Ad Agencies to the Rescue - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Ad Agencies to the Rescue
Faced with strict guidelines and regulatory pressures over advertising, clients are looking to their agencies for support and guidance.


Pharmaceutical Executive



Gene Guselli, CEO of InfoMedics, believes it's important for agencies to treat each client differently, as one client's view of the world can vastly differ from that of another.
In addition, agencies must also realize the distinct nature of the relationship with pharma clients. "In the pharma world, marketing should not be seen as an event, but as a process," says Richard Minoff, president of Dorland Global Health Communications. "While this strategy may work with packaged goods in other industries, it can be detrimental to the end-user in the world of drug advertising," he says. "Drug ads have a far more intimate and complex relationship to the end-user."

At the same time, clients must understand their new responsibilities in the client-agency relationship.

"First, clients need to get their arms around their own internal environment and make sure those guidelines are in line with the governing guidelines," says Daley of GSW Worldwide. Then they must take a proactive approach in clearly relaying that information to their agency. Ultimately, the client is the one responsible for making a decision. "Our goal is to advise and counsel a client—to know what's legal, moral, and ethical and present a level of fair balance. But we don't have the final say," he says.


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Furthermore, Sandino says it is the client's role to "look beyond what they've been sold in the past—that mass-market television has been the answer—and more towards an integrated media as a process, not as an effect."

Looking Forward

For some client-agency relationships, the intensified scrutiny on DTC advertising has produced a positive impact. Pfizer's newly announced DTC policy is a perfect example, says Frank Hone, executive vice president of Ogilvy Healthworld. "The company's announcement to move away from mass-market television advertising towards a deeper educational sell is the first signal of clients changing their view on what effective consumer education should be," he says.


Frank Hone, EVP of Ogilvy Healthworld, says clients are changing their views on what consumer education should be. They are now asking agencies to provide a deeper educational sell in DTC.
Hone says this is a move in the right direction that will not only help brighten the pharma industry's tarnished image, but also smooth out some of the tensions that exist within the client-agency relationship.

While each client-agency relationship is distinct, they often share the same balancing act of trying to remain innovative while playing it safe. "Yes, it is squeezing the traditional ways that we market and promote drugs," Guselli says. "But the dollars are still there, there's money to spend, and the industry is growing." Furthermore, he says, "Restrictions on how to spend that money have forced more creative thinking, which is a nice byproduct of all of this scrutiny."


Rich Minoff, president of Dorland Global Health Communications, says the client-agency relationship in the pharma world is distinct and more complex because drug ads have a more intimate relationship to the end-user.
But some wonder how it is possible to remain creative in such a restrictive environment. "Agencies shouldn't confuse conservatism with creativity," Guselli says. "It's possible to be completely creative and operate within the guidelines."


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