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ePharma Summit Sum up

ritz-c-phil.jpgThe 7th annual ePharma Summit took place at the Ritz-Carlton/Philadelphia on Jan. 28-30. The first day was for pre-conference workshops. The event is put on by IIR (who did a fine job organizing and running it), and it was very well attended (between 200-250 registrants).

I attended the first full conference day (29th), but was called out of town for the second day, unfortunately. There was a an interesting lineup for that second day; here is an excerpt from a review of the lunchtime address by Steve Case (co-founder of AOL, now head of Revolution Health):

Steve Case, chairman and CEO of Revolution Health and co-founder of AOL, yesterday lamented pharma’s hesitation to embrace interactive and inject a greater share of promotional budget into online initiatives.

“It is astonishing to me how under-invested this industry is in digital media,” Case told delegates at the 7th annual ePharma Summit in Philadelphia. “This is crazy.”

I have a fascination with digital media, and enjoy marketing, so I try to keep my finger on the pulse of this part of our world. And I share the frustration of Mr. Case. Our highly regulated industry makes it very difficult to take full advantage of the rapidly-evolving and collaborative web.

Nonetheless, some companies are dipping their toes in the water. Here are a few tidbits extracted from the Tuesday talks:

– Microsoft is trying to address the gnarly problem of on-line storage of, and access to, private health information (through technology called the Microsoft HealthVault). This is a huge and complex undertaking.

– Here was an interesting rule of thumb given out for funding innovative methods – use 70% of the marketing budget for proven means; 20% to improve current means; and 10% to do experimental stuff

– J&J apparently has a “tax” on its marketing budgets – a percentage goes into a “pool” for innovative approaches, and operating companies apply for those funds by proposing new ideas. These innovative approaches have to include measurement of results, and lessons learned are to be shared across the J&J family.

– A few companies are successfully using text messaging for compliance and/or marketing.

– A few companies have begun to experiment with YouTube-type user-generated media. This one (about RLS) was not user-generated, but it is creative and fun.

A number of the talks, however, were not particularly thought-provoking – standard platitudes about determining brand objectives, listening to customers, trying to do new things, gaining trust, etc. etc. And some of the speakers had appallingly bad slide designs – hey folks, Powerpoint has been around a long time, and it should be common knowledge by now that light green, yellow, and faded grey really don’t show up well on screens when projected!!

Over lunch, I enjoyed speaking with someone who has mainly worked with creative marketing endeavors outside of pharma, and we commiserated about the conservative nature of an industry so highly regulated and scrutinized. Oh, well, digital marketing will rush forward regardless, and pharma will slowly adopt whatever it can in due season!

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