Over at Pharma Marketing Network Forums, John Mack posted a PR release, “Pharma Brand Teams Have a Negative View of Digital Agencies.” Cutting Edge Information, a boutique consulting firm based in Boston and Triangle Park, commissioned the study, a result of surveys and interviews, that reported the disappointing results.
According to the release, responding brand teams generally hold their agencies’ performance as negative in categories such as: developing digital marketing strategy, moderating interactive forums, understanding the regulatory environment, maintaining regulatory compliance, executing digital strategy, and demonstrating digital marketing return on investment (ROI).
Across all categories, according to the release, only 22 percent of responses were good, 33 percent were poor, and no one respondent ranked their outsourced digital marketing as “very good.”
Some of this is no surprise – the pharma regulatory environment is tough and constantly in a state of constant flux and pharmaceutical companies expect their agencies to know and understand the regulations.
While the Internet evolves at the speed of light, the FDA does not. The FDA held its first hearing on the Internet back in 1996 and only just recently issued guidelines on social media. Yet most people don’t understand the regulatory environment even though there are resources for learning how to navigate the regulatory environment, few agencies take the plunge.
The negative perception of agencies is appalling (but nothing new) because: (1) while digital strategy is relative new and ever-evolving it’s not that difficult to do well; and (2) digital media is quickly becoming the most important part of the pharmaceutical marketing mix.
It’s easy to bash agencies. It’d be interesting to know what the results would be if we were talking about advertising, public relations, medical education or any other agencies serving the industry. At the same time, the pharma-agency relationships aren’t going away. In fact, they are likely to grow deeper given the evolution of the pharmaceutical ecosystem, the constant layoffs at big pharma and the evolution of pharmaceutical companies into big marketing companies.
In an ideal world, the agency would educate their clients on how a digital campaign can be executed, what is possible, what is being done outside the industry, and how it fits with regulatory. But it always has to start with the basics – who is the audience, what is the strategy, and what our expected outcomes. Some agencies excel at this.
Finally, when we read releases like this we wonder who has an ax to grind and why. In this case, Cutting Edge Information is promoting a report “Pharmaceutical Digital Marketing and Social Media. That $7695.00 report promises to help marketing teams prioritize objectives, built team structures, and create a team equipped to meet current and future digital marketing challenges.
It’s probably a great report.