Direct to Consumer: Q&A with Jill Balderson - Pharmaceutical Executive


Direct to Consumer: Q&A with Jill Balderson
More Education, Less Promotion. Patient materials should teach rather than tell.

Pharmaceutical Executive

How can marketers improve educational materials?

Consumers tend to be very literal. Therefore, materials must clearly spell out the side effects of a medication and the repercussions for not taking it properly. Because of space issues, this can be challenging. In fact, many materials ignore the need for specificity. For example, the materials for a pediatric GERD [gastro-esophageal reflux disease] drug recommend that users elevate the bed for children. When you ask people if this information is useful to them, they often say, "How on earth do you elevate the bed? Should I raise it five feet off the ground? Do I put a pillow under it?" They don't know what "elevate the bed" means. It's important to teach people, rather than just tell them, what they're supposed to do.

The materials for a certain Alzheimer's drug also confuse patients. The materials recommend that patients take the drug with meals. The questions we hear are: "What is a meal? Some people have soup for dinner—does that count as a meal?" In order to avoid this confusion, we work with our patients to understand their concerns. Once we have developed a draft of material, we will often go back to patients and ask them: Does this help answer your questions?

Health education takes many forms. How do consumers respond to the different mediums?

People have different learning styles. Visual learners like to see illustrations while others prefer audio-visual materials that they might find on a DVD or Web site. Others are more receptive to hearing someone tell them what to do. Those people may benefit from a phone-based program where health experts field questions from patients through teleconferencing. Some people prefer a more hands-on approach and learn by doing. These people can benefit from live seminars, health fairs, or workshops.

Each channel has its own role and place in the marketing mix. Television is a fantastic reach vehicle but there's only so much education it can deliver in a standard-length TV spot. Print and online also have limitations in terms of space. Ultimately, an integrated approach that comprises several different formats reinforces the message most powerfully.

What campaign can the industry use as a model?

Lilly's "Depression Hurts" campaign has a powerful, educational message. Unlike other campaigns for anti-depressants, it calls attention to the physical symptoms of depression and intimates that depression hurts other people in one's life. Most importantly, the print ads drive people to seek more information at or to call an 800 number to receive more materials. The Web site offers a very interactive symptom body map that reinforces the educational message that depression causes physical pain. It also allows visitors to determine if they have symptoms of depression.

Stacey Singer
Launches The California Family Health Council debuted three 30-second broadcast spots to increase awareness about emergency contraception. / The American Heart Association introduced a public policy campaign encouraging volunteers to advocate increased funding for heart disease.

People Ableson-Taylor promoted three staffers: Shanika Bradley became account supervisor, Rachel Callahan became account director, and Nicholas Avallone became clinical research associate. / Stacey Singer was promoted to managing partner at CommonHealth. / Ignite Health reorganized its corporate structure. Jackie Herr was selected as CEO; Tim Riley was named chief marketing officer; Rich Fair was named chief creative officer; and Fabio Gratton became chief innovation officer.


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