Next innovation is performance

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In the 1990s, brand-based DTC advertising was a big breakthrough innovation in pharmaceutical marketing.

In the 2000s, DTC evolved further, with the advent of CRM programs intended to drive acquisition, compliance, and persistency. In 2010, DTC is under attack: from regulators, legislators, the popular press, skittish med-legal teams and skeptical finance teams. The ROI of patient marketing is being questioned from every angle, even as the hurdles for performance are being raised.

And patients themselves are less responsive. Who hasn't become inured to the 30-second formula: concerned-but-hopeful-looking actors, a list of side effects read in a calm monotone, and a predictable reminder to “ask your doctor if Brand X is right for you”?

To rescue and reinvent DTC for the coming decade, the next innovation in patient marketing must be exactly that: marketing that focuses on the patient. By identifying specific patients and serving their needs in a completely opt-in, reciprocal way, marketers will move beyond the risks and challenges of DTC and fully realize the potential of DTP.

Patients will welcome this shift. Messaging delivered through more targeted, direct channels won't merely be what the marketer must cram into the allotted 30 seconds, nor merely what the FDA requires, but a full and thoughtful range of communication from brands to patients about conditions, treatment options, productive patient-doctor relationships and managing conditions or diseases for long-term health and well-being.

The key is to connect the media that carries the message specifically with those patients who would most welcome it, and to deliver those patients directly into supportive programs that help patients take positive actions on their health condition. Marketers must close this gap between media and marketing, so that media becomes accountable and marketing programs perform at scale.
The best approach will not be to pull out entirely from TV and print—still the gold standards for brand-building and general awareness. Rather, before pumping millions into traditional channels showing diminishing returns, brands should seek out targeted performance marketing programs that reconnect media with marketing. This satisfies all constituents: for med-legal teams, this means programs that reach only opted-in patients and include plenty of space for fair balance; for finance teams, greater accountability and measurable ROI; for patients, programs developed especially for them and delivered at the right times; for marketers, more desired patient actions and fewer wasted efforts.
To bring about and benefit from this next wave of patient marketing innovation, brands must demand greater accountability and performance. Here are ways for marketers to get started:
  • Ask advertising partners how their vehicles will sync directly to integrated programs that will engage patients beyond the 30-second spot and support patients in taking specific actions for their health.
  • Reserve at least 20% of total marketing budgets for only those partners who can explain how their solutions specifically will grow or support the brand's business.
  • Place a greater proportion of patient marketing budgets with end-to-end providers. Rather than working with media providers who sell impressions at scale, and still other providers who develop marketing programs for patient acquisition, seek out the few providers who can commit to doing both.
Rob Rebak is chairman and CEO of QualityHealth
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