Pharma marketers are working in two worlds, creative and legal. With that in mind, back-to-back sessions at ePharma Impact in New York on Wednesday encouraged marketers to try approaches sure to be approved by regulatory.
Seth Godin, founder and CEO of Do You Zoom, spoke about the need for taking risks and rethinking pharma’s usual marketing strategies, particularly online.
“We’re acting like all of us are creating things that are generic,” he said. “We understand the internet gives you a microphone, if you want to raise your hand, go ahead and raise it, but what we need you to do is go to an edge and be an innovator.”
Godin said pharma should use the internet to find the specific tribes with which their medicines resonate. Instead of blasting messages to the masses, the industry needs to find the audiences that will take the message and spread it themselves.
He also urged pharma to build campaigns that start conversations and change the perception of products.
“Build something worth talking about and tell stories people want to share,” Godin said. “For too long, we haven’t been doing that in industries that matter, like yours. For too long, we built shame into pharmaceuticals because we weren’t supposed to talk about it. We need to make people talk about it. Marketers, even in an industry as controlled as pharma, are responsible for building something that is alive and bubbling.”
Yet even as the industry starts to push the envelope, another ePharma panel provided tips for getting innovative ideas through legal and regulatory approvals.
Regulatory experts urged marketers to know the regulations before coming to them with promotions to approve and to include legal teams as early in a campaign’s development as possible. That helps the legal teams understand the goals and ideas behind a new campaign, giving them a better idea of how to make sure it’s compliant.
That relationship between marketing and legal could also help pharma as it tackles new challenges like price transparency in advertising.
“[There are] pressures on price transparency and how companies are going to choose to engage with price transparency,” said Zoe Dunn, president and CEO of Hale Advisors. “If there is the solid platform between marketing and review, you can address that more rapidly than if you haven’t established that flow, that dialog beforehand.”
They acknowledged, however, that regulations are often what is keeping the industry from trying new things. The panel said the industry could even work with the FDA to rethink some longstanding rules, like fair balance.
“[Fair balance in] DTC TV ads are not effective,” said Michael Labson, partner at Covington & Burling. “There is a strong case to be made, but the industry will have get buy-in at higher levels at the [FDA]. If the industry could come to the table with something creative, not just trying to get away with something or scale back the rules, but some empirical evidence to rethink the fair balance, that could be constructive.”