Two Hours of Media Inspiration

In late March, Rx EDGE hosted a Leadership Exchange roundtable moderated by Medical Marketing & Media. The topic was  “Making it into the Plan: Media Decisions”. 

When I mentioned to my younger son that I was attending a Leadership Exchange, he replied with mock-seriousness “Oh, so you’re going to meet up and exchange some of their leaders for some of yours – like a Wife Swap kind of thing?”  It didn’t occur to me that the words “leadership exchange” would conjure up comparisons to the old reality TV show, where two families from very dissimilar backgrounds swap wives/mothers for two weeks, presumably to gain a better appreciation of their different worlds.

Short of a literal swap of personnel, the leadership exchange was the next best thing.  Sometimes we all get so embroiled in our respective businesses that we just can’t see certain issues through other lenses.  In the words of Stephen Covey, “We see the world not as it is, but as we are−or, as we are conditioned to see it.”  When you spend quality time with fellow industry stakeholders, you come away with a better awareness of what motivates their decisions and thought processes.

The event’s objective was to understand the drivers behind pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer media and planning decisions, and that objective was definitely met.  We were delighted to be part of a spirited discussion with representatives from a great mix of healthcare agencies and pharmaceutical companies.

MM&M will be publishing a detailed recap in their June issue; in the meantime, I wanted to share some of the points I considered to be the most essential and eloquent!  Here they are, along with my personal take on each one:


Think about a “day in the life of a patient”.  What role does a particular tactic or media format really play in a patient’s life?

The most relevant tactics can emerge from tapping into patient stories, which offer a number of revelations that are relevant to marketers of specialty brands.  “Day in the life” narratives illuminate real experiences, humanize disease, and can help to pinpoint the most effective marketing strategies across various channels.

“Catch people in unexpected ways.  There’s an exponential factor when you reach people in a way or a place that they don’t necessarily expect – they’ll be more likely to pay attention to your message.”

“Unexpected” doesn’t have to mean “completely from left field”.  Instead, think about it as providential − reaching patients and caregivers when health questions are on their minds, but they are not necessarily expecting they’ll get answers right then. Any relevant messaging they see will come as a welcome educational surprise when they least expect it – but most need it!

“Use action-oriented media – spark the hand-raisers (those who’ve seen the ad and are interested in the message) to DO SOMETHING.”

The typical metrics of awareness, attitude, response rates to savings offers, website visits, and impressions are all contributing factors to media success and definitely important to know.  But they are diagnostic in nature and do not give you the full performance picture.  Metrics that are delivered primarily through sales data provide a more unequivocal assessment of media effectiveness because they tell marketers if a real ACTION was taken.

 “No matter what the media, dynamic creative is important.  Use fonts, colors, and other elements to get people engaged and interacting with your brand.”

Getting to that “just right” creative can be quite a challenge, given the legal/regulatory scrutiny and general risk-adversity that comes with the pharmaceutical marketing territory.  But there are plenty of examples of great pharma creative out there!  In the pharmacy setting, our inspiration comes from keeping the end-user in mind – thinking about what’s important to them, what will catch their eye, and what their concerns may be at that moment.  Ultimately, you want to capture the right people’s attention and motivate them to learn more about the brand or condition.

“The way the patient journey starts and continues is very different from brand to brand. You are always trying to find that teachable moment, that perfect moment in time for your message. You never notice car ads until you’re in the market for a car. That same dynamic applies to pharma.”

The car ad analogy aligns nicely with our pharmacy Mindset Moment® concept.  The old “push” model of marketing tends to thrust brand information onto consumers when they don’t need it, aren’t looking for it, and probably won’t do anything with it. People don’t want to be confronted with information about drugs and illness unless they or a loved one have a need — in the form of symptoms, general concerns or a current known condition. Only then will they take notice.

“Think about the ‘depth of sale’ – not just product awareness, but the deeper things like education and adherence.”

This concept seems to be best expressed in terms of lifetime value – how well a media option provides a foundation for building a relationship beyond the initial script.  The media plan should be built around disseminating tailored patient education before a branded product enters the market, providing outreach during launch, and delivering support throughout the product’s lifecycle.

 “Print is tactile – and tactile things are good.”

We spent a fair amount of time talking about print media during the roundtable.  Everyone agreed that even in the digital world we live in, print serves a major purpose as part of a brand’s relationship with consumers. For one thing, it is a powerful driver of online activity, giving people a stimulus to go online and learn more.  For another, it provides a tangible platform for brand messages.  Lastly, print vehicles amplify campaigns people see in TV and digital channels.

When people are sitting around a table freely talking about a singular topic, the opportunities for learning increase exponentially.  Every single participant was highly engaged and forthcoming with insights that you just don’t hear during a normal client meeting.  The perspectives shared in those two short hours helped us to think about ways we can better serve patients through our media choices.

Now, I think I’ll start working on that “Executive Swap” reality TV show pitch…