Guidance is golden

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After last year's MM&M Awards produced success stories for numerous “nimble, smaller” shops, it was interesting to see some of the big boys fighting back in style this year: Saatchi & Saatchi, Draftfcb, McCann, GSW Worldwide, Ogilvy Healthworld and ghg (Grey) were all among the golds.

More interesting still was that the winning campaigns for two categories—Best Use of Direct Marketing to Consumers and for Best Integration Program for Large Companies—had no agency involvement whatsoever and were submitted directly by their respective “client” companies, Hologic and Siemens.

In fact, the latter, a launch campaign for Siemens' new Ysio digital radiography machine, was one of my favorite campaigns of the evening. (Note: MM&M staff has no involvement in the scoring of submissions, nor, therefore, the outcome of these results.)

Siemens cleverly donated an Ysio to the Children's Health Fund (CHF), which invited hospitals to bid online for the equipment. With the web being the web, viral buzz built quickly, exacerbated by print and VNR efforts, not to mention Siemens' greatest grassroots asset—its employees.

The effort built huge brand awareness, created new sales leads and raised $285,000 for the CHF. I particularly liked how Siemens seamlessly integrated online channels with more traditional tactics, cheaply and effectively. And before you can say, “Ah, but surely devices and diagnostics don't bring the same kinds of issues and concerns to online marketing that pharma products do…” Well, I already posed that same question to Raya Dubner, Siemens' senior manager, US marketing, at the ePharma Summit back in February, in reference to her company's equally ingenious “Win an MRI” campaign from 2008. “Yes they do,” she affirmed. “If anything, they're much worse.”

You can read about all this year's winning campaigns—23 golds and 25 silvers—in the MM&M Awards “Book of the Night” distributed with this issue.

An online date with DDMAC

Talking of concerns over e-pharma, unless you have been living under a rock for the past few weeks, you will know the FDA is holding a public hearing this month on marketing drugs and devices using the internet and social media. Remarkably, it represents the first public hearing on the Internet promotion of FDA-regulated products in over 13 years.

And once you get past the quaint irony of a good old-fashioned public hearing about web marketing (“very 1800s,” says Fabio Gratton, chief integration officer at Ignite Health), it's actually a pretty important event. Possibly even a watershed moment in pharma marketing.

The industry has repeatedly and collectively leveled the following charge at the FDA: “Where's the guidance on online promotion?” Particularly since the social media movement started to gather some serious momentum. The hearing represents “a tremendous and long-overdue opportunity to get some guidance…lessening fear of unpredictable enforcement,” says Jack Barrette, chairman of WEGO Health. He is alluding to DDMAC's springtime assault on sponsored links, issuing 14 letters pertaining to allegedly violative links. By the end of June, reported ComScore, pharma-sponsored link exposures in the US had fallen by 84%. The hope is that this hearing will translate into fully fledged guidance so this type of fiasco becomes a thing of the past.


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