Pharma's iPad, emerging-markets strategies to get 2nd look in 2013, agency execs predict

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MM&M asked three agency executives what 2013 holds in store. Their edited responses follow.


Jed Beitler,
chairman/CEO,
WPP's Sudler & Hennessey

How will technology change the way biopharmas and device companies market products this year?
JB:
I guess there are a number of ways to think about technology. iPads that enable reps to deliver more thorough and personalized messages are just one aspect. Advances in diagnostic testing that help clinicians identify subsets of patients in particular disease categories to deliver more personalized/customized treatments are another. More and more media channels will enable patients, caregivers and treaters to talk with one another for consultation, confirmation and commiseration. There's a common theme here—getting even more granular in our collective communications.

Training and recruitment are ongoing concerns. What skill sets will be most in demand?
JB:
The old adage is that our talent pool is a mile wide, but it's only an inch deep. That still holds true today. Very few people go to college with a mindset of, “Gee, I think I'll pursue a career in healthcare education and communications.” Not many universities offer degrees in our industry, so it becomes our own collective responsibility to teach and train our industry's employees. Basic digital understanding has become a prerequisite or, at least a 101-level course. But understanding the basics of education, marketing, medicine, communications and selling are still needed. It's amazing how many people still need further help in the basics of blocking and tackling. Beyond that, more advanced aspects of social media, CRM, digital tools, adult learning, gaming, etc. are the next levels of skill sets we teach.

Will we see further consolidation in the advertising business this year?
JB:
As far as agencies buying other agencies, there will always be holding or parent companies looking to acquire more agencies that strengthen their service offerings or geographic presence. As far as clients consolidating their business with fewer holding companies, there's certainly a lot of buzzing about some of the other large multinationals who haven't previously gone in that direction now looking at those solutions. At least two multinationals have sent out feelers to explore that possibility.

Will this be the year your clients get their act together on social media?
JB:
Some clients, especially those in the OTC space, are already deeply engaged in social media efforts. For the pharma/biotech industry, it seems as if it's a "chicken and egg" situation between our clients and the FDA. Who's going to move first—the clients nervous about the potential blowback if they are called on the carpet for overreaching, or the FDA worried about opening a Pandora's box by committing to a well-defined set of rules of the road? It still seems like a jump-ball situation.

Global advertising: What are the markets to watch, and will emerging markets prove worth the hype?
JB:
Some of our clients are already second-guessing their emerging markets strategies. While, in broad terms, there are dozens of emerging markets, many clients had been targetting the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) and next 11 top markets in their plans. Many factors including intellectual property rights, the potential for branded generics, local regulatory climates, local culture and the healthcare professional/patient dynamic have evolved since pharma companies first started dedicating efforts toward these markets. As such, many companies are now narrowing their scope of investment, in some cases reducing their focus back to only those BRICs plus one or two other stronger potential markets including Mexico, Poland or Turkey.

Jay Carter, RPh
SVP, director of strategy services,
AbelsonTaylor

How will technology change the way biopharmas and device companies market products this year?
JC:
The biggest tech shift of 2013 will be a need for client marketing and sales organizations to adapt iPad selling to reflect the user experience better. For almost three years, it has been about having the iPad…now that most have one, the goal will be to deliver messages with the interaction that physicians have come to expect from their own iPads. Most platforms used by pharma reps today remain linear, not acting like an iPad. Now that docs know that, there is a need for a better platform.

Training and recruitment are ongoing concerns. What skill sets will be most in demand?
JC:
The skill sets that will continue to be in the most demand are for staff that are comfortable with the medical content and regulatory considerations that our industry demands. To a secondary degree, digital skills will be important. I find that while everyone talks about the need for digital proficiency, there isn't a lack of people with digital skills. There's a lack of people with pharma experience and digital skills. It's easier to teach digital to a pharma than the converse.

Will we see further consolidation in the advertising business this year?
JC:
The pendulum on clients consolidating their agency business with a smaller number of agencies continues to swing. With Pfizer, Merck and Johnson & Johnson all consolidating in a very public fashion in 2011 and 2012, it feels like the pendulum will likely swing a bit further toward consolidation before a change. Certainly there are other efforts to consolidate agencies happening in a less public fashion. Inevitably, however, satisfaction will wane and the desire to “open things up” will ensue.

Will this be the year your clients get their act together on social media?
JC:
I don't know about anyone else's clients, but our clients have their act together on social media. Pretty much everyone has done an analysis of how much social affects the patients that they serve, the right clients are listening to their end users, and the clients where social makes great sense have moved forward with well-thought out strategies and tactics. It's important to recognize that social remains dominantly a vehicle for a younger demographic than pharma's “prime time” audience of 55+ adults. Like DTC, it is not a “one size fits all” endeavor.

Nick Colucci,
president/CEO,
Publicis Healthcare Communication Group


How will technology change the way biopharmas and device companies market products this year?
NC:
Technology, mobile technology in particular, is changing the way biopharma and device companies are interacting with their audiences—both patients and healthcare professionals. Immediate, engaging mobile content in our palms creates real-time, on-the-go brand experiences and sparks dialog and action when and where we want it. Manufacturers must rush to build the enterprise platforms needed to support these continuous customer interactions.

Will we see further consolidation in the advertising business this year?
NC:
The marketplace is favoring cutting-edge ideas and global scale. So, innovation matters and size matters! Look for hot shops to grow and large global networks to gain. Anyone in the middle is vulnerable and must either get more nimble, merge or they will perish.
 
Will this be the year your clients get their act together on social media?
NC:
Clients are embracing social media even while they wait for clear FDA guidance on how to best use this connection platform. Digital and social media are essential to public health. Patients are hungry consumers of information, and industry should listen to how they are expressing needs regardless of the medium. Patient insight obtained can be the difference between providing information that misses the mark or is the value-add patients are looking for.

Global advertising: what are the markets to watch, and will emerging markets prove worth the hype?
NC:
The health disparity in large populations with growing affluence and significant poverty present significant challenges. The process toward delivering modern healthcare is, and will continue to be, slow and steady, but progress will be made. Building infrastructure in markets like China, India, Russia and Brazil is a critical and necessary investment that will take time to deliver results in these countries for patients, organizations and governments. However, the largest investments in the next few years will continue to be in the United States, due to the sheer size and financial capacity to support innovative new technologies and programs.

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