Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012 - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Emerging Pharma Leaders 2012


Pharmaceutical Executive


Peter Dannenfelser

Director, Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing North America, Johnson & Johnson



Pete Dannenfelser didn't get to where he is today through the traditional channels. He was never a sales rep or marketing manager. In fact, non-traditional marketing channels—an expertise in digital technology and media—have gotten Dannenfelser to his current position. That expertise, plus a unique ability to interpret and collaborate across company divisions, may also take him even further.

"One of my career goals is to bring a digital/new media position to the C-suite, and I see that as a real opportunity in the coming years," says Dannenfelser. "In the same way I've seen other business critical functions have a seat at pharma's leadership tables across the industry, so should digital. To make that happen, my aspiration is to continue advocating for innovation and working to advance the kind of programming that can prove digital is a core strategic driver of both business and brand strategy."

A tech nerd from the outset, Dannenfelser has always chased the latest and greatest in new technology. "An iPhone can't come out that I don't buy within the first week," he says. In his twenties, Dannenfelser (who is 41) was looking for work in digital on the development side, and scored a gig with J&J's Ortho-McNeil as a contractor, but quickly moved into a strategic role. It was there that Dannenfelser had an epiphany that still informs his thinking today. Tasked with integrating website-generated e-mail inquires into a call center, it "became clear to me that we were receiving customer insights constantly through the phone and through e-mail that weren't necessarily being shared with the market research group." His perch in the digital space provided "insight and a view into other parts of the organization, where silos still exist, and I was able to bring them together. We could suddenly react—from a market research assessment—to the type of customer insights we were receiving through the call centers."

It was at Ortho-McNeil (now a part of J&J's Janssen Pharmaceuticals) where Dannenfelser was first "bitten by the marketing bug," and also where he met another digital champion, Marc Monseau, who helped develop the company's social media policy and strategy for over a decade, up until May of last year. "Pete and I started at J&J at about the same time, and even then you could see that he was not only someone who had a passion and deep knowledge of all things digital, but that he was someone who could get things done," says Monseau. "Pete takes complex, innovative approaches to digital marketing and makes them work for the pharmaceuticals industry, all with a calm, measured attitude."

The importance of a calm and measured attitude should not be underestimated in the corporate world, and Dannenfelser says he "works to live," not vice versa. Adds Monseau: "He plays a mean bass guitar." Oh yeah? "I play bass in a band on the weekends," says Dannenfelser. "I allow for the things that are important outside of work, and that way when I'm in the office I can give that additional effort that's required."

Dannenfelser says he's as guilty as everyone else of the occasional midnight e-mail or the Sunday afternoon Powerpoint presentation, but "the most important thing to me is my family." Dannenfelser has a two-and-a-half year old, and a second child on the way. In keeping with the modern career path, Dannenfelser didn't stay at Ortho despite his early success there. He has worked for Novartis as, among other titles, director of new channel development, and has also spent time on the agency side, first with the Cadient Group and then at Targetbase, with a stint at Forest Labs in between, as senior director of marketing communications. Finally, though, he came back to where he started. "I had always said that if Johnson & Johnson called back, I would come back, and about eight months ago I was given that opportunity."

As head of Janssen Pharmaceuticals' digital center of excellence, Dannenfelser says senior leadership at the company is committed to digital, which makes his life easier. But the technology is in a constant state of flux, which requires flexibility and the interpretive skills to bring people on board. "In order to maintain our leadership role, we need to regularly embrace the change that comes ahead of it."

—Ben Comer


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