Media Directors On the Spot

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James Chase: What are the key issues that you and your departments are grappling with in the healthcare space?

Gwen Canter, VP, media director at Sudler & Hennessey: I think the biggest challenge is to fully integrate all our plans—that's “e,” traditional journal advertising and things that are DTP-focused—into one plan using one budget to maximize reach. It's very hard to reach and impact all of these together, but eventually we're going to have to do that.

Debbie Renner, SVP, media director at Cline Davis & Mann: Cross-channel syndicated research is a big void in professional advertising right now. In the consumer world, metrics are years ahead of the professional world.

Perry Kolber, SVP, director of media services at LyonHeart: We're being asked to quantify a qualitative buy. How do you measure cost per thousand when you're targeting vascular thoracic surgeons and there are 50 of them? And then you're being asked why the CPM is so high. They're not really asking us what the ROI should be measured on in general terms. And we're doing it on the fly. We're doing the best we can but we're also being challenged—sometimes it gets really heated. We can't quantify something that's not quantifiable; we're not selling tuna fish. The education on the ROI side needs to be perfected.

Lisa Ingersoll, managing director at Euro RSCG Life Media: We have to get in front of our clients more and convince them it's not just about quantitative numbers anymore. It's about customer experience, how much time they're spending with the customer, what they're taking away from it and the relationship they're building with them—and we can't always quantify that. 

PK: And I think a lot of times the quantification is hollow. You can slice or dice stats any way you want to make them positive or negative, but what are they really telling you? What is the ROI you're looking for going to do for you? What is a low CPM? Is that going to translate into scripts?

Amy Levinson, SVP, planning & analytics at KPR: The offshoot of a lack of consistent metrics is getting our clients to take the leap and move more into multichannel marketing. Unfortunately we get into a situation that if ROI can't be demonstrated there is hesitation to take that leap. Often, fear and hesitation will drive this challenge—those willing to take that chance will gain the knowledge and experience to play within this rapidly evolving space.
PK: We're being challenged to be new, innovative and quantifiable, but we're not always getting those initiatives approved. 

Lisa Healy, media director at Regan Campbell Ward • McCann: I find I'm brought in a little bit late in the process and if they were to incorporate the media person early on—at those beginning stages where they're holding tactical meetings—I think they would get a lot more value from media. 

LI: We need to convince clients that now is the time the media director should play a bigger role than ever.

LH: I really try to encourage my account teams to get me in front of the client. And for those teams that have done that, they've had me back again and again. And they find the information—the media perspective—so interesting. The teams are a lot happier in the end. 

Rebecca Frederick, general manager at Conectics, part of CommonHealth: I think one thing that's key is that you really can't just be a media person. You can't come in with a media hat on. In fact you've got to make sure you come in wearing a marketing disguise. You have to be an extension of the marketing team. You have to be part of their marketing place. Media is almost a bad word. 

PK: We're being brought in on the creative aspect—clients are asking what's out there, what's new, what are you working on, what can we do with this, how can we put it out there? It's definitely a shift that media is pushing the creative rather than the other way around. 

LH: It's a trend we're going to be seeing much more.

PK: But then the client says: “Wait a minute, this is on top of development? And then all of the sudden they start pushing back in terms of do they want to pay the extra hours. Which is why media needs 
to be brought in at the early stage so the hours and time could be factored in.

Bob Girondi, EVP, media research & development at CMI: In our case, we do get to the clients, because that's what our people do. I do echo the need that you're talking about, but when we're there, we don't have to wear the marketing hat. We're there as media experts and because of that they now close the loop more and more, where they make sure that their creative team works with us and that we participate on the strategic planning side. Not having a disguise is a virtue.

AL: From our perspective, it's not about what hat you wear, it's about working within an integrated agency/client environment and providing strategic insights and recommendations that are best for 
the business. 

GC: Timing is key. Media by nature is so tactical, we really fuel the tactics, and if we can be brought in, not just in the planning season but in POA season—when budgets are formed—we can really deliver some of these non-traditional programs and get them to commit funding at that point. So, timing really is everything. It is so different than just traditional print season—we're not working in that realm anymore. 

BG: I don't know how it works for a full-service agency but our people are in touch 12 months per year. We also have the opportunity as an organization to talk and make presentations on a regular basis about what's happening and what's changing.

PK: It's an everyday job, it's not seasonal at all. I think it's 365 for everybody at this point. “Planning season” is a phrase that's probably not used anymore. 

GC: No matter what realm you're working in, a budget is seasonal. Even though you're in touch with clients 24/7, as we all are, those budgets are usually formulated and set in stone once a year—and then of course they do find extra budget and funding. But it's that one shot where you really get to formulate your budgets and allocate your funding to your journal advertising, to your “e,” to your visual aids. 

DR: Budgets are constantly being tweaked throughout the year. Yes, they're set in stone early on in the initial plan, but it's a constant evolution. As our brand strategies change, as our marketing condition changes, our media plans are evolving on a daily basis. 

AL: Given the environment we're all operating under, you have to be quick and nimble to survive in this day and age as a marketer, as an agency, as pharma. Regardless of whether it's a traditional initiative or a digital one, you have to be able to respond to circumstances that may lead to underperformance.

DR: One of the challenges we're having is that reduced budgets don't always translate into reduced workload. I think it's a hard concept for clients to appreciate, especially in this climate where we're all doing more with less. For example, we might be doing a DTP or POC program, and to save money we might reduce our target list size, from deciles 5-10 to deciles 8-10. Although our budget may have been cut in half, the work that goes into the media planning and strategic thinking doesn't change.

PK: There's a minimal amount of work you're going to have to do, whether it's a million-dollar schedule or a 10-million-dollar schedule. That's not taken into account until they drop your hours from 50% of a person to 10% of a person, and they think, “Well, they only need eight hours for the year.” But the set-up time takes that much. It's a big squeeze. It's an ongoing battle but when they see the work that you give them, they more or less understand that it was worthwhile.

BG: As companies downsize and continue to rotate their personnel to expand their experiences, they're diluting their experience base. This makes it more important than ever that we work very closely with the brand teams to understand their specific needs and provide programs that are on target. This continual turnover does, in fact, translate into longer hours on the part of our planners, so they get things just right.

DR: That's what makes our jobs even more fun these days is that our clients are relying on us more and more for our expertise. 

JC: How has the role of the media director changed? 

LI: We have to be more relevant and flexible than ever before. And we have to be disciplined too—our choices are expanding so rapidly. It's almost on a daily or weekly basis that something new comes along. So, we have to be flexible and explore new avenues, but at the same time we have to exercise discipline to ensure what we're proposing to our client is the best for the brand and not just because it's new and different.

AL: For years, the general position of my agency has been one of encouragement and support, to learn and become well-versed in the digital arena. The only thing that has changed for me is the ability to apply more of the analytics for insights and channel learnings. So, for me, it's just staying ahead of the curve. 

PK: The role is much more creative and strategic. In the past, many of the previous media directors retired or went into sales, mostly due to burnout and the monotonous nature of the job. These days, it's anything but monotonous. It changes every day and it's exciting and stimulating. With the influx of new media and new technologies, the mode of delivery is, in many cases, the creative, or at least as important as the actual creative. We, as media directors, are responsible for that. We're a transitional generation—we're setting it up for who comes after us.

RF: It's become more exciting. Ten years ago you could rely on your agency to give you business, and you could count on launch doing a lot of advertising and bill your hours like that. Now it's a constant vigilance around new business opportunities.

LI: Now we need depth and proficiency in multiple channels. 

JC: Are medical journals dying?

PK: It's no longer the hub of the marketing plan as it was. It's now a spoke. And once everybody is on target with that, then the journal will reestablish itself. But for now, if you think about it, the amount of time that you spend in your office on new media compared to the amount of money spent on it, it's not even close. And when that balances out, then everything will be where it needs to be. We're devoting a ton of time to new media but still putting 80% of our money into traditional.

DR: Journals are important, but no longer the core tactic. It has become more and more important for us to be as channel-neutral as possible in order to weave together every aspect of a brand's communication. 

JC: So when will clients become channel-neutral themselves? 

PK: They're there on the DTC side; they're just afraid on the professional side. There are so many factors involved with physicians. 

RF: Clients are increasingly willing to integrate, because they're getting pressure from senior management within pharma to have a certain percentage of their budget dedicated towards new media. But a lot of that activity might not be trackable. For example, Pfizer spends millions on their website and on their portal, but that's not going to show up in any report.

JC: Do marketers know how to spend on interactive dollars? 

DR: Sure, but they're turning to us more and more for our unique perspective on how to use this media. I mean, that's our job, to really guide them on how best to integrate this channel into the media mix.

PK: To that point,  I'm seeing a huge retake of the digital assignments  that three years ago we weren't getting. Initially, the whole digital push was going to the boutique digital agencies because they knew the internet. But now it's completely shifting around because, yes, they know the internet, but no, they don't know doctors. And it's coming back at us because we know how to reach doctors and we know the internet.

LH: I don't think those digital agencies really have the media experts to do physician [work]. We try to encourage our clients to not be siloed. We have a lot of inter-agency meetings, just to bring everybody into the same room. Because even if we, at the end, aren't responsible for the follow-through of a project, if we brought the ideas to the table, then the client gives us the credit for it. So, I'm being asked to do a lot more planning, just because they just don't have the capability. 

JC: Is it easy to hire media talent? Have you seen a migration of talent away from media departments?

RF: We lose people once they get to the middle media planner range. They jump to sales because they want that salary boost, or if they're an extroverted person who loves to sell. It's hard for us to get people.

DR: Organic growth is becoming more and more important to us these days, so that's what we've really spent a lot of our time focusing on.

PK: That's what we do also, just hire and train. It's too hard to staff. I mean, it's a small community. Everybody knows everybody. Everybody's already downsized and no one's going to pay what it takes to lure an experienced person, so you suck it up for a year and train people.

LI: We have to maintain a balance. At Euro, three of the seven people in the media department work only three or four days a week, so we've done a job-share kind of thing. We keep good talent, but let them have a life. 

JC: So what changes do you see happening next? And what will be the catalyst for these changes?

PK: I think clients are fully going to embrace multi-channel media plans. Each year that passes, you have another influx of people that only go for that world, so it's going to be more and more accepted.

AL: Given the evolution of Web 2.0 we have also seen an evolution of the metrics. Eventually we will get to a point where these measurements will be more widely adapted and applied across channels. As such we will see a quicker shift toward the new definition of what is considered “traditional media.”

PK: We're not going to have to prove so much that people use PDAs and things like that. I mean that's where we still are—we're just trying to prove usage. We don't have to prove that people read journals. It's going to flip over the other way and we're not going to fight so hard to get people to believe that people use this stuff.

DR: It's also the size of the market. We've been meeting with some of the consumer syndicated research services recently, and have asked why their multichannel analytics are not available within the professional world, and they say “size.” It's just not profitable to many of these big consumer ComScore's of the world. 

LH: And regulatory issues too. It's a big roadblock. I mean a lot of times we'll present these great ideas and the marketing managers just say, “That's never going to go through Med Reg.”

BG: I believe we've been multichannel our whole lives in this business—the channels have just been different. The question is always: Does it fit? Does it accomplish our objectives? Is it the right target audience? Can we measure it? Are we going to get results out of it? Can we afford it? They're the same questions we've been asking as long as I've been in the business. None of it's changed, only the details.

PK: But it's a measurable medium and that's the big shift. And it will phase out the non-measurable to an extent because it's not just adding another media to the mix—it's adding THE media to the mix.

LI: The dynamics have changed. There's public scrutiny now. I mean, for an industry that helps so many people on a daily basis, we're scrutinized constantly by consumers, the FDA and politicians.

JC: Do you think mass media spend is ever going to wane? 

LH: I just think products are going to be different and there won't be as many big blockbuster products coming out that are consumer-hype driven products. They'll be products that shouldn't be promoted DTC. 

PK: The waste on the DTC side is significant and has been tolerated in the past because, weighted against what you're getting, you dealt with it. But with the internet now, and the ways you can target, whether it's contextual or behavioral, there's just no need to run a Super Bowl commercial when you can run to exactly the audience you want with the message that's appropriate for them.

AL: This is really going to be a function of therapeutic area. With the highly competitive categories, down spends may not necessarily be so dramatic. Rather, we will see spending rechanneled. For example, there is a trend emerging toward exclusively sponsored webisodes. As such, some of the broader DTC money is potentially shifting toward this type of marketing. I do believe however that the advent of patient social networking communities will dramatically change the historic influence and role that DTC and mass media advertising has played.

JC: What would be your message to pharmaceutical clients?

LI: That the media director's role is more important than ever in achieving a grand success. And maybe if we can get regulatory departments to lighten up a little bit… 

PK: Concentrate on the strategic aspect and not so much on the financial applications. Be open-minded toward how we spend the money instead of really hung up on the bottom line. Efficiency's a given—we're always going to be as efficient as we can—but you can't always put efficiency in front of effectiveness. And sometimes that bottom line does get a little smudged. 

GC: We want our clients to know we're working with the providers of syndicated data to actually get the metrics in place and deliver the ROI. And we really work as an entity, as an industry, to develop market research, so that we can have everything that's truly measurable integrated. And that's the key.

LH: I think it's important that they truly utilize their agencies as a full-service agency. And until they do, they will not have fully integrated and the most optimal media plans.

AL: In today's world, you need to be willing to take that next step into the of age of Web 2.0, multi-channel integration, in order to be differentiating. We have the understanding of this evolving space as well as the creative and digital talent to help guide you through it. 

DR: And it's an exciting time to be in media. We're constantly evolving the way we work to create a unique approach to strategic media planning and buying. As media consumption becomes more fragmented, multi-channel delivery of messages is more critical than ever before. Taking a channel-neutral approach is key to executing successful media plans these days. And despite the hurdle of unmeasured media in the professional world, we, as media experts, need to continue to encourage our clients to take a little risk and dare to be different to distinguish themselves from the pack. 
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