Direct to Consumer: Information vs. Education - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Direct to Consumer: Information vs. Education
Patients need education, and pharma is in the position to provide it.


Pharmaceutical Executive


Build Trust According to a Harris Interactive poll, 79 percent of consumers believed that the pharmaceutical industry was doing a good job in 1997, the year that DTC promotion became legal. That score has dropped steadily ever since, from 73 percent in 1998 to 66 percent in 1999, and 59 percent in 2000. By 2003, it had dropped to 49 percent, and as of last year, the rating slumped to 44 percent.

Elizabeth Sloss, an attorney and a PhD candidate at London's Center for Medical Law and Ethics, believes pharma's bad rep is a result of consumers' objections to the industry's manner of business—not the quality and benefits of its products. "As a result of the plethora of unethical business in the daily news, consumers are more sensitive to what is perceived to be unethical business behavior," she says.

How can educational marketing build trust in brands and the industry? It can help consumers by providing education that fits what they need. This may require a change in attitude. Companies should consider making the bottom line a long-term proposition by building an unbranded or minimally branded educational component into their marketing strategies. That doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. They can evaluate the creative they have already invested in with an eye toward augmenting it with missing education.

Most importantly, pharma needs to take the consumer's reality into account. Position the brand or company so consumers perceive it as taking the time to understand their dilemma, reluctance, confusion, and needs. This investment can turn suspicious consumers into supportive ones. And when it comes time for companies to market that next product, they can build from that groundwork of trust.

A good example of that is GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) corporate ad series that tells stories about employees whose career choices were motivated by family members who have benefited from advancements in medicine. The end result is that the company puts a human face to the years of research and substantial investment it takes to get a product to market.

"Because of the distrust the public has for CEOs and other corporate leaders, the emphasis of GSK's program is important," says Mike Pucci, vice president of external marketing at GSK.

It's time to commit to spending on DTC education—the type that increases industry value in consumers' eyes.


Michael McDonald
Launches The FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and The Health Television System agreed to co-produce videos, DVDs and print materials designed to educate hospitalized patients about safe use of medicines. Cambridge BioMarketing Group created a campaign for Together RXAccess about a savings program for people without prescription drug coverage.


Anne M. Loomis
People MediZine Inc. promoted Suzanne Polizzi, an employee of seven years, to executive vice president of sales and marketing. She was formerly a vice president and general manager. Anne M. Loomis joined Torre Lazur McCann West, one of five American divisions of Torre Lazur McCann Healthcare Worldwide Agencies, as executive vice president and director of client services.

Brian Kolasinski, Larry Septoff and Noel Garingan joined Stratagem Healthcare Communications. Kolasinski was hired as account supervisor, Septoff as group copy director and Garingan as art supervisor. GSW Worldwide named Michael McDonald senior vice president in consumer account division.

MetaWorks Inc. made several staff changes and additions in the area of business development. Matthew Bush was promoted to senior director of marketing and business development. Candace Gunnarsson and Rebecca Miller-Chiappinelli were both named director of business development. Jane Carter was selected as operations manager. Jennifer Ring was appointed business development marketing manager.


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