Alternative Media: Pharma Online: Not Just Black and White - Pharmaceutical Executive


Alternative Media: Pharma Online: Not Just Black and White
Industry has room to grow in online multicultural marketing.

Pharmaceutical Executive

According to Lee Vann, president of Captura Group, a firm specializing in reaching Hispanics, the literal translation fails to account for cultural issues, such as stigma or "machismo," that may affect how Hispanic men perceive erectile dysfunction.

Pfizer did a better job adapting its Viagra brand to the Hispanic audience on the Web portal, intended for Spanish-speaking Americans. The sponsored content on this site features imagery and information that better reflect the readers.

Eli Lilly is also guilty of the direct-translation approach, with the Spanish-language version of its Web site for depression drug Cymbalta (duloxetine). Although the company uses culturally relevant imagery on the site, the text on the Spanish version is an old iteration of the campaign, while the English site for Cymbalta has since been updated.

A final example of multicultural marketing comes from Ortho McNeil, which produced a stand-alone site,, targeted to Hispanics for its birth-control drug Ortho Evra (norlegstromin/ethinyl estradiol). This company should be commended for investing in establishing a truly targeted site, with a completely different navigation, design, and message than the general-market site. However, it stops short of addressing Hispanics' issues with birth control.

"Research has shown that barriers to birth control among Hispanics include language, embarrassment, and lack of knowledge of the system," says Vann. " is very product-driven and could have addressed these barriers through more prominent educational content about the safety and history of birth control. The idea is that before a Hispanic woman is comfortable with a birth-control patch, she needs to be comfortable with birth control in general."

Vann also points to's tagline: Sobre tu cuerpo. Fuera de tu mente. (On your body, off of your mind.) Again, the slogan is a literal translation from an old English version. "The tagline works well in English," says Vann, "but may not resonate with Hispanic women."

What Marketers Should Know

When marketing to diverse audiences, companies need to do more than just add a few photos of the target audience to a translated version of the general-market site. Language nuances and a strong commitment to respect should create the foundation for all multicultural campaigns.

To get there, companies should conduct focus groups and market research—and seek media partners that truly understand the subtleties of how to talk to this growing online audience.

English-language ads targeting bilingual Hispanics on sites such as Yahoo!, Telmundo, and MSN Latino also can be quite effective. In this way, pharma companies can target bilingual Hispanics online without necessarily investing in a separate Spanish-language banner campaign and Web site, although creating Web destinations in both languages is advisable.

A lot of brand managers abandon their Spanish sites when a new general-market campaign is launched, instead of incurring the additional expense to update their Spanish sites—examples include Celebrex (celecoxib) and Elidel (pimecrolimus). This lack of planning, budget, and foresight cuts to the heart of a community that often feels under-represented, ignored, and disrespected by big business.

Pharma marketers must face up to the true faces of their customers. Once the investment is made in properly targeting and educating these groups, pharma companies may be surprised at how loyal an audience they've created.

Debrianna Obara is vice president of media at Avenue A/Razorfish. She can be reached at


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