Ad Agency Encourages Pharma Marketers to Reboot


Pharmaceutical Executive

People tell you who they are, but we ignore it – because we want them to be who we want them to be. – Don Draper

People tell you who they are, but we ignore it – because we want them to be who we want them to be. – Don Draper

At the beginning of the Reboot Camp – held at New York City’s Alexandria Center on April 12 – Intouch Solutions’ CEO Faruk Capan declared the days of Don Draper effectively over. The route to patients’ hearts and minds isn’t Old Fashioned cocktails and intuition; it’s solutions based on patient, provider and payer needs, and making disparate data streams pool around brand objectives.


Katherine Patterson, global marketing communications manager, growth initiatives, GE Healthcare

Katherine Patterson, global marketing communications manager, growth initiatives, at GE Healthcare, gave the keynote address, which focused on clarity of mission in marketing execution, and the importance of marrying science and emotion for consumers. Marketers too obsessed with social media, or the newest digital platform, might impress only themselves. “It’s like peeing down your leg…hot to you, but nobody else,” said Patterson. In Japan, for example, GE Healthcare’s medical device customers “are moving back toward print” as a preferred marketing channel, although growth markets “want digital,” and they want it on their mobile devices, she said.

Citing Eric Topol, currently director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute, Ben Chodor, CEO at Happtique, said we’re not too far away from a time when physicians prescribe more apps than pharmaceutical drugs. Chodor is betting on Topol’s prediction; Happtique, a mobile health application store, will “curate” mobile apps for docs through a private, customized dashboard of Happtique-certified health apps. The company’s patent-pending software would allow physicians to electronically prescribe apps to patients. Chodor says he’s lobbying the SEC to reimburse medical apps, noting that some private plans already do.

Happtique doesn’t make apps itself, but Chodor appeared before the US House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology in March to support FDA’s regulation and definition of mobile medical apps. “It’s relatively simple to take an app through FDA” [for a medical device designation], and it only costs between $10,000 and $20,000, he said, noting that 75 mobile devices/apps have already been approved. Chodor said the Affordable Care Act’s medical device excise tax – “the absolute worst tax ever” – should not be levied on smartphones or apps.

Asaf Evenhaim, co-founder and CEO of Crossix, reminded Reboot Camp attendees about the unfathomable amount of individual consumer or patient data that exists for marketers, while insisting on the importance of privacy and HIPAA regulations. His company collects this data to create “propensity scores,” which serve as the basis for highly specific predictive models. The models can then be used to predict healthcare purchase decisions.

Where does all that data come from? Some of it is volunteered, some is collected invisibly through cookies, Facebook and other online aggregators, and some of it – but not Crossix’s data – is gleaned from trolling social media channels and blogs. Passive data collection, said Intouch Solutions’ senior vice president David Windhausen, is revolutionizing pharma marketing and health itself. Windhausen said he looks at his Nike FuelBand in the evening, and if he hasn’t been active enough, it’s time to exercise.

Windhausen’s talk lovingly described the Sanofi mobile app “GoMeals,” an app for diabetics specifically, but also for anyone who wants on-the-go nutritional facts about nearby restaurants (among other things). An attendee representing Sanofi – which is an Intouch client – let slip that GoMeals, and possibly the iBGStar glucose meter, would start to integrate passive data from wearable tracker gadgets like Fitbit or the FuelBand as early as this year.

Capping off the Reboot meeting was Augustin Fou, founder and chief digital strategist, Marketing Science Consulting Group. Fou emphasized the importance of recognizing how patients’ habits, expectations, and actions – in the context of healthcare – have changed, and how they continue to change. He referenced a Capgemini Consulting report on “digital maturity” that placed pharma at the very bottom of the list.

Despite regulatory hurdles and because of an explosion in mobile technology, data capture, and the influence patient’s have on the delivery of healthcare, pharma marketers could use a reboot. But they’ll need to back-up some of the dusty old tropes of yesteryear, even those that precede Don Draper. As GE Healthcare’s Patterson noted, Aristotelian rhetoric, comprised of ethos,pathos and logos – in equal measure – works as well in a sales detail as it did in symposia. The occasional Old Fashioned might be okay, too.

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