Can pharma movement campaigns flourish on both sides of the Atlantic?

Branded pharma advertising is like mom and apple pie in the U.S. But unbranded advertising? Not so much.

“In the U.S., because I can—I do,” Matt Brown (pictured), CEO of Guidemark Health, said during a panel discussion held in June in Cannes, summing up one reason why drugmakers in that country, one of only two in the world where DTC advertising is allowed, are so wed to their product ads.

Asked why non-branded struggles to gain a foothold across the American biotech sector, Maria Verastegui, senior director, creative, at Acorda Therapeutics, said that it depends on corporate culture. “For Acorda, doing non-branded is a part of our mission and our commitment [to the neurological disorders community],” she noted.

See also: What pharma brands can learn from Lions Health

Brown and Verastegui discussed the branded versus unbranded debate during a talk at the Haymarket Hive cabana held June 19 at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Guidemark Health sponsored the panel.

In other cases, biopharma brand managers who want to be more creative may be held back by a lack of simple ROI measures. Unbranded ads are harder to justify to upper management, both the initial spend and ultimate impact. “Because products are [often] not first to market, we don't have quite the same resources we used to have,” Brown added. “[So] let's face it: If I can put a dollar against a brand, and have a clear path to ROI, that's where I'm going to put my dollar.”

Data show there continues to be a reluctance to run non-branded advertising in North America. About 20% of respondents to the 2016 MM&M/Guidemark Healthcare Marketers Trend Report, which was published in the March issue of MM&M, said they were dialing back non-branded ads, with another 50% keeping them the same. Asked separately about branded advertising, about 50% of the 180 U.S.-based healthcare marketers said they were increasing those budgets.

See the report: How is pharma shifting its marketing budgets?

Despite the challenges, both Brown and Verastegui believe a shift is coming.

Check out the video to hear more of what they had to say about budgets, attitudes, and company cultures toward so-called movement campaigns, signs of progress, and whether the urgent message of Lions Health—that movement campaigns can move markets—will ever resonate on this side of the Atlantic. In addition, a member of the 2016 Lions Health pharma jury (Tina Fascetti, Guidemark Health's chief creative director) gives her impressions on whether the non-branded healthcare campaigns among the shortlisted and winning work bring us closer to the goal.