Alternative Media: Pharma Online: Not Just Black and White

Industry has room to grow in online multicultural marketing.
Oct 01, 2006

Debrianna Obara
Multicultural marketing represents a huge opportunity for pharma companies to go after a largely untapped audience. African-American and Hispanic spending power in 2005 was an estimated $761 billion and $736 billion, respectively, according to the Selig Center of Economic Growth. And it's only going to increase.

Despite their buying power, pharma companies are under-investing in promoting to African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians—a void that is only further magnified when applied to the online world.

Many believe that minorities are not Internet users. But that's simply not true. Nielsen Net Ratings reports that there are 7 million African-American, 6.5 million Hispanic, and 3.1 million Asian users. While most pharma companies fail to grasp these growing statistics, a few are at least attempting to create online campaigns focused on these audiences. This column takes a hard look at those efforts, and offers advice for increased effectiveness.

Targeting Parent and Child

For its pediatric asthma treatment, Pulmicort Respules (budesonide), AstraZeneca developed and http://Niñ These compliance and loyalty sites feature tools that help parents learn about and manage their child's asthma, including videos for both moms and kids, and an asthma "action plan" for better health. is directed to the general market (including African Americans and English-speaking Hispanics, which represent a significant portion of the patient population), while http://Niñ offers the information in Spanish.

Both sites offer parents a venue to explore asthma educational materials, and deliver easy-to-digest health information in an engaging and fun format. One highlight is the animated character "Pulmi," who struggles with asthma. Pulmi is a likable character that both parents and children can relate to as he learns to use his nebulizer, and avoid asthma triggers.

Inconsistent Representation

Pfizer has been at the forefront in creating campaigns targeted to diverse audiences. In an effort to reach African Americans, Pfizer sponsored the online educational content for diabetic nerve pain for the Black Entertainment Television/Healthology Web site. The video (produced by Healthology) features mostly white doctors, but has a variety of patients displayed—showcasing how the disease affects people of all races and ages.

A banner rotation at the bottom of the site claims Pfizer's sponsorship of the section, and drives users to its Web site for its diabetic-nerve-pain treatment, Lyrica (pregabalin). But for users coming from BET, the landing page isn't always culturally relevant. The site features rotating photography. And while some of the imagery includes black diabetes patients, they are not consistently featured across the landing pages. This lack of continuity is a misstep in terms of targeting, and giving users a truly integrated and culturally-relevant experience.

Lost in Translation

Dual Purpose: MSN Latino features English-language creative used to target bilingual Hispanics.
Pfizer's multicultural-marketing efforts miss the mark again in the company's online Viagra (sildenafil) campaign for Hispanics. Pfizer appears to have simply translated the general-market slogan, "Keep That Spark Alive," and placed it alongside the same Anglo man from the general-market Web site.

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