Recently Agency Confidential sent out our army of gumshoes to pay visits to some of the agencies' biggest wigs—the guys and gals who handle the super-size accounts. We'd been hearing lots of contrary information about how pharma companies and their agencies were responding to the current changes in the industry, especially at a time when the global economy is in peril. We asked them the following questions:
1 Given the current economic conditions, pharmaceutical companies are looking to get the most out of marketing for the least amount of money. Many are asking their agencies and strategic partners to cut expenses as well. What are some smart ways to economize on advertising and marketing (to the professional and to the consumer) that would improve efficiency, return-on-investment, cost savings, and also bring value to the brand?
2 At a time when patients are cutting back on their visits to doctors and not filling their prescriptions to save money, how do you make advertising more responsive to the economic realities of the marketplace—be it persistence and compliance, and/or the often desperate reality of people's lives? Times have changed and yet DTC ads on TV seem neither to address nor reflect it. (Note: Our sleuths' interrogations took place prior to Pfizer's recent announcement of their groundbreaking, free drug program—MAINTAIN (an acronym for Medicines Assistance for Those who Are in Need), which will provide the newly unemployed and their families more than 70 primary care drugs manufactured by Pfizer, including cholesterol-lowering agent Lipitor, at no charge.)3 In April, the FDA called out nearly every major drugmaker (and over 50 drug brands), demanding a stop to "misleading" and "misbranded" advertising on search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Many in the industry believe this to be a step short of the Feds creating a policy statement around search advertising. About 100 million people a year go to the Internet to do drug research, according to Manhattan Research. How would this affect pharmaceutical online marketing?
The agency executives were extremely forthcoming. Our only regret is that we don't have more space to run their answers in full. The following is what we found to be their most telling, cogent, and interesting points.
— Marylyn Donahue