If you’ve never worked within Pharmaceutical Marketing or for an advertising agency that supports one, you may assume it’s all the same. Marketing should be marketing across any industry. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Most countries limit what marketers can do within the industry, creating a strain on creativity and agency relationships.
Therefore, not only does an agency need to have groundbreaking ideas, they have to make it interesting and compliant. Agencies must have an awareness of the limiting regulations. Otherwise, they will never win the business (by pitching ideas that could never work) or be faced with multiple rounds of internal compliance reviews that can cause constant churn and lots of frustration. For both sides of the account.
Between the Compliance reviews, the Procurement department, and the deadlines of Marketers, Agencies have had to adapt. Quickly. They have had to create separate healthcare-focused agencies just play in the market. Below is a list that captures of few of the additional things agencies have had to do to retain the business as well.
Pharmaceutical Agency Adaptations:
- Hiring Medical staff (Doctors, Nurses, Ph.D.’s, etc.)
- Acquiring Medical Communication agencies
- Creation, support or integration with Pharmaceutical tools
- Understanding the intricacies of tactics that target HCPs and create non-branded websites and disease state education/tools
- Learn to constantly re-work their creative ideas
- Allowing for the constant change of deadlines
- Preparing for huge potential loss of revenue if a drug isn’t approved
- Finding ways to marketing to diseases that include things such as IBS, Excessive Sweating, Bad Breath, Warts and even Fungus. It’s not easy or glamorous.
So why would agencies go out of their way to support Big Pharma? Two words: Big Money.
It’s an enormous risk, but there’s also a big pot of gold at the end of it. That pot of gold is worth something to the tune of >$24B dollars (Statista study). So, what does it take for an agency to be successful? I’m glad you asked.
Agency Best Practices when Working in the Pharmaceutical Industry
Learning to Avoid Pharmaceutical Burnout
There is more than a literal ton of work that has to be done pre-launch / pre-approval. Branded and disease state (un-branded) websites, Medical Conferences and Events, the list goes on.
This is only heightened in the months leading up to the hopeful market approval, as they are so critical to a successful launch. Therefore, being able to scale at a moment’s notice is of the utmost importance.
Whether it’s having global support so that work is created 24/7 or having a deep bench for support, there must be enough people to provide the marketers what they need. Agencies must try to do it all while avoiding burnout. Without it, the money made won’t be enough, and the staff will go running for the hills.
Balancing Senior vs. Junior Level staff
Agencies need the right resources who can understand the unique aspects that drive the industry. Some pharmaceuticals have drugs that battle ultra-rare disease states and need extra care for the patients. So if you can’t pronounce the drug name, does it make sense for them to support the product?
That’s why having the appropriate level of staff and support during the entire product lifecycle is essential. Pre-launch and during launch, agencies should rely on senior-level staffing support. Therefore, when it comes to post-launch support, agencies should move work to highly leverage junior level staff. That said, having experience or background within the healthcare industry, trumps all.
Learning to work with Compliance
If agencies want to be successful, they have to learn to work through the internal compliance groups. Being able to navigate them without multiple rounds of revisions will not only help expedite the process but create goodwill with the internal teams too. Especially, since it will save them money on the back-end.
Without this skill, they will only frustrate their own internal team, and the brand as well. They’ll drive up costs and force the teams’ hands to RFP out the business. It will eventually go to an agency that can efficiently support their processes and work with compliance.
Learning when to say ‘No’
Marketers in Big Pharma are especially sensitive and conservative when it comes to trying new things. They really don’t have a choice. Especially when it comes to technologies. The Compliance department is always hesitant to use new ideas or tactics unless a competitor has already set the tone.
That’s why despite all of the brand’s ideas, the agency needs to learn to say ‘no’ when it is in their best interest. And review their internal ones, prior to wasting time on them. Don’t worry, the marketers and procurement will thank you later.
Knowing when the Risk isn’t worth the Reward
There are certain accounts within Healthcare that are more of a hassle than they are worth. The ROI on the account is so low and the team is so tough to work with, you should avoid them at all costs. Therefore, despite the potential of working on a blockbuster drug, sometimes an agency needs to evaluate and learn when it’s best to walk the other way.