Content Creation 101
For Ashley, iPads are tools; what his agency develops for them are 'toolkits.' There is a danger of companies wanting everything
in an app ("whatever's in the reps briefcase"), but the key to creating the content is realizing what's important—for example,
budget impact calculators—and what isn't.
Bill Cooney, president and CEO of MedPoint Digital, believes the essence of the iPad is to deliver immediate, tangible value
to the end user. "Pharma must build around that customer-centric ethic; it's not about what the app developer wants, or what
IT wants," he says. "Your app's content has to be excellent, its functionality must be superb, and it had better focus on
a task or topic that relates directly to the everyday needs of physicians."
Of course, says Bill Drummy, founder and CEO of Heartbeat Ideas, the elements of an app are dependent on the marketing objectives
of the brand. But Drummy does believe in five key principles for approaching app development: "Identify insights about your
audience and product differentiation (don't start by thinking about the iPad; start by thinking about the marketing problem
at hand); explore the unique capabilities of the tablet to generate meaningful engagement; consider innovation within practical
boundaries (for example, does the app need to talk to CRM systems?); test at every stage (no one knows exactly what will work
best, so develop, measure, improve); and optimize for the future."
But how far into the future should the iPad app developer be thinking? Is there a chance that rival devices will catch up
or overtake? At the end of October 2011, http://PCMag.com/ pointed to a report from mobile research firm Research2Guidance, which stated that the Android market "has reached a milestone,
hitting 500,000 submitted apps."
With around 600,000 apps published in its App Store at the same time, Apple was not that far ahead. But the two figures are
not exactly comparable, as the report qualified: "Google ascribes to an 'anything goes' policy with the Android market, letting
in any app to be submitted. iOS apps, on the other hand, are subject to Apple's strict approval process before they're allowed
into the App Store." The actual number of "active apps" then, it was claimed, was 319,161 for Android and 459,589 for the
App Store. Even so, the report went on, considering Google went live with Android only about a year after the debut of the
iPhone, "the growth rate for the Android market is undoubtedly impressive."
Also, it should not be forgotten—amid the free publicity and hype the iPad has attracted—that the Apple device is not without
its flaws. "It's not the most powerful computer in the world," says David Ashley. "You can't, for example, store eight hours'
worth of video content for instant presentation." And while Drummy believes the iPad in its current state "is the best content
consumption device ever created," he admits that it is not the best content creation device. But, he adds: "There are rumors that future devices will make content creation easier—a projectable keyboard perhaps?"
For Cooney, however, the biggest drawback is not the development of iPad apps, but the distribution and management of them.
"One option is to distribute through the Apple Store, which is great if you want your app to be available to the universe,"
he says. "But it isn't if you want selective distribution, such as to your sales force. That requires private distribution
of apps, which is a challenge. iPad apps were not really designed for private distribution, and although it can be done, it
poses several technical hurdles."
Still, concern about the iPad's quibbles remain relatively minor. Ashley is quick to add that the iPad2 has offered significant
improvement on the first model with regard to "speed and processing and the kind of content you can store." And the consensus
seems to be that other devices will not gain ground very quickly. For Drummy "the only serious tablet competitor at the moment
is the Kindle platform, and that is not likely to have much impact in the pharma world."
Cooney is unequivocal: "Apple simply has too many significant advantages." First, there is the iPad's "overwhelming" current
market share among physicians. He believes that physicians—"who place greater value on quality than price"—will be among the
last consumers to convert to other tablets. Android-driven tablets may offer more variety of hardware configurations, but
that "engenders more diversity of screen sizes, resolution, processors, etc., and their apps are less likely to perform consistently
well across diverse platforms." Cooney also says that Android-compatible apps—supported as they are by open distribution—are
inherently less secure and prone to threats. "Physicians and pharma won't like that," he adds.
Creating iPad Apps: An Agency Perspective
Seizing the App Opportunities
If you are still uncertain about embarking on a program of app development, consider Bill Cooney's comment that "the pharma
industry simply must gain a presence on this platform or risk becoming irrelevant." But 'irrelevance' will not be resisted
by simply accepting the iPad as your new savior. Developing safe, conservative content, particularly the one-size-fits-all
type for use on a variety of digital platforms, will leave you as vulnerable as those who shun the new technology entirely.
Companies that take this approach, Drummy warns, "will end up failing in the marketplace, and then needing to recreate their
assets, which will make them both inefficient and late to market."
Pharma has made the effort to arrive nice and early to the iPad party. Now it needs to make sure it doesn't stay confined
to the kitchen.