A Day Late and a Dollar Short - Pharmaceutical Executive


A Day Late and a Dollar Short

Pharmaceutical Executive

Thinking (Way) Outside the Box

Smarter buying of "traditional" online inventory will dramatically improve online ROI. But to really maximize returns on your marketing dollars, you also need to think differently about the online media landscape as a whole. That means reaching beyond the normal channels and exploring the newer terrain of social media and user-generated content.

At first glance, this horizon may look not just unfamiliar but downright bleak to an advertiser. Click-through rates (CTRs), a standard metric, are notoriously low on social media sites such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube. Valleywag, for instance, quotes one media planner as saying, "Facebook was consistently the worst performing site on just about every campaign we ever ran with them." Their example cites a CTR of .04 percent—well below the online industry average of .21 percent listed by MarketingSherpa. While this may seem like unfamiliar terrain to pharma marketers, with the right approach it can be quite effective.

The true promise of social media lies in using them in a way that fits the form, not forcing the ad model to function where it doesn't belong. In the social media world, you have the chance to engage with the active social media participant who may be a brand maven in hiding. Capitalize on the inherent, outspoken nature of bloggers; allow them to become your brand stewards and your media planning partners. Sites like http://Brickfish.com/ and http://wegohealth.com/ have already taken the step to mediate such interactions.

In addition to social media partnerships, pharma marketers must explore other innovative digital tactics that have the potential to reach consumers in powerful, diverse ways. For instance, branded widgets—portable, downloadable tools that users can post on their Facebook page, download to their desktop, or install on their iPhones—provide users with real utility while offering advertisers a messaging platform that doesn't require banner ad space. Some pharma companies are already developing tools for filtering specialized healthcare content, pollen-trackers for allergy sufferers, and bathroom guides for those suffering from an overactive bladder. By introducing your brand in a subtle, yet informative and interactive way, you build a trusting relationship from which both parties can benefit.

Leap from the Status Quo

Being a dollar short and a day late in the digital realm was never a smart strategy for pharma marketers, but now it's downright dangerous. By looking at problems as opportunities and thinking beyond the 'normal' digital channels, we have the opportunity to break away from the status quo and generate superior results.

Lee Slovitt is senior media director at Heartbeat Digital. He can be reached at


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