Pharma is not an industry known for launching headlong into new ideas and new ways of doing things—at least not without indulging
in a considerable period of cautious study first. So its embrace of the iPad—both as a new sales tool and as a new way to
communicate with and educate patients—stands out as somewhat anomalous. Granted, the sheer economic and cultural impact of
the device, which was first released in April 2010, has been hard for any technologically focused industry to ignore: Apple
sold 15 million iPads in the first nine months of launch. And its uptake among the medical profession has been particularly
staggering. In May 2011, Manhattan Research reported that 30 percent of physicians in the U.S. already own an iPad, and this
proportion will have already risen considerably, given that another 28 percent revealed they were planning to purchase one
"in the next six months."
Getty Images / Datacraft Co Ltd
But recognizing the iPad as a phenomenon and making a quick decision to embrace the hardware is just the beginning. The iPad
revolution brings with it a new challenge, that of effective content creation. And this is where pharma has sometimes come
undone. "There seems to have been a race to get something out there for technology's sake," says David Ashley, head of digital
marketing at UK agency Oi. "But a lot of agencies have designed apps for pharma that are really just converted PDF detail
aids; they have very little functionality apart from a linear flow. The result is that there have been a lot of disappointed
product managers out there."
David Hunt, digital director of Creative Lynx (UK), agrees: "By combining the innovation of the hardware with traditional
marketing techniques we can deliver an engaging and compelling experience. A strong story and great creative blended with
the features of the iPad delivers a truly immersive experience."
Whether we are doctors or patients or just casual iPad users, we're all massively impatient when it comes to apps, Hunt reminds
us. Unless we're immediately engaged by an app, we get rid of it. An app has to deliver immediate value. As soon as you download
one, you need to know how to use it and how you're going to benefit from it.
There are companies that appear to be getting it right, however. Johnson & Johnson's psoriasis app for dermatologists and
patients, which allows a quick and simple evaluation of the severity of their condition, has been averaging almost 60 downloads
a day for well over a year. The reason for its success, explains Hunt, is that it is "pick-up-and-play, and immediately rewarding."
On the sales/CRM side, Abbott's pilot app, developed by Oi, was successful because it was a "real closed loop solution," says
Ashley. In creating it, the agency went out with the sales reps to ascertain the various needs of the different clients: "It
was a case of understanding that it wasn't a matter of delivering a PowerPoint solution. The rep wants something that supports
This is a view supported by Neeraj Singhal, vice president of product strategy and innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management.
Far from being a device to replace the sales rep, which has been one of the more hysterical reactions to the iPad, it serves to augment the relationship between
reps and physicians. And the rep is more efficient in the relationship, says Singhal, when he has the right app.