Since changes to the PhRMA code were announced last summer and implemented on January 1st of this year, many questions crucial to pharma marketers have gone unanswered: Will exhibiting continue to be a valuable marketing activity? Will new restrictions on promotional items impact exhibit hall visitation? What kinds of medically relevant materials do physicians view as most valuable?
ResearchTo assess the code's impact, the study was conducted in two phases—before and after the code went into effect.
Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) originally developed its PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals in July 2002. An updated version that prohibits the use of non-educational items—such as branded pens and coffee mugs—took effect on January 1, 2009.
Today's Changed Environment
Pharma's investment in healthcare exhibit marketing is considerable. According to HCEA, in 2008 the average member-company spend on healthcare exhibit marketing products and services was $4,002,977. (All pharmaceutical companies in the Fortune 500 and Global 500 are members of HCEA.)
Historically, there is significant evidence that showcases the advantages that exhibit-based marketing offers to those who participate. For example, according to the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), 76 percent of all trade show and convention attendees arrive at exhibitions with an agenda. This suggests that for most visitors, a visit to the exhibit hall is purposeful and goal-driven. CEIR data also shows that memorability for a particular company, product, or service can increase as much as 77 percent for as long as 10 weeks after an exhibition.
Phase I of Marketech's study was conducted last fall, before the new PhRMA code took effect. A total of 858 face-to-face interviews were completed with attendees who visited the exhibit areas at six medical conventions. Phase II of the research was conducted in the spring, after implementation of the new code. The second phase included 550 interviews at four medical conventions.
The findings reflect the opinions of a wide range of healthcare professionals—primary care, immunology, thoracic surgery, hematology, endocrinology, clinical oncology, and other specialties. Added to CEIR's research, the study provides further evidence that exhibiting at healthcare conventions continues to be a valuable component of the marketing plan.