researchers could sit down at a computer at one hub and access information from computers at the other hubs.
The invention was expanded with other networks such as NSFNet, which began transmitting in 1985. NSFNet was funded by National Science Foundation and consisted of five supercomputer centers that served as highways for data traffic.
The network later gained recognition from the public in 1991 when NSF first allowed commercial use of the Internet.
By 1995, NSF had removed its funding completely, leaving the Internet a self-supporting industry. Soon after, NSFNet and similar networks that had popped up around the world were becoming part of a World Wide Web.
According to the healthcare marketing research firm Manhattan Research, 26.3 million Americans were actively seeking pharmaceutical information online by 2003. That number was up from approximately 11.6 million in mid-2001.
By 2005, nearly two out of three primary care physicians accessed the Internet at least once a day for clinical or professional information, according to health research firm Pri-Med.
Affordable computers for the masses
International Business Machines (IBM) introduced its personal computer or “PC” in 1981.
The computers came with 16K of memory, expandable to 256K. Shortly after its introduction, the PC was named Time's 1983 “Machine of the Year.”
The price tag of the first PC was around $1,500—the equivalent of about $4,000 in 2006.
The price of computers fell drastically when other companies started copying the PC. This made computers cheap enough for everyday people to buy, and word-processing easier.
Further evolution of technology saw the introduction of the first Tablet PCs in the early half of the 1990s—Tablet PCs have features such as a swivel screen and touch screens to make presentations easier.
Tablet PCs have become a widely used mobile solution for pharma sales reps with estimates stating that nearly two-thirds of US pharmaceutical sales representatives will be deployed with a Tablet PC by the end of 2006.
As the use of the computer and the Internet became more widespread, pharma marketers searched for better ways to get their marketing message to consumers and healthcare professional through electronic methods.
Blockbuster efforts get mice clicking
Claritin — This online campaign was considered to be way ahead of the curve when it landed in the late-1990s. Schering-Plough's Claritin led the way with interactive site components including a clever non-branded allergy-learning lab. The branded portion of the Web site offered an interactive component.
Accutane — Roche developed the FaceFacts.com Web site—one of the first unbranded campaigns executed on the Web. The site had components for teen boys and girls, the primary patient population using Accutane. The Web site was noted for its non-offensive, straight forward style and a no-pregnancy component warning about the dangers of Accutane's side-effects.
Johnson & Johnson's Gateway — J&J's early foray into physician interactive marketing has been key in the company's emergence as a leader in the medium. The company's “Gateway” physician portal offers raw material purchasing among their med device companies. Other efforts from the company, such as its baby.com site have helped grow the company's reputation as a electronic marketing force.
Nexium — AstraZeneca's messaging was consistent. They used fresh creative and were innovative by using both a broad and targeted approach. Expandable ad units not only drove traffic to the brand site but also to collected data in the unit itself. If a consumer wanted information they never needed to go to the site, they could simply supply points of contact in the form on the unit and submit.
Web tops 800- number for info
More than 22 million surveyed consumers reported going online to learn more about advertised pharmaceutical products, compared with only 6.2 million consumers who dialed an 800-number, MM&M reported in January 2006.
“These new findings represent a shift in behavior whereby consumers are far more likely to use the Internet for patient education and disease information than they are likely to use the 800 number of a pharmaceutical company,” said Meredith Abreu, VP of research at Manhattan Research, the firm that conducted the survey.
By the beginning of 2006 it was becoming clearer that the Internet has become a vital tool for pharma marketers efforts.
1981: International Business Machines (IBM) introduced its personal computer or “PC.”
1997: The first pharma e-marketing campaign—Schering Plough's Claritin—with work from interactive agency I-Frontier, blazed a trail in pharma e-marketing with sponsorships, a personal allergy profile, e-mail campaigns and other tactics —before most other pharma brands were even advertising online.
1998: WebMD was founded in Atlanta in 1998 and a year later merged with Healtheon to become Healtheon/ WebMD. In 2001, WebMD acquired Medscape, the leading health information site for physicians.
1990s: Introduction of the first Tablet PCs.
2004:MM&M reported that Pfizer's Lipitor—the world's best selling prescription drug—was the most-searched for prescription-drug on the Web.
2006: More than 22 million surveyed consumers reported going online to learn more about advertised pharmaceutical products as compared with only 6.2 million consumers who dialed an 800-number.