Web 2.0: The fine line between old and new

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With all the buzz over Web 2.0 and social media, are pharma marketers losing sight of interactive fundamentals like SEO and old-fashioned banner ads?  Is it time to get back to basics?

Joe Shields
Product director,
Wyeth BioPharma

A phrase I like to use is “Balancing the new with the now.” It reminds me to set aside a portion of the budget for smart experimentation. But when push comes to shove, I need to ensure that the foundational, proven tactics are prioritized and executed flawlessly. I also evaluate ROE, or return on effort. The amount of extra resources it takes to convince a large organization to try something new can be enormous, not the least of which is additional MRL review time. Sometimes, pursuing the leading edge with an unknown return is just not worth the effort. Finally, I need campaigns that predictably scale. The upfront investment in content development and program architecture demands that it is amortized over a large number of prospects or customers.

Michael O'Malley
Senior manager, marketing, 
MedManage Systems Inc.

Social media presents us, as brand marketers, with a new and exciting opportunity to interact with our potential and existing customers. However, figuring out how to make it best work for the brand – and the customer – is going to take time. This is new for regulatory and legal, it's new for marketing, and we need to make sure that as we move into this arena we can interact with customers in a meaningful, transparent and committed way. With that said, obviously the core interactive marketing tactics like SEO, paid search, etc. must continue to do the majority of the work in driving our business. I can't imagine, even once we have fully leveraged social media, that those programs would ever go away!

Boris Kushkuley, PhD
General manager,
Qi, part of CommonHealth

The promise of Web 2.0 technology can be enticing, especially if it's pitched by a slick new media agency that knows all the right buzzwords. Yet, pharmaceutical brand managers need to keep their eyes on basics such as ROI. Our industry faces many unique communications challenges. For example, you may find that your great idea for a “two-way conversation with a free exchange of ideas” gets whittled into a static HTML page after med/legal review. Focusing on ROI, carefully consider your target audience. Are they using social networks—and to what extent? Can you afford having an unbranded or lightly branded campaign? It's vital to select an agency with experience developing projects that can pass med/legal tests and deliver on the original promise. 

Peter Nalen
Compass Healthcare Communications

I never thought I would ever see “old-fashioned” and SEO and banners in the same sentence. Search engine optimization and paid search are foundation tactics for websites, and provide excellent ROI. Once you've built a solid interactive foundation, consider social media tactics. This exciting, emerging space is the new frontier for patient and physician communications where both groups are online connecting and learning from one another. Engaging in social media can lead to brand insights, product awareness and a deeper relationship with target audiences. But be sure to approach responsibly—only those brands that listen and engage with transparency will succeed.
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