Televisions, laptop computers, mobile phones, tablets. The average person is now surrounded by screens, it's time to make use of them!
Education, education, education’. So said The Right Honourable Tony Blair.
And so says me too. Why? Because an educational analogy strikes me as extraordinarily applicable to the topic of marketing – and pharma marketing in particular. Because, actually that’s exactly what pharma aims to do with its marketing: to inspire consumers, to engage consumers – to educate consumers.
I’m reliably informed by my teacher friends (some of my best friends really are teachers), that best practice in classrooms is to get students to interact, leaving teachers doing far less talking. Gone are the old-style lectures with students passively taking notes (obviously this was always more of a best-scenario than a reality), and in their place are interactive lesson-plans, where students don’t just receive information, but are repeatedly called on to actively apply the information they have received.
Why the shift? Because educational psychology demonstrates that far more information is retained with active learning than with old-style passive learning.
Digital media now means that pharma can, and should, follow educators in acting on these findings. After all, teachers have a captive, if sometimes unwilling, audience. So without that home advantage, what makes us think we don’t need to work at least as hard?
Forrester has recently released research which finds that 85% of US tablet owners use their tablets while watching TV, while Nielsen reports that 30% of all tablet time is spent in from of the TV. Nielsen also found that 27% of the US population looked up product information for an ad they saw on TV, while a very healthy 47% visited a Social Networking site during a programme.
So the audience is demonstrably there, ready and waiting to interact. Pharma just needs to start engaging properly, and the first step to doing that is to act on one of my mantras: integration, integration, integration (followed by a little light innovation).
This is actually not quite as simple as it sounds. We all know the reality of advertising agencies: they all have a separate department for healthcare. This is understandable, because of all the extra regulation and restrictions that health advertising inevitably entails. But it can mean that creative talent isn’t cross-pollinated, leaving healthcare advertising lagging behind other brands in innovation and engagement – and perhaps providing a reason for why it is currently not doing as well as it should be online.
But there is a sense that the mood is shifting, and that there is an increasing awareness of this kind of problem. FC Business Intelligence recently hosted a Smart TV Summit in San Francisco and in the report that accompanied it, there was an interesting insight on integration from Christy Tanner, General Manager of TV Guide Digital. Tanner said she was ‘looking forward to seeing how content-creators take technology to make more compelling entertainment experiences’, noting that currently, there is too great a divide between traditional ‘creative’ departments and digital, mobile and social media departments. According to Tanner, this has ‘resulted in some, frankly, lame implementations of social, digital, and mobile experiences.’
Tanner is of course talking about involving the creators of televisions shows with the digital marketing of those shows, but the same thinking applies to pharma too. If an ad agency is developing innovative solutions for non-healthcare brands, there is no reason, beyond a human tendency to compartmentalise, that they shouldn’t pool their talent resources – and no reason that we shouldn’t encourage them to. That way, we can have the expertise of the traditional healthcare advertisers, but can also use the creative innovation that is too often restricted to the traditional retail industries. And by tapping this kind of creative innovation, pharma can make real use of the integrated marketing campaigns offered by agencies such as Rovi, which, like Tanner, understand the importance of integration from the start, rather than seeing digital as an expendable add-on.
And the opportunities available to those who foray into this brave new world are exciting. Shazam has already demonstrated the potential of integrated marketing with their involvement in this years’ Super Bowl. They partnered with a third of the brands that advertised during the event, resulting in brand engagement numbers in the millions. And there are more companies emerging in this arena: although currently only available in the UK, zeebox provides an integrated TV and online experience for its users, enabling them to easily find more information about products they see on-screen – or even to buy them.
Of course, much of this kind of integration is relevant only in the US due to strictures elsewhere on DTC advertising. However the implications at least in that market could be huge. To imagine a scenario involving Shazam, which works by recognising what users are watching on TV, a patient could be watching an ad for some relevant medication. In the old days, the patient files a mental note to book an appointment to see their doctor and ask about it. In the more recent days, the patient types name of the drug into their ‘second screen’, be it mobile, tablet or even laptop if we’re getting really old-school, and finds more info online from searching a few websites that come up on their Google search. But in the world of integrated marketing, users will find that the relevant information is already coming up on their tablet; and a really smart campaign could direct users to sign up to a forum, to sign up to email newsletters – or even to book an appointment with their doctor.
The possibilities are only as limited as our imaginations.
And although only the US can deploy DTC advertising, that’s not to say that the rest of the industry should just ignore these messages. Far from it – they should listen to them even more carefully. A lack of advertising means that pharma outside of the US needs to be far more innovative in order to communicate effectively with consumers, in what, after all, should be a mutually beneficial relationship; educating patients is key to improving patient health, not least with the perennial problem of improving compliance. And an integrated strategy can only help with that.
So the US has an extra platform and some flashy apps to go with that – so what? As I've pointed out in the past, Digital Doesn’t Have to be Difficult. It needs to be innovative and it needs to be communicating with the right people in the right way. It doesn’t need to be flashy and it just need a pinch of imagination.
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