Pharma Budgets Soaring, but Marketers Closely Watching Washington

According to the 2019 MM&M Deloitte Consulting Healthcare Marketers Trend Report, marketing budgets increased 26% when compared to the previous fiscal year. The mean budget jumped from $8.3 million to $10.5 million, and 92% of respondents reported a year-over-year increase! This growth has been fueled by a record number of approvals of new treatments, as well as the Trump Administration’s Laissez-faire approach to the industry. This recent growth, however, faces numerous challenges in the near-future. The political climate present when such issues are addressed will strongly influence their outcome, and experts have agreed political action is inevitable.

Joe Plevelich, a commercial operations executive for a pharmaceutical company commented:

“If you look at some of the leading potential contenders for the presidency and some of the platforms they are trying to establish, [many] are talking about better controls and transparencies around pharma pricing and profits. I think there are definitely changes afoot. Whoever is going to be in power is going to have an impact on pharma pricing and our recent ability to continue to raise pricing on a whim.”

As we embark upon an active and critical time in healthcare regulation, development, and modernization, both democrats and republicans agree pharma is an industry worthy of attention.

The following have been identified as key discussions to watch as we approach 2020:

  • A reduction or elimination of tax deductions for marketing expenses (expected this year)
  • Requiring list prices of drugs to be included on TV advertisements
  • Price caps on drugs (Congress has already opened hearing on rising drug prices)
  • Investigations into sales and marketing practices

Why It’s Hot

The outcomes of these and similar healthcare regulatory topics will strongly impact pharma marketing budgets, and will determine if they will remain as fruitful as they are today. Many are concerned an unfavorable decision in any of these issues, could lead to significant change. Pharma marketers should remained tuned into the latest developments in these and other healthcare related issues, as well as the 2020 presidential election.


Woebot – Highly Praised App for Mental Health

AI counseling is the wave of the future. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy administered by a smart chatbot, via an app relying on SMS, has become highly popular and well reviewed. Woebot isn’t just the face of a trend, it’s a notable player in technology transforming healthcare.

Why It’s Hot

It’s not new. It’s better. The first counseling software was called Eliza. It was ~1966. Part of the difficulty was it required human intervention. Ironically, in 2019 when many believe a lack of human contact to be part of the problem, that void actually addresses a barrier in therapy. Perceived lack of anonymity and privacy. Sure therapist visits are confidential blah blah but people naturally have difficulty opening up in person. Plus there’s the waiting room anxiety. With an app, studies have shown that people get to the heart of their problem quicker.

Why it Matters

There’s a ton of demand for “talk therapy” and others. Human counselors can’t keep up. People wait weeks and months for appointments. That’s in the U.S. where they’re compensated well. In this On Demand age, that’s seen as unacceptable. Woebot, and others, address the market need for immediate gratification care. Another issue is cost. Therapy is expensive. Apps are obviously a solve here. No co-pay.

Obligatory Statement

All the apps remind users they’re no substitute for human counselors but they are helpful in reflecting behavior patterns and emotional red flags back to their users. At the very least, it’ll help you make the most of your next therapy visit.

Pharma Trend Spotting for 2018

Going into the final month of the year, we should take a look at what could impact pharma marketers in 2018, and it’s identified half a dozen high-level trends for the year ahead.

Those trends range from maturing technology innovations to marketing around patient hero stories that inspire but also normalize people with chronic conditions. And they’re “changing the opportunities and focus for our clients,” Leigh Householder, managing director of innovation at inVentiv Health, said.

Some of the big-theme trends originated in 2017 or even earlier, but they’re just now maturing to opportunity status. For instance, technology innovations like artificial intelligence and augmented reality will begin to play a bigger role in healthcare next year as they move from novelty experiments to real-world tools. A pilot program by England’s NHS, for instance, uses AI as a first contact point for patients and puts a machine in the place of what would traditionally be a human healthcare provider, Householder noted. The NHS pilot actually incorporates another trend, too: the shifting front door to healthcare.

The shifting front door, whether a new kind of technology interface or pharmacists taking on a larger role in ongoing contact and care of patients, has been evolving for years, but it’s become more important for pharma companies to understand and incorporate it into their strategies.

Another trend she pointed to is the emergence of hero stories, in the past year showcased by individuals who broke through with poignant or meaningful tales of helping others, such as boaters in Texas who braved dangerous hurricane floodwaters to help victims. In healthcare and pharma, those can manifest as showing more real people who are living complex lives with chronic diseases, for instance—people who are simply “living normal,” Householder said.  MRM has partnered with WebMD to showcase how patients with bipolar depression live, and it’s very compelling.


WebMD presents Bipolar Disorder: In Our Own Words

“You can imagine why this is happening now when so many once life-ending diagnoses have become chronic diseases. Whether you’re talking about COPD or cancer, cystic fibrosis or AIDS, people are living for decades longer than maybe they ever expected,” she said, pointing to an outspoken advocate, Claire Wineland, who has cystic fibrosis. Wineland has talked to media outlets about “‘what happens when you have an illness and you’re never going to be healthy? Does that mean you’re never going to be anything other than the sick kid?’ We’re increasingly hearing from voices like that of people who just want to normalize disease,” Householder said.

Another example is the introduction of Julia, a muppet with autism, on “Sesame Street.” Julia helps kids understand what autism might look like in another child, and although she has differences, she’s just another one of the gang.

Householder is working on a follow-up white paper about what these trends mean for pharma, but she offered some initial thoughts about ways pharma can adapt. Understanding how people use technology and creating better user interfaces more quickly, for instance, is one area where pharma can improve. Another is at the new and shifting point of care.

“In the new journey in healthcare, how do we be relevant, useful and impactful at the new points of care? Whether that means an artificial intelligence interface, a call delivery of a prescription or a true care interaction with a pharmacist, how are we going to take the plans we have today and evolve them to the places that people are increasingly receiving care and making healthcare decisions?” she said.

Why It’s Hot

As pharma marketers, we need to evolve with how people interact with not only brands but more importantly, conditions.  Offering support in a variety of ways is a smart way to ensure that patients get as much help as they need.



Increased Use of Point of Care Tactics Offer Opportunity For Better In-office Experience

MM&M announced this week that “up to 20% of pharma brands are moving digital media spend to point-of-care tactics” which was grounded in a study fielded by ZS Associates. To a certain extent, this is unsurprising as many forms of digital media such as social and display continue to face increasing scrutiny around the topic of ad fraud.

This will have an impact on two key audiences in healthcare marketing – patients and providers – which if well thought through, should be overwhelmingly positive.

Phreesia Patient Intake Platform


Platforms such as Phreesia offer patients the opportunity to engage with content as part of the intake process. The biggest challenge here will be placements that are relevant to the specific patient as there is a potential to spend effort on poor placements. Case in point; when I took my son to the pediatrician for his flu shot this year, I was offered the opportunity to “Learn More” about a branded product. The only thing I can recall about the brand is that is had nothing to do with why I was there and wouldn’t be appropriate for my son. Contextual relevance will be critical to success in these moments.

epocrates advertising platform from athenahealth


HCPs, particularly PCPs, are the target of massive amounts of marketing. Overwhelming is an understatement here. When you consider the necessity of staying abreast of current trends and new therapies, to a certain extent, they need to be exposed to these messages. However, when it’s all said and done, the moment that matters is when the Rx decision is made. The opportunity to be a relevant part of that moment as part of the HCPs workflow in the EHR/EMR offers pharma companies an incredible opportunity. When you consider the number of drugs that don’t have the budget for mass DTC advertising, the HCP really is the decision maker in the therapy of choice.

Why It’s Hot

While contextual relevance for audiences is improving and offers plenty of potential, the real win will be when a brand can own the conversation across the moments in an office visit.

Consider a diabetes patient checking in for a check-up who is offered a message around potential therapy they may be eligible with a DTC ad based upon key factors pulled through from their EHR.

Then, at the end of the appointment, the HCP if offered a targeted message in the EHR with a savings offer the patient can print and take with them.

With brands doubling down on these POC channels, we have the opportunity to take the in-office experience to new levels.

Pillboxes May Not Belong in the “Internet of Things” After All

Many people working in the healthcare space have been excited about the potential of expanding device connectivity to medication administration in recent years. After all, pill bottles are “things” so why not incorporate them into the “Internet of Things,” right?

As a result, various private innovation firms, as well as major pharmaceutical companies, have been making significant investments in developing “connected” medication dispensing systems in an effort to combat poor treatment compliance.

Lack of compliance – a patient’s inability to take a given medication as intended by their physician – is estimated to cost the US healthcare system $100 billion to $300 billion dollars a year.

Take, for example, a therapy that is self-administered once daily that also needs to be titrated to meet the unique, metabolic needs of a particular patient. If the patient skips a few doses, goes in for a follow up and swears, “Scout’s Honor, Doc!” that he didn’t miss a day – but in fact only remembered to take it about 60% of the time – the dose adjustment the HCP gives him to meet his unique, but misrepresented, needs may trigger an adverse event – pharma-speak for “serious side-effect” – if he suddenly decides to take the medication as intended.

Now consider the value of a medication container that communicates with the patient’s Bluetooth equipped phone. It can remind the patient to take his medication, record the time it was taken down to the second, and, when paired with a wearable technology, could also record additional health related data that gives additional context. This additional context also gives the health care provider more context in which to manage chronic conditions.

When paired with a relevant app, it can also give an additional view into consumer behavior to help marketers better understand optimal cadence and content topics to increase performance in their marketing plans.

However, a recent study published in JAMA showed that a study of post heart attack patients who were provided electronic pill bottles, combined with financial incentives and social support for medication adherence, had the same outcome in terms of re-hospitalization rate, medication adherence, and total medical costs as those who were not provided these resources.

Why It’s Hot:

While making the health connection has been a major leap forward from a technological perspective, it hasn’t solved the challenge of reshaping human behavior. Yet.

Until this technology has a better rate of success in reshaping patient outcomes, broader adoption of this technology may be in question.

Augmented reality without glasses

Diagram of artificial lense

Artificial lens diagram via

Six months ago, Omega Ophthalmics did a small trial of seven patients outside of the US. Their goal was to test for adverse effects of a surgery similar to lens replacements that often accompany cataract removals. The difference? Rather than replacing the cloudy lens with a normal artificial lens, surgeons instead implanted a lens that could be used for augmented reality, interactive sensors, or drug delivery.

Why it’s hot

Although widespread adoption of this technology is unlikely in the near future, scientists, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists hope that there is a market for such implants in an aging population that wants to be independent for longer. Whether this small trial is successful may pave the way for larger trials to test additional possibilities and risk.

Learn more at

What is better? Doctor as authority or shared decision-making?

The Wall street Journal ran a piece this week about the power of shared decision-making and the impact it has on patient satisfaction, cost savings and healthier outcomes. While it was a simple and positive report, the findings are radical in that it is another herald of the transforming healthcare system.

Why is this important? Take Mass General, rated the #1 Hospital in the entire U.S. last year. They are not just doing one thing right to make the healthcare system work better for all, but they are doing neatly everything right. The hospital — and many others — have come to realize that the old model of “Doctor-as-authority-figure” does not really work any more — patients don’t feel in control, they often regret decisions, and last, they often end up NOT following the doctor’s orders and stop taking their medication, the impact of which is said to be over $200 billion in lost productivity every year.

Enter shared decision-making, which has had a radical impact on patient satisfaction. This visual aid is used to help patients make cancer treatment decisions:

Why is this hot? Because this heralds a major shift in a decades-old communication model, one that the entire U.S. society incorporated into their medical relationship with their doctor and thus, their health. This shared decision-making is not a mandate, but common sense; but even common sense in this case is a disruptor of the doctor-as-authority, which is how doctors are trained and inculcated into their own mindset. Radical that the doctor cedes this control; radical that the patient engages in complex decisions and comes away satisfied.

So, for Mass General, the results have been dramatic:





Drug Discovery With Deep Learning

Pharmaceutical companies are often at a crossroads when it comes to the development of new drugs. The current FDA process not only takes an enormous amount of resources, but also time. These processes put a large burden of risk on Pharma and could be a deterrent to future innovation.

Why Does It Take So Long?

The typical drug can take upwards of 18 years to hit the market, then (assuming all is approved) companies only have a relatively short amount of time to sell the drug under patent protection.

A large amount of time is spent just identifying which compound might be a solution for the problem at hand. Thousands of tests occur even before clinical trials are conducted.

How Can We Make This Better?

What if the sciences could get a jump start on those 1000’s of possible compounds? That’s just what Atomwise has done. Partnering with IBM they have leveraged their powerful AI data platform to create, model and test compounds and a molecular level.  This allows the team to rapidly test compounds and compute score around the likeness of effect. In addition, Atomwise can use current compounds to find treatments for other diseases like Ebola.

Why Its Hot

 Using the latest in powerful processing will allow more advancement than ever before. As computing power continues to increase, so does the opportunity to solve complex problems in the most efficient manner. This not only leads to more opportunities for development, but reduced time to market.


Awareness Campaign Takes Human Approach

Merck & Co. has a plan for boosting its immuno-oncology treatment, Keytruda, in head-and-neck cancer. And it relies on patients making plans of their own.

The New Jersey-based pharma giant has teamed up with Pro Football Hall of Famer and head-and-neck cancer survivor Jim Kelly for a new awareness campaign, “Your Cancer Game Plan.” The effort focuses on encouraging patients and their loved ones to craft support strategies, taking into account their emotional, nutritional and communication needs.

The particularities of head-and-neck cancer can hit patients both physically and emotionally. The disease sometimes hinders their ability to talk, triggers changes in their facial features or makes it difficult to eat, a Merck spokesperson explained in an email interview.

“Having a ‘game plan’ can help patients and their support teams be prepared for those kinds of challenges and complexities,” the spokesperson said.

Kelly, for his part, knows those “special challenges” firsthand. “My experience taught me so much about the importance of emotional support and taking care of myself, and I hope that by sharing my experience, I can inspire others to take action and know their game plan,” he said in a statement.

Merck first won FDA approval for its cancer star Keytruda in the disease back in August, and until now its patient-education activities have centered on providing information through the Keytruda product website and patient brochures. Going forward, the company’s goal is to continue the new awareness campaign “for some time,” the spokesperson said.

Why It’s Hot

Although the brand is ultimately becoming more widely known, the approach that Merck is taking is more human than many pharma ads out there.  They’re not simply promoting their drug and talking about side effects- they are promoting the campaign by trying to help people prepare and cope with their illness and what can happen to them.  Many pharma brands forget that they’re not talking to a condition- they’re talking to people, with big physical and emotional needs- ESPECIALLY when it comes to cancer.  By becoming a support system (or helping their patients build one), a brand becomes more than just  pill you take… they become a trusted resource.  There should be more brands doing this in the space.



How Being Bored Out of Your Mind Makes You More Creative

Two fascinating new studies, covered in Wired this week, are giving credit to the idea that when you are focused on incredibly dull, boring tasks, you’re more easily able to spark creativity. The thinking here is that boredom may bring about creativity because “a restless mind hungers for stimulation.” In today’s hyper-stimulated world, it can feel like every waking moment needs to be filled with a click, scroll, or search. Many people feel they spend too much time in front of screens– and studies like this raise an interesting notion of the potential implications of how our brains function on overdrive. 

Why It’s Hot:

We’ve also seen brands begin to play into the notion of mental and psychological wellness as it relates to their category – REI’s #OptOutside campaign comes to mind – to it will be interesting not being in the creative industry but also paying attention to the broader trend of health and wellness, including mental health, in the digital age. 

HCPs Weigh In on Direct to Consumer Advertising


Direct to Consumer advertising in the pharmaceutical industry has always been an uneasy subject among healthcare professionals. That’s for good reason- it’s only allowed in the United State and New Zealand. In every other country pharma companies are not allowed to advertise to consumers.


The banning of DTC advertising comes up every few years. The one of the most recent cases being in 2015, when the American Medical Association voted to ban it- to no avail. A ban or restriction of commercial advertising violates our First Amendment right to freedom of speech.

Regardless, a recent study done by InCrowd, says that 35% of HCPs would ban DTC ads. Why? 2/3 of physicians say their patients become confused due to pharma DTC advertising. 49% say advertising impairs patients’ understanding of treatment.

So why have DTC advertising (besides profit)- what’s good about it? It elicits doctor/patient conversations about treatment options. Compared to five years ago their has been a growth in discussions from x2/week to x6/week because of DTC advertising.

Still 35% of HCPs want to ban ads- this is not helpful to marketers, so let’s look at the other 65%.

  • 31% Additional Patient Education
  • 17% Simplify Messaging
  • 7% No Change (whoohoo)
  • 7% Explanation of Side Effects
  • 3% Include Cost Information

Why it’s Hot:

While only the FDA banning DTC can make this conversation really hot, this article did let us venture into the HCP mindset surrounding consumer advertising. This can help us, as marketers, deliver to HCPs what they need to communicate to their patients- mainly more educational materials.

Some good news- it’s expected that the new generation of doctors won’t have as much concerns around DTC advertising, as it will be considered commonplace.

Trump talks pricing, manufacturing in meeting with pharma

Pharma executives got their wish for an early meeting with President Trump Tuesday, 1/31, a couple of weeks after he accused the industry of “getting away with murder” on drug pricing.

“We have to get prices down for a lot of reasons. We have no choice,” Trump told the pharma pack, which included Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) CEO Stephen Ubl, and the head of Novartis, Merck & Co, Eli Lilly, and Celgene.

Too many pharma companies are making medicines overseas – which he blamed on regulation, and overseas “money supply and devaluation”.  Also in Trump’s sights is what he described as “global freeloading” – foreign price controls on drugs that reduce the resources of US pharma companies for R&D. Other countries should “pay their fair share for US-manufactured drugs”, he asserted.

Trump counterbalanced the tough talk by reiterating his pledge to reform the regulatory process so that new medicines can be approved much more quickly, and changing the circumstances in which experimental drugs can be used in patients. In particular, he said it should be easier to test new drugs in terminal patients.

The promise of looser regulation may appear to play to the pharma companies, but in reality the industry has been alarmed by the initial moves in this area – including an executive order this week that calls for federal agencies to withdraw two regulations for every new regulation they introduce.

Adding that to a second order implementing a federal hiring freeze – and a lack of detail in both cases – and serious questions are being raised about the ability of the FDA to function effectively. In particular, there is concern that the orders could effectively stop the 21st Century Cures Act – one of the last actions of the Obama administration and widely welcomed by industry – in its tracks.  This Act will help to quicken getting new

Why It’s Hot

Trump is making changes quickly… and this could effect our pharma clients and in turn, us.  While lowering the prices of drugs could be a great step in the right direction for consumers (more people would have access to the drugs they need), this could in turn mean a significant loss of profits for pharma companies (though, the volume they could make up may balance things).  Less profits=less advertising dollars (but that’s ok).

We should all just be aware of the looser regulations- depending on how this goes and what gets cut, this could potentially mean that there could be less safety requirements to get a drug passed, which is kind of scary!  We need to be informed about what we put into our bodies.


The ROI of Patient Empathy

“I read some very interesting articles via my Apple News Feed on MS over the last week.  Having been involved in research with MS patients I am always interested to learn about the needs of MS patients.  The articles range from new potential treatments to living with MS and how it affects your daily life. Unfortunately, not one player in the MS market owns the space for MS news and information even though the research I was involved in clearly showed a strong need for this type of information.  Instead, most Biopharma company’s online presence revolves around the needs and wants of patients.  Instead, their websites contain the basics and sales copy.


Now think for a moment if you were suddenly diagnosed with MS, God forbid.  What would you want to know and what emotional support would you want and need?  This is the way that DTC marketers need to think, but it usually involves weeks or months of meetings and Power Point presentations with some MBA wide ass asking “what’s the ROI?”. What is the ROI of helping patients live with chronic conditions and helping one another with insights and advice?

Novartis recently launched a DTC site around heart failure that has doctors crying foul, but can anyone honestly say that patients are going to run to their doctor to say “I have heart failure and want this drug”?  Today’s primary doctor visits are commonly scheduled at 15-minute intervals, and some physicians who work at hospitals are asked to see a new patient every 11 minutes, according to a 2014 article from Kaiser Health News. Even in that short time frame, doctors probably aren’t listening attentively to their patients. A 1999 study of family doctor practices found doctors let patients speak for only 23 seconds before redirecting them, and only 25% of patients got to finish their statement. Another study, this one out of the University of South Carolina in 2001, found primary care patients were interrupted after just 12 seconds, either by the health provider or a knock at the door. Obviously that’s not enough time to ask about health problems in depth.  The Novartis site aims to help patients and caregivers understand that being diagnosed with heart failure is not a death sentence.


DTC, today, in an era when pharma is in the crosshairs of everyone on the Internet needs to go beyond “selling” .  It has to involve the whole patient experience from diagnosis to management.  It has to provide real answers on how to have a normal life and what to expect when on therapy.  It can’t be med talk it has to be a human conversation, not a used car sales pitch.

There is a reason why online ad blockers have surpassed more than 200 million users and why people are time shifting live TV.  They don’t have the time to be interrupted with advertising because ads today, for the most part, stink. They are irrelevant, boring and intrusive.  DTC can’t fall into this trap.  I know that most pharma people don’t get a cup of coffee without thinking about ROI, but today that’s not your job. Today your job is to convince management that we can enhance our brand and company by helping people not selling them.”

Why It’s Hot

As marketers in the health space continue to invest in advertising, they also have to keep in mind that throwing sales-speak at patients is not necessarily helping them.  Pharma needs to think beyond “marketing” and be more empathetic to patients who become lost in a world where healthcare is in transition.


New ‘Brain Training’ App Could Help People With Schizophrenia

A “brain training” iPad game developed in Britain may improve the memory of patients with schizophrenia, helping them in their daily lives at home and at work.

Scientists at Cambridge University said tests on a small number of patients who played the game over four weeks found they had improvements in memory and learning.

The game, “Wizard”, is designed to help so-called episodic memory — the type of memory needed to remember where you left your keys several hours ago, or to remember a few hours later where you parked your car in a multi-storey car park. Wizard requires players to remember the location of patterns in space correctly, rewarding their success with additional in-game activities.

Wizard Brain Training App.

Why it’s hot:
Computer-assisted training and different kinds of technological devices are increasingly being used as adjunct therapy or treatment for various illnesses and there is evidence that it has helped people with schizophrenia overcome some of their symptoms, with better outcomes in their daily lives. The patients involved in this study said they enjoyed the game and were motivated to play it across the eight hours of cognitive training.

This is important since lack of motivation is a common feature of schizophrenia. It’s interesting because drugs haven’t had a lot of success in getting similar results and this may change the fate of pharma industry with the prospect of more and more medical conditions being treated with sole technological assistance.

The Curated Experience: Like Disney, Like Pharma

Some of the top line lessons for marketers from Disney are centered on the way people are treated and how the experience is curated. There is an important place for curated experiences in pharmaceutical marketing and we can learn a few lessons from Disney.

Attention to detail

On every ride there are access corridors, stairs, and pathways for the crews to clean and maintain them. These utilitarian areas are still branded with the ride’s theme right down to the railings and door designs. They probably change to unadorned stairwells and metal doors inside the attraction and away from guests’ eyes and experience but as far as the customer experience is concerned the ride’s theme carries on forever.


For a company with many brands and a consolidated call center make sure that therehumira-website-300x300 are scripts and protocols available for each patient and brand. For brands with multiple indications look closely at how patients are treated at the front door. The best experience is one where each condition has its own site. Next best is one where the user’s choice is remembered so that they see the most relevant information on subsequent visits. Remember, even if you have an 85% “first visit” rate, those 15% of return visitors are probably mostly made up of your patients.

You’re never rushed

Disney has technology to optimize the guest’s experience, but lines can still be long. When my daughter waited in line to see her favourite characters there was a line a mile long behind us. When talking with the characters she wasn’t rushed or snubbed, the experience was fulfilling and worth the wait.


Your patients have often been through a long journey to get to their script, take the time to really curate an experience for them and make them feel valued. This can be an extra couple of minutes on a phone call, a call center script that offers more options, a more complete digital experience, or even a retargeting campaign centered on services for patients rather than just selling the brand.

Technology set to “help”

The FastPass system at Disney is absolutely genius. For those who haven’t visited recently, the FastPass system is available to all park visitors and essentially ensures that every guest will have a great experience on at least three rides. They limit the number of FastPass guests for rides in one-hour periods so that they can manage the lines. This provides a better experience for guests who aren’t standing in line all day and frees up their time to buy food and Disney merchandise.


What could your patients do with extra time? There are often ways to curate their experience to assist with the journey. Can specialists be found nearby? When filling a script are there nearby pharmacies or even specialty mail-order pharmacies available?

For your writing physicians, are there ways you can make their lives easier? Most rare disease claims require prior authorization forms, are there ways that your information can be organized to help them? Even better, is your payer marketing program set up to make their lives as easy as possible?

Why It’s Hot: The Disney experience is something that is not replicated in other theme parks but which pays dividends in terms of revenue per guest and repeat visits. Look to your own customer experiences and ask the question: what would Disney do?

Source: Klick Health

Google Smart Contact Lenses With Focus on Healthcare

Earlier this year, Google announced ambitions to make “smart” contact lenses. This week the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office granted the Mountain View, Calif. company a patent describing a sensor in a lens that could monitor glucose, among other things.

While Novartis confirmed a partnership with Google in July 2014, to make a glucose-monitoring contact lens for diabetics, the smart contact lens could be used for so much more than monitoring glucose levels.

google lense

Why It’s Hot

The combination of Google’s technology with a Pharma company like Novartis could help to improve the quality of life for millions of Americans that suffer from diabetes. In addition to it’s impact on diabetes, the concept of a “smart” contact lens could result in countless improvements to the healthcare industry.


Seismic Shift in Pharma Makes Brand Marketers Ask, Should I Be Down with NPP?

There is a “seismic shift” to NNP (non-personal promotion), or non-rep delivered product promotion, taking place in the pharmaceutical industry. Specialties such as psychiatry, pediatrics, and gastroenterology have been significantly impacted. The result is marketing budgets are being reapportioned to social, mobile/apps, and digital marketing.

MM&M reports: Pharma is not in the business of fixing things that ain’t broke. It takes a seismic shift to force the industry to rethink its historical organizational structures and to replot its tried-and-tested road maps for commercial success. And that’s exactly what this represents.

HCPs are now blocking sales-rep access in swathes—some voluntarily, others under orders from above. According to ZS Associates’ AccessMonitor survey, only 51% of all prescribers are now accessible to reps, down from 78% in 2009. For some specialties, such as psychiatry (41%), pediatrics (45%) and gastroenterology (47%), the numbers are even worse.

An emerging key contributor to this trend is the fact that unprecedented numbers of prescribers are now employed by medical groups, many of which implement no-see policies on behalf of their employees. “It used to be that most physicians were independent businesspeople who always fought for what was best for the patient,” says Rich Daly, managing partner, RavineRock Partners, and former president, US diabetes, AstraZeneca. “But the power of the employer, the payer, the PBMs—they have changed the dynamic and others are now calling the shots.”

Whereas NPP’s role was once to complement field sales efforts—and perhaps pinch-hit for reps in the twilight innings of certain brands—it has since taken on a far greater significance as a tool kit for filling sales force gaps. But now that those gaps have become gaping holes, might we be approaching a watershed moment where an NPP strategy might actually supersede the sales force?

With respect to balancing the mix of calls and NPP, Daly, who has also held senior executive roles at Bristol-Myers Squibb and Takeda, believes pharma companies could be making better use of the data they collect. “We’ve had big data in pharmaceuticals for decades. We’re drowning in it,” he says. “But what about the big insights? If you have great analytics and derivative insight then you know whether a drug is likely to be concentrated at launch or if the uptake will likely be slow, and plan accordingly. Nobody ever gets fired in pharma for doing what everybody else has always done.”

That said, there is evidence that marketing budgets are being reapportioned. The annual MM&M/Ogilvy CommonHealth Healthcare Marketers Trend Report (MM&M, June 2014) showed signs of a shift in HCP spending toward NPP tactics last year: 63% of marketers reported increased budgets for mobile/tablet apps; 63% reported increased budgets for social media; 51% for digital ads; 48% for websites; and 33% for direct marketing.

“It’s hard to say if it’s a left-pocket-to-right-pocket move,” says Woodland. “But yes, marketing is freeing up dollars from the sales force and redeploying it on NPP.”

“There are more than enough viable addressable opportunities in every channel today,” says Woodland. “If you put in the effort to understand the audience, you get a much more coherent NPP strategy that won’t be a one-dimensional type of program.”

It’s all about choosing the most appropriate mix for the product, audience and market. “I have two children. I love them equally and I treat them equally,” says Daly. “But I don’t treat my products equally. I discriminate brutally. If it makes sense to approach product A with 75% NPP, then go for it. The biggest mistake anybody can make is to treat each product the same.”

Read more here: MM&M: Nothing (Im)personal 


Why It’s Hot: Social, Digital, Mobile/Apps are coming to the forefront in Pharma. It will mostly likely force the FDA to tighten up fuzzy interactive media guidelines in turn providing pharmaceutical companies fruitful opportunities particularly in the social space to engage direct to consumer as well as HCP.

Vaccine Trains Immune System to Attack Cancer Cells

While a be-all, end-all cure for cancer remains a reach, mankind is getting closer to winning the fight. An Israeli biotechnology company called Vaxil BioTherapeutics is developing a vaccine for cancer designed not to treat the disease, but to prevent it from returning.

The prophylactic vaccine, called ImMucin, has been in development for over 5 years and has proven in clinical trials to trigger a response in about 90% of cancers. Although it’s classified as a vaccine, it is given to people who are already sick, either at the early detection stage or when the patient is in remission, to prevent the disease from coming back. It does this by training the patient’s immune system to attack cancer cells.

Read more via

Why It’s Hot: According to the World Health Organization, 14 million new cancer cases are diagnosed around the world each year. The disease is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. and scientists have been trying to find a cure for decades.

This type of immunotherapy for an illness usually thought of as incurable gives hope that a cure is out there, and may arrive sooner than we think. Having a family member recently declared in remission from cancer, this hits home for me.

Aside from the human element, as marketers, especially those who work on our pharma and healthcare clients, innovations like ImMucin are huge. When our clients are innovative, it makes our job a little bit easier.

As science and technology advance, our options become endless. Perhaps we really can do [almost] anything.

Marketers Push Nighttime Products to Awaken Growth

It seems like Marketers are getting sleepy across the nation.

In a push to expand usage and therefore sales, more brands are pushing nighttime versions of such things as makeup removers and laundry detergents that once seemed to work equally well any time of day.

In fact, the percentage of new household products that either had nighttime versions or mention “sleep” or “dreams” more than doubled to 3.5% in the 12 months ended this May vs. 1.6% the prior 12 months, according to Datamonitor.

America's Most Common Health Concerns


They’re coming from marketers like Procter & Gamble Co., which first addressed America’s growing need for sleep with the successful 2012 launch of ZzzQuil sleep aids. The company followed that up last year with a Febreze Sleep Serenity line of nighttime “bedding refreshers” in such scents as “Warm Milk and Honey.”

Johnson & Johnson was way ahead of the trend with lavender-scented Neutrogena Night Calming Makeup Remover Towelettes, now on their fourth straight year of double-digit sales growth. That’s not bad in a growth-starved household and personal-care market that’s seen sales rise only 1% the past year.

Why It’s Hot

Marketers are no strangers to trying new dayparts to jumpstart growth (e.g.: Waffle Taco), and this is yet another instance of consumer healthcare being relevant to marketers.Night Calming wipes are one of the top 10 cleansing products overall at mass and No. 3 among wipes – so these products are doing well.

But nighttime consumer packaged goods products address a real sleep problem that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control calls a “public health epidemic” affecting 50 million to 70 million adults.

Sleeplessness is driven by two other major trends – an aging population and rising use of technology. Numerous studies link aging to more insomnia. One study found that only 20% or fewer adults over 65 rarely or never report sleep problems. Yet a 2011 study by the National Sleep Foundation reported that teens actually exhibited the most signs of “sleepiness” of any age group. A follow-up NSF poll this year concluded that teens who leave their electronic devices on at night get an average of a half-hour less sleep on school nights (7.2 hours) than teens who turn them off at night (7.7 hours).

One company has hooked onto this trend in a positive way: P&G, in response, has promoted a “Tuck In. Turn Off.” pledge urging people to shut down devices a half-hour before bed – and use their scented products. It only highlights a growing trend where the consumer goods and wellness industries continue to cross-over.

How One Game Studio Is Fighting Alzheimer’s Disease With Spaceships And Sci-fi

65 isn’t old–not when most of us hope to push into our eighties. That’s why designer Gaz Bushell of developer Fayju and Dr. Jody Mason, a biochemist at the University of Essex in London, are turning to video games to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease. Today it affects one in 20 people over 65. A decade from now, that number will be even bigger.

The two are developing Cascade, a tower-defense game due in June for the Android microconsole Ouya. The game explores the amyloid cascade hypothesis, a theory about why Alzheimer’s happens, through easy-to-understand concepts for the young generations that the disease will be hitting later in life. Players work alone or together in the same room to defend brain cells from the disease.


Alzhiemers Game

Why It’s Hot

This is the second gamification idea around health conditions to emerge in as many weeks. This one however is even more superior, as it educates players about the disease, even incorporating the latest therapeutic treatments into the game, and how they are used to prevent damage to the neurons.


Burt’s Bees finds a new way in to your life: Your Calendar

In what Burt’s Bees describes as a marketing first, they are using people’s calendars to promote a new line of anti-aging facial products that promise to reduce the appearance of dark spots and brighten complexions, Burt’s Bees is asking consumers to click on a link that will automatically add a series of eight weekly calendar items.

As with typical appointments, all fields are filled in and, if users have configured calendars to send them reminder alerts, they will get them from the branded appointments, too. (The brand will not be able to post future messages in calendars automatically, or to learn anything about the content in them.)– NYTimes: Burt’s Bees gets into your life

Burts Bees invites itself into your calendar/NYT

Why It’s Hot

It a digital world that’s totally cluttered with messaging, this marketer identified a new channel to exploit, and one that consumes a large amount of consumer’s time. What’s more, they don’t choose to openly sell until the 4th (and last) week, thereby using content and goodwill as a thank you for invading your space (and not getting kicked out). Furthermore, any marketer that has products that require long sell-ins, or reminders, or low-loyalty can benefit for this avenue.  Kudos to them for finding a new, and pure avenue to reach consumers.

New Condition-Related Gaming Links Patients Closer than Ever (and Others)

A 19 year-old diagnosed with Cancer and given a 2% chance of living founds “Survivor Games”, a non-profit, purpose-based gaming firm that unites those with Cancer around a common community. The games open an enormous door that not only unites those who share an interest, but provides an outlet for them to a) spend a lot of time online in one content-area, b) lets them communicate with each other, and c) lets them build toward a common goal (success) together.


Condition-Related Gaming CompanyCondition-related Gaming Company

Why It’s Hot

The idea of linking like-minded individuals around cause- or purpose-based gaming–with the net outcome that they help the cause–and help themselves feel good in the process–is huge.  People who feel passionately around causes have two current outlets: they can volunteer to help (time-consuming, and not fun) or they can donate (a once and done relationship, or painful over time). Purpose-based gaming–especially if the more you play the more you help the cause–is a powerful way to unite individuals who share collective passion around a brand’s larger mission–or one they sponsor (“brought to you by”).

Weather-Triggered Marketing: Using to go Beyond


For years, brands have leveraged weather-triggered targeting that is offered by, WeatherBug, AccuWeather and a host of other weather websites, to reach prospects during a window of great opportunity: Progresso on a rainy day. Quaker for a cold morning. Zyrtec when the pollen count is high. Nivea sunscreen when the UV rays are in full force.

Now, has signed a (non-exclusive) agreement with MindShare to provide data directly, to be used to inform marketing across channels, versus allow use of their data only when advertising in channels.

Why It’s Hot: As mentioned in prior posts, agency and publisher offerings are evolving to include better mobile advertising opportunities, collaborative publishing and here, data purchase and usage. Competitive pursuit of these new opportunities requires organizational change, training and investment in people with the right skill sets. Companies must carefully consider the potential contributions to their clients’ businesses, the opportunity for scale and whether opportunities are a fit with their core capabilities, to focus on the right opportunities and develop them into meaningful solutions and revenue streams. Very exciting times for marketers, agencies and publishers!

The Quantified Self Movement:

The quantified-self movement, also known as “body hacking,” describes the growing community of individuals who deploy mobile health apps, trackers, and social media platforms to share their health behaviors with others. A top objective is to live better lives through crowdsourcing behaviors linked to outcomes. According to GigaOM, the movement’s growth is linked to trends such as lifestreaming, crowdsourcing, gaming, mobile health and the DIY ethos that has emerged. is website that requests users to take comprehensive surveys around their conditions and what treatments they might be taking, including how effective the treatments appear to be and any side effects associated with them. All of this data is them aggregated for others in the community to review through data visualization. Individuals in the community may begin to see trends in how particular diets, exercise or medications are having a particular impact on outcomes.

Why It’s Hot has a fairly poor user experience. It also isn’t a new site. But the concept behind it is hotter now than ever as wearables gain traction and the amount of crowdsourced data contributed increases. Similar to how EMRs are eventually expected to help inform physicians on treatment decisions based on large amounts of historical data and trends, the use of crowdsourcing sites such as can empower patients with statistically significant data to have compelling conversations with their doctors about their health behaviors and the medications they are on or are interested in taking.



Mobile Fetal App Tracks Mood Disorders and Links to HCPs

Bellabeat’s app tracks heartbeats per minute and gives users tools to track other important stats, like the number of times a baby kicks or how its weight changes over time. However, the new mood-tracking feature also helps pregnant women recognize early symptoms of depression and by asking two questions per week regarding their mood.  If a pattern suggesting early signs of depression emerges, the app encourages users to seek help from their healthcare providers and even provides listings of nearby clinics to make it easier for women to find treatment.


Bellabeat Mobile Pregnancy Heartbeat App and Mood Tracker

Why It’s Hot

This app represents a huge nexus, merging wearable technology with medical monitoring of physical conditions, along with mental conditions, encourages social sharing of the condition, and, then goes further to locate nearby doctors and clinics for help when the device signals there may be an issue. This takes personalized medical care to an entirely new level by putting more diagnostic power in the hands of the patient–and more data and advertising opportunities in the hands of marketers.

Clinical Trials Meets Social Communities

Abbvie recently launched, a program and Web site created to “support and inform clinical trial patients and the people in their support networks, as well as anyone interested in joining a clinical trial in Canada.”

Unlike and standard trial recruitment sites that are not usually consumer-friendly and can be difficult to navigate, incorporates current best practices in Web design to make dry (but potential life saving) information much more accessible and engaging. This includes the use of social sharing utilities, video-based content, and health literacy principles. A separate mobile site has also been developed. In addition, the site offers profile/log-in establishment to keep track of your moods, your trial status, health updates, and share content/updates with your loved ones, care team all through the platform.

PatientsAtHeart simplifies and even socializes clinical trial information (to your care network) by Abbvie helps find and participate in clinical trials

Why It’s Hot

It demonstrates how bringing together best practices in user experience, design, content, and technology can enrich the clinical trial experience–which is often a fairly “cold” and impersonal experience online. The site also acknowledges the importance of social media to creating a support network and the increasing more central role patients are playing in their care, clinical trials or health concerns in general.



HIV Test on a Phone Goes Global


Mobile Aids Test in one hour diagnosis.

This represents the forefront of the mobile/pharma intersection being pushed even further. This story speaks to a chip being able to be used to insert a drop of blood into a phone, and used to diagnose if that person has AIDS/HIV, in an hour, and to use it on a global scale for a fraction of current testing costs.

Why It’s Hot

Mobile as a tool for pharma marketers has even more opportunity, now that patients can be given test results via their phone, especially for conditions as challenging as HIV/Aids, for new diagnoses or managing current conditions.  This also speaks to the ability to generate much larger data sets, and to scale programs even further by individualizing outbound messaging and acquisition through the phone.

Google Contact Lenses To Test Glucose Levels

Google has announced a project to make a smart contact lens. But this gadget isn’t going to be used to deliver your e-mail straight into your skull — at least not yet. The project is working to tackle one of the biggest health problems facing the country today: diabetes.  The contacts will be able to measure glucose levels in a wearer’s tears,.  The lens also features a tiny antenna, capacitor and controller so that the information gathered from the lens can move from the eye to a device — such as a handheld monitor — where that data can be read and analyzed.

Read More and Watch a Video Here.

Why It’s Hot

This could be a completely new way for diabetes sufferers to measure glucose levels. Instead of diabetics having to prick themselves daily to test their blood, this offers a painless solution to testing sugar levels and maintaining their health.