By Krissy Goelz (@krisgoelz)
We’ve all been talking and talking (and talking) about what it will take for pharma to embrace digital – specifically, social media. Aside from the FDA offering guidance, or a pharma company taking the plunge, both of which are yet to happen, the industry has been slowly creeping along towards embracing inertia. Being a numbers-driven person, I decided to take a look toward my reigning power – namely, budgets – to see if I could make sense of the industry’s decision against charging full speed into digital media. According the L2’s Digital IQ release, consumers viewed 34% of their marketing messages online while only 10% of pharmaceutical marketing budgets are allocated towards digital. Additionally, 40% of patients use online support groups to discuss medications and treatments, but only 19% of brands are on social media platforms. Huh? Since when is Madison Avenue not figuring out ways to work within industry guidelines to reach consumers at the point of interest?
Consumer campaigns are transporting us through space and time, providing applications for programming our DVR from our phones and inviting us to test drive cars from our computers…all this, while many of the top grossing pharma brand sites still lack video on their website, let alone interactive programs and a mobile platform.
Our industry often cites adverse event reporting as the reason for not participating in social media. Background adverse events (AE) account for about 1 in 500 posts, but for argument’s sake, lets explore this scenario. Why haven’t we built a semantic filter that allows AE post to be first confirmed and then automatically sent to the FDA? Do we lack that much confidence in the unknown? Is it worth missing out on key opportunities to engage with an active and interested audience to build loyalty?
Back to the numbers: according to the 2000 Census, there are 76 million baby boomers living in the US. Over the next 20 years, these individuals will receive the majority of prescriptions in the states. From a fiscal perspective, we can’t afford to not connect with this group of individuals. The industry needs to be a partner in patient care (especially the baby boomers) and a vital part of the patient’s support system. Online communities, social networks, and digital platforms are offering advice and support for patient treatment options. Other industries would kill to have a brand/customer hub available to them. The film, fashion, and nutrition industries are spending millions of dollars to create digital engagement platforms, while pharma is running from them. Let’s come together as an industry to figure out ways to work with the existing non-industry supported programs and digital platforms in general. With over 10 major drugs going off patent in a 2-year window, we can’t afford not to.