Database marketing agency Merkle has launched a healthcare practice, led by former GlaxoSmithKline director of integrated marketing Jeff Wiltrout.
The decision to formalize its healthcare practice, after several years of servicing various clients in the space, results from an increased focus on relationship marketing, according to Wiltrout. Managing relationships with consumers—or patients— requires a technology-enabled and intelligence-based strategy, something pharma has been slow to implement out of the gate.
“Companies like Geico, Direct TV and Dell rely heavily on data-driven, direct customer relationships—they turned to that several years ago,” said Wiltrout. Pharma has made inroads in these areas, especially in compliance and persistency, but “they haven't completely embraced it yet,” he said. Pharma needs to move from being brand-centric to customer-centric, from a strategic perspective, said Wiltrout. Companies have to start using data to drive analytics, in order to more efficiently “find out who the customers are, and what kinds of services they need,” he said.
Merkle's healthcare practice will pool resources from many aspects of the company, which is headquartered in Columbia, Maryland. Merkle also has offices in Denver, Seattle, Boston, Chicago and elsewhere. According to Wiltrout, a large client engagement would probably get 12 to 15 dedicated account people assigned to the work. Capabilities include media mix optimization, ROI measurement, direct marketing, interactive and others, spanning professional and consumer marketing.
According to a company spokesperson, Merkle's business is roughly 60% strategy, analytics and technology, with 40% of its resources devoted to more traditional agency services. Merkle's clients include GSK and Sanofi-Aventis, among other pharma and healthcare-related accounts, according to a company statement.