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At Last! Pharma eMarketing Comes of Age

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I’ve actually heard of someone saying “2010 is going to be the year of digital,” and I kind of laughed inside my head a little. Wasn’t the breakout year of digital marketing a few years back? Okay, in the world of pharma, perhaps not. I guess it depends on how you define “the year of…”

  • Does it mean it’s the year marketers fully embrace digital?
  • Does it mean it’s the year FDA provides added guidance on digital and social marketing?
  • Or does it mean it’s the year digital marketing peaks and begins to decline?

But won’t 2010 be the year of social media marketing? And who are the people that proclaim these things anyway??? (By the way, Google had proclaimed 2009 would be "the year of online;" do you think they were right? But I digress...) I prefer to look at 2010 as the year that pharmaceutical marketers are looking at digital marketing with a focus equal to or greater than other marketing and advertising means. Evidence of this shift can be found in several places:

  1. Industry pub MedAdNews/PharmaLive has recently launched a digital email newsletter called DotPharma, purely focused on pharma eMarketing. The first issue explained "DotPharma will focus on tactics pharmaceutical marketers are using to reach patients and healthcare professionals, including closed-loop marketing, social media, e-mail marketing, and mobile marketing." A publication I consider to be one more steeped in a traditional advertising focus (as evidenced by advertisers, articles, and Manny Awards categories), it seems MedAdNews is discovering the digital age. Well done! Visit their opt-in page to check it out.
  2. Another industry publication for pharma marketers, PM360, has decided that instead of doing a separate eMarketing supplement this year, they will combine it into the rest of the publication. Anna Stashower, President and Publisher of the magazine, explained, "E-marketing, Digital Marketing, and Mobile Marketing are way too important to separate from the main issue and compete with it.”
  3. And, if you’ve noticed, all of the pharma marketing media are asking deeper questions and writing articles about the marketing mix within the digital channel, instead of the past focus of digital as separate from everything else.
  4. Social media marketing (which, of course, all happens within the digital space) for Pharma is in full-swing. With the recent explosion of pharmaceutical companies on Twitter, and new social media campaigns launching every week, it’s practically gone mainstream. And following FDA’s hearing on digital and social marketing last year, we hope to get some guidance by the end of this one.
  5. The advertising industry as a whole has suffered immensely during these past recession years. Cross-industry old-school publications such as Advertising Age have tracked ad industry layoffs and budget cuts as if the end was nigh. But in our experience (as a reminder, our experience is (1) Pharma and (2) Digital), 2009 meant that print and TV budgets may have been cut, but many digital budgets actually grew.

Of course, TV, print, radio, direct mail, etc. are not going away, and they will always be part of a balanced marketing mix depending on your brand and your audience. And yes, we still have some work to do to get pharma where it’s using the digital channel to its full potential to reach both consumers and professionals.

But I am happy to see the industry shift toward digital spend and focus, at long last matching up to digital consumption by its stakeholders. How about you?

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