Direct to Consumer: The Campaign Conundrum

Pharma companies struggle to get local support for their global campaigns.
Jul 31, 2005



The buzzword, for at least the last decade, has been global communications. Yet very few pharma companies have executed a successful global campaign. As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, with new markets and brands emerging and hard-to-reach audiences becoming even more elusive, companies are starting to re-think the way they communicate their campaigns' messages. But the biggest challenge, according to Steve Girgenti, worldwide chairman and CEO of Ogilvy Healthworld, is to get local affiliates to support the global campaign and tailor it to fit the individual needs of their specific audiences. While it's imperative that the campaign's message remains consistent across all markets, it must adapt to the cultural and ethnic needs of the diverse audiences they reach. It's not an easy task, Girgenti says, but an essential one to delivering continuity of key messages across markets all over the world.

Pharm Exec: What makes an effective global campaign?


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Girgenti: Delivering a consistent message to all audiences, no matter which regions they reside in, is key to a successful campaign. Big Pharma, in particular, must make every effort to do this. The last thing in the world a company wants to do is portray the wrong message, or the wrong positioning, for a drug, especially after spending so much money and time developing both. The world might seem large, but it's actually smaller than ever. When a mistake happens in Europe, it has immediate ramifications in the United States with FDA. To have some doctors in one part of the world misunderstand how the product should be used could have serious ramifications. So, companies have to be very cautious about how they deliver messages around the world for their products. The best way to exercise a high level of quality control is to make sure that the campaigns are globalized.

What are the challenges of creating such a campaign?

It has to be a team effort. The agency must work in conjunction with the client in conducting focus groups in the different countries, and in the evaluation of the positioning. Then, once those concepts are developed, the task is to evaluate the advertising concepts to make sure they are well-received. What makes it particularly difficult is that, sometimes, the needs in one particular market are very different than elsewhere in the world. Satisfying all of the key countries for a client—so that the campaigns are applicable and relevant to their market needs—is probably the most challenging part of the exercise.

Are companies watering down campaigns to accommodate all markets?

The last thing executives want to do is dilute their efforts to satisfy the needs of, say, one country in the world. Typically, that's not an issue in the United States because it's the dominant market in the world and therefore, has a say in the process. Still, a product campaign's concept must be reworked on a local level, which goes back to the saying "think globally, act locally." This allows these local agencies, with their local clients, to take what was developed centrally at the core level and rework it to create something that is quite relevant and important for that local market.

Who, if anyone, is doing global communications well?

The pharmaceutical industry has talked a lot about developing global campaigns, but has not really executed them. When I see news in the press about what work a global agency is doing, I take it with a grain of salt because it's often more hype than reality.