E-details soar as pharmas slash sales forces

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Reps remain the center of the universe when it comes to professional promotion, but new data show that non-personal promotion is gaining ground.

A Cegedim Strategic Data (CSD) promotion audit with doctors has found spending on outreach to healthcare professionals through digital channels rose 40% worldwide in 2012.

In the US, e-detailing (one-on-one), email and e-meetings (group sessions) accounted for $534 million in promotional spending for full year 2011, and rose to $879 million for full year 2012—an increase of 65% year over year.

In Europe, pharmas spent $90 million on those channels in Q4 2012—an increase of 40% over the same period for 2011.

At the same time, sales forces were cut 10% in the US and 12% in the top five EU markets.

“There are no real surprises with Cegedim's data,” said June Dawson, managing director at Publicis Health Communications Group, Europe, “as the numbers confirm what we see and have been saying for the past five years. We have been talking about sales and marketing transformation for awhile, but now it's very clearly happening.”

“Pharma marketing in Europe is not lagging as it is fundamentally different,” explains Dawson, “In emerging markets there seems to be more of a focus on tactical quick wins with mobile, social and sales force effectiveness. This shift from emerged to emerging is only going to increase, not reduce.”

Larry Mickelberg, Chief Digital Officer at Havas Worldwide, sees nowhere to go but up for digital channels: “There can be no doubt that market forces and customer media behaviors favor, and will continue to favor, a rise in the importance of digital channels for healthcare and pharmaceutical brands.”

These three segments are still a small drop in the bucket--CSD projects total, worldwide promotional spending at $90 billion for 2012. That said, such a rise in one media channel could also signal a rise of digital budgets overall as marketers and pharma companies alike continue to employ a more holistic approach, favoring multiple channels.

“For the past years, there has been significant budgeting for spend in digital channels…this will continue to increase,” said Mickelberg, “but mere discussions of volume of spend will cease to be any real indicator of the health or vibrancy of marketing efforts in this space. Successful efforts will be service-based experiences that are consistent…and that propel audiences across touchpoints and across the health journey.”

E-detailing grew 73.9% from 2011 to 2012. That rise, Mickelberg said, is also seen in his business: “We do see e-detailing continuing to rise due largely to cuts in sales forces in some regions, but even more from the near ubiquitous use of iPad and other tablet platforms by reps worldwide.”

“On the HCP front, we're also seeing the rise of new customer service digital experiences,” Mickelberg said. “There is clearly a great deal of resource and focus on HCP digital experiences. We are just scratching the surface with the first generation of how these platforms will continue to radically change the rep/physician dynamic.”

While the future of e-detailing seems promising, e-mailing may be scrapped for other, more personal, approaches—according to Mickelberg: “In general, I would disagree that e-mailing is growing that sharply, certainly for our clients, as we believe there are more effective means to convey personalized information, motivation, service and support.”

Promotional spend continues to accelerate in Asia, too. China saw a total marketing spend increase of 20%, to nearly $2 billion, according to CSD.

Jerry Maynor, marketing and business development director for the US at Cegedim, told MM&M, "In the US, traditionally defined online details and meetings are growing slowly while in markets like Japan, they are becoming an important part of promotion. E-details in Japan, delivered by appointment, can comprise up to a third of promotional activity for some major brands.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated promotion spending increased 65% for Q4 2011 to Q4 2012. Promotional spending increased 65% from FY 2011 ending in Q4 to FY 2012 ending in Q4.
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