Tracking ROI: Measurement Predicament

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In the business of measuring the effectiveness of pharma's foray into interactive, one thing's for sure: Clickthrough rates and unique site visitors just won't cut it anymore. 

“We're seeing more overt discussion of a direct tie of media buys to a lift in prescriptions,” says Jack Barrette, CEO of WEGO Health. “More people are doing what used to be one-off research to show what spend equals X new prescriptions. It's becoming a dashboard feature.” 

Easier said than done, of course. Digital media poses great promise for measurability —but also great challenges. Joe Shields, product director for Wyeth drug Enbrel, notes that the path to NRx is more circuitous than that for buying a book on Amazon.com. “The end game is new prescriptions and better patient outcomes,” says Shields. “But with pharmaceuticals, because you need a prescription, it's difficult in all channels to draw a straight line from a single intervention to the end behavior.”

Shields says the concept of “stacking,” wherein multiple “stacked” interventions are accounted for in motivating behaviors, is useful here, but it's not a silver bullet, and market testing in the US is complicated by the need to “hold out” on advertising in some regions to compare markets that receive interventions and those that do not. On the professional side of the equation, consumer research firms like Yankelovich are putting their techniques to use in helping manufacturers build deeper databases.

“Traditionally in pharma, we've used behavioral segmentation or behavioral targeting, looking at how many prescriptions physicians write,” says Shields. “Now, in addition to prescription writing as a basis for evaluation, we're learning about physicians' attitudes and what goes on inside their heads, taking into consideration attitudes towards innovation and patient care in addition to their external behaviors, just as we do in the consumer marketing world.” 

In addition to the technical challenges of measuring ROI for pharma interactive, there are cultural barriers in an industry so reflexively fragmented. 

“Digital media has unprecedented measurability,” says Craig DeLarge, associate director of emarketing and relationship marketing for Novo Nordisk. “We as an industry are still learning how to organize ourselves and get the right tools of measurement implemented and pull all that together into a cohesive picture that the entire organization is willing to use. It's a political and cultural issue more than a technological one. It's not a lack of measurement methods so much as a lack of organizational accountability and a siloed mentality around data ownership that poses a barrier to coherent measurement.”

DeLarge invokes the Indian parable of the three blind men and the elephant. 

“There's often insufficient priority voiced by management to appoint the un-blind person who can see the whole elephant,” says DeLarge, who sees a need for a pan-organizational business analytics function to track marketing effectiveness at many companies. “We're going to have to get better at it, because business as usual is over.”

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