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Pharma and ad agencies have enjoyed a long and profitable relationship, but now their worlds are changing. Can this marriage survive?
Each year Pharmaceutical Executive sends an army of gumshoes out to pound the pavements in search of information on the industry's advertising providers for our special supplement Agency Confidential.
Part report, part guide Agency Confidential is intended to help you find the agency that is right for your brand.
The methods used by our gumshoes may be unconventional. As private eyes, they will stop at nothing to uncover what's really happening behind the doors of the nation's top healthcare advertising agencies.
Their confidential report is chock-full of marketing insights, trends, creative intelligence, and research data. This year it also includes interrogations of 25 of the highest-ranking healthcare advertising officials, who broke down and answered questions with surprising frankness. Talking not just about themselves, they shared insights into the state of pharma marketing at this crucial time in the industry's history (see "Agencies Are Talking About").
Change is the operative word in this year's report.
And what does pharma marketing have to change? At a recent forum of pharmaceutical marketing science executives, facilitated by TGaS Advisers, panelists overwhelmingly agreed the channels undergoing the most change and those that offered the biggest opportunity for analytic improvement were the Internet and Relationship Marketing. Also, at the top of their list, was personal promotion (direct sales to physicians).
And so how do the agencies fit in? They are still wanted, that's for sure. Pharma's need for specialized services, such as online marketing, along with cost controls that have stretched the industry's in-house resources continues to ensure having to enlist the help of healthcare advertising agencies, according to Jim Mercante, a partner at TGaS, which supplies benchmarking services to pharmaceutical companies.
Pharma has always been a data-rich environment. In many ways their relationship with the ad agencies appears to have little in common—pharma (geeky, introverted, and data-driven) and ad agencies (showy, creative, and extroverted). But need trumps attraction every time. And together what they bring to the table as a team is priceless.
Pharma has the data (and increasingly sophisticated pharma marketers) and the agencies have their muse, which has proven to be so valuable in the age of DTC.
Now the agencies have a potentially even-bigger card to play—digital marketing savvy, something pharma has been painfully slow to embrace.
In this issue of Agency Confidential we offer some tips on how to make the relationship even stronger.
Mystery might be alluring, but relationships thrive on full disclosure. To that end, Mark Chataway, an agency insider, pulls aside the curtain and exposes just about everything you ever wanted to know about your agency (see "Seven Strategies For Successful Agency Hook-Ups"). And have you ever wondered what your agency really wants? Well, to be valued for its brains as well as its beauty...and to be paid accordingly. Dan Bobear tells you how to work out a prenup to satisfy both parties (see "Creating An Agency-Client Prenup That Works"). And finally, to help you find the courage to change (more quickly), Lisa Flaiz of Avenue A | Razorfish, in an exclusive interview with Agency Confidential, explains the nuances of pharma digital marketing and what things you might expect from it in the future (see "What's Taking So Long?"). A focus on online community is one of them. Bill Drummy, of Heartbeat Digital (see "Building Online Community") shares his experiences developing a 2.0 Web site for patients with Crohn's that benefits his client as well.
Marylyn Donahue is Pharmaceutical Executive’s special projects editor. She can be reached at email@example.com