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Direct to Consumer: The Campaign Conundrum


Pharmaceutical Executive

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-08-01-2005
Volume 0
Issue 0

The world might seem large but it's actually smaller than ever. The best way to exercise a high level of quality control is to make sure that the campaigns are globalized.

The buzzword, for at least the last decade, has been global communications. Yet very few pharma companies have executed a successful global campaign. As the marketplace becomes increasingly competitive, with new markets and brands emerging and hard-to-reach audiences becoming even more elusive, companies are starting to re-think the way they communicate their campaigns' messages. But the biggest challenge, according to Steve Girgenti, worldwide chairman and CEO of Ogilvy Healthworld, is to get local affiliates to support the global campaign and tailor it to fit the individual needs of their specific audiences. While it's imperative that the campaign's message remains consistent across all markets, it must adapt to the cultural and ethnic needs of the diverse audiences they reach. It's not an easy task, Girgenti says, but an essential one to delivering continuity of key messages across markets all over the world.

Pharm Exec: What makes an effective global campaign?

Girgenti: Delivering a consistent message to all audiences, no matter which regions they reside in, is key to a successful campaign. Big Pharma, in particular, must make every effort to do this. The last thing in the world a company wants to do is portray the wrong message, or the wrong positioning, for a drug, especially after spending so much money and time developing both. The world might seem large, but it's actually smaller than ever. When a mistake happens in Europe, it has immediate ramifications in the United States with FDA. To have some doctors in one part of the world misunderstand how the product should be used could have serious ramifications. So, companies have to be very cautious about how they deliver messages around the world for their products. The best way to exercise a high level of quality control is to make sure that the campaigns are globalized.

What To Look For In An Agency

What are the challenges of creating such a campaign?

It has to be a team effort. The agency must work in conjunction with the client in conducting focus groups in the different countries, and in the evaluation of the positioning. Then, once those concepts are developed, the task is to evaluate the advertising concepts to make sure they are well-received. What makes it particularly difficult is that, sometimes, the needs in one particular market are very different than elsewhere in the world. Satisfying all of the key countries for a client—so that the campaigns are applicable and relevant to their market needs—is probably the most challenging part of the exercise.

Are companies watering down campaigns to accommodate all markets?

The last thing executives want to do is dilute their efforts to satisfy the needs of, say, one country in the world. Typically, that's not an issue in the United States because it's the dominant market in the world and therefore, has a say in the process. Still, a product campaign's concept must be reworked on a local level, which goes back to the saying "think globally, act locally." This allows these local agencies, with their local clients, to take what was developed centrally at the core level and rework it to create something that is quite relevant and important for that local market.

Who, if anyone, is doing global communications well?

The pharmaceutical industry has talked a lot about developing global campaigns, but has not really executed them. When I see news in the press about what work a global agency is doing, I take it with a grain of salt because it's often more hype than reality.

For many years, there has been a big effort to develop global campaigns, but they have failed at the local level because there's resistance. Often you'll hear local affiliates of companies say, "We want to use our own agency to draw up our own campaign." So, it was never really pushed down by the headquarters of the big pharmas to the local level.

And it's still not pushed down the way it should be. If you look at the consumer side, however, it's in place for the most part. But in the pharmaceutical industry, you don't have the same kind of mandate coming down from the CEO of the corporation. We'll see this changing. There isn't a terrific history of global campaigns in our industry, but I think it is happening now for the first time in many years.

What aspects of global communications are companies still figuring out?

The biggest hurdle that our clients are facing is gaining the support of the local subsidiaries that now show a high level of resistance to taking what was developed centrally from the headquarters. Instead of using what was developed in its entirety or reworking some portion of it, often, they'll just rely on their local agencies to do business as usual. Big pharmas today are still struggling with that.

How can they improve the situation?

Pharma executives have come to the realization that in order to gain the support of the locals, there has to be some financial incentive involved. And that's where we are now with global procurement teams that are negotiating global contracts or pan-regional contracts to offer added incentives and better pricing for one's work (as long as the volume increases). This way, the local subsidiaries end up saving money in the end. That is something that is now being massaged and developed by a lot of the big pharmas.

What advice do you offer companies in the midst of developing a global campaign?

They have to think about how they're going to grow their business in the future, assuming their client base is thinking globally for their brands. And we know that they are. They must develop effective programs for clients that aren't based on advertising alone, but offer medical education, direct marketing, database marketing, research, and strategic planning. It's important that clients really exercise proper due diligence when selecting and picking agencies for global assignments.


Gina Ashe has been appointed senior vice president, healthcare director at Rapp Collins Healthcare. » The Hal Lewis Group promoted Andrea Begley from account supervisor to group account supervisor. » Julie Tye was promoted to senior manager of support services at Abelson-Taylor.

Renee Davis

Renee Davis was also hired by Abelson-Taylsor as a presentation specialist. » Daniel Jay joined GSW Worldwide as associate creative director. In addition, Rebecca Karger joined the company as a copywriter and Jay Orenstein was hired as director of creative services.

Jay Orenstein


Rosetta Marketing Group, a segment-based marketing firm, acquired SimStar, a company that provides relationship marketing services to pharmaceutical and biotech fields. SimStar will now operate as a division of Rosetta.

Rebecca Karger

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