TV Isn’t Dead. Social Media Is Over-Hyped. Highlights From DTCN2011

Here are six themes that I took away from this year’s DTC National Conference, which took place in Boston April 6-8, 2011.  You can also read the tweets from #DTCN2011, Wendy Blackburn’s recap of Day 1, or take in the video interviews  by Pixels & Pills.

1.       Everybody has a story…Major life ‘events’ are what catapult a person, patient or caregiver to step into an active e-patient and patient advocate role. Myrtle Potter’s near tragic medical event is leading her down the patient advocate path and focusing her efforts behind improving patient literacy and engagement.

At WEGO Health , they say that each health activist has a unique story.  However, they become a health activist when they are talking about health every day and offering support and advice to others online—to the tune of  an average online audience of more than 15,000 every month.

2.       It’s not one tool or media platform that is the answer, but the right mix of media and relevant content delivered real-time.  In other words…  TV isn’t dead and social media is currently over-hyped…  This was illustrated by a number of presenters:

  • Jamie Turner, Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer echoed that as marketers our job is to create preference.  While social media is over-hyped, it can still be a great tool in the marketer’s tool chest, but it is only one! He outlined six ways that companies can make ‘money’ with social media:  branding (@oldspice), eCommerce (@delloutlet), customer feedback (@starbucks), customer retention @delta and lead generation (drive to website)—I would also  suggest a seventh: customer service (@zappos).
  • Leading  Social Media Won’t Wait: Health Activists Speak out, Industry Speaks Up,  Jack Barrette @healthyjack , CEO of WEGO Health,  kicked off making the point that  “Social Media is not a tool–its a fundamental way to engage and respond to our customers!”  Jack shared the WEGO 2011 survey update to the original 2009 survey presented at DDMAC for #fdasm.  Some of the key points: Health activists want Pharma in the conversations; they also want Pharma to help correct misinformation about their products (a lofty and challenging goal for sure). You can read Jack’s presentation here. [Jack led a great panel with strong pharma representation, but it likely would have been better with live health activist participation too.] [presentation]
  • IMS Health presented data showing that TV and Print can still deliver healthy ROI’s (north of 200%). While overall Pharma promotional spending is down, DTC media spending has held constant at approximately 17% of total pharma spending.  Additionally, the top 25 DTC spenders are actually spending more in DTC and professional promotion.
  • Fariba Zamaniyan of TRA Global  presented a new product offering for Pharma – a partnership with SDI, a HIPAA-compliant leader in anonymized patient level data and analysis, making them the first media and research company to electronically match a television audience of 1.2 million households with prescription behavior from more than 1.6 billion prescription claims to provide a single-source sample of 620,000 households called  TV-HealthRatings™ powered by TRA.

3.       It’s not enough to provide useful, helpful information; content must also be:

  • Served up in a way that is fun and intriguing to break through and make a difference—‘Infoentertainment’ –the way to get important information and messages out there. –The Doctors.
  • Delivered with a human touchJack Barrette of WEGO Health warned Pharma, “whatever  you do, please use real people from your company”…
  • Curated and reduced to its most important, simple elements—Jamie Turner, The Doctors
  • Wrapped around strategy and context; “Content is King” was the unwritten theme of the Optimizing Website panel at the pre-conference workshop as outlined by Buddy Scalera.

4.       Viral is near impossible to predict—So why do many companies think that they can? Tara Parker-Pope, writer of the health blog, “Well” on shared her interesting perspective on what blogs generate the greatest engagement (hint: dogs pull better than cats!) and how she manages comments on the Well blog.

5.       The DTC ROI discussion is alive and well…and there are some interesting new technologies and tools that may spur DTC learning, efficiency and effectiveness. ‘The Great DTC Debate’ panel was a lively conversation.  While STM predictive models weren’t really discussed, the panel recommended pre-testing when possible and real-time learning once in-market.

  • Asaf Evenhaim, CEO of Crossix, an innovator in using Rx-based analytics to allow real-time optimization of marketing budgets and calculation of ROI, based on actual Rx information.
  • Scott Reese, CEO of Wool Labs, a leader in business intelligence through social cognition provided insights to crowd- sourced learning.

6.       There is Continued Risk ahead for Pharma and DTC Marketers…

  • Mike Sauers, Team Leader DTC Group 1, DDMAC outlined recent FDA organizational changes and the addition of a 4th reviewing group to keep up with pharma communications—In 2010, over 78,000 2253’swere submitted to DDMAC.  These additional resources will increase focus on DTC web and off line advertising…And mean more DDMAC letters?FDA is proud of ‘The Bad Ad Program’– recruiting doctors to help blow the whistle on ‘bad’ DTC and Professional pieces– 28% have been for DTC ads to date. [Derma-Smoothe website warning letter was the first from DDMAC’s Bad Ad program Wendy Blackburn]Sauers reviewed four recent FDA letters, many of which, it is not surprising that DDMAC issued letters…same  ol, same ol…use of testimonials… overstatement of efficacy…minimization of risk…indication creep… Sauers’ advice to Pharma:  if you wouldn’t feel good about substituting the amount of risk for the amount of benefits in your ad, then the ad is probably not well balanced! Mike Sauers also presented a ‘one page’ update regarding timing for DDMAC’s  Social Media Guidelines coming out of the November 2009 advisory meeting ( #fdasm) .  The FDA script:  While Social Media and web communications are among our highest priorities, social media is complex and we don’t want to act hastily to put out a guidance that will quickly be out of date when a new technology or platform is introduced…. “It is very difficult to provide a timeline for a well thought- out, useful guideline…”[presentation]

Or is this just what Jack Barrette tweeted: GGP = godawful  government procrastination? 

Pharma’s dilemma: With consumer trust still very low, waiting for SM guidelines and doing nothing may not be a wise decision either…And this may be a case of be careful for what you wish for…DDMAC SM guidelines may not make our lives easier…or improve patient engagement.

  • Amie O’Donaghue, a social science analyst at DDMAC, provided an overview of the many research studies that are in place, including a topline of their Distraction study (TV Only) that has been underway since 2007! Some of the takeaways seem to be that Supers facilitate risk communication, but don’t necessarily negatively impact benefit communication or attitude towards the drug.  Brand logos may have a neutral to negative impact on consumers…
  • Jim Davidson gave his annual update of the Washington regulatory and legislative landscape:1) DTC advertising is once again at risk in the upcoming Washington debate given our sizeable budget issues—comes down to ad spending deductibility and the potential dollars this represents to government.[$37 Billion to be exact—Or is this just an old scare tactic as John Mack tweeted? ]2) It’s time to refocus the message of DTC.  Patients need to see the value, what it’s capable of; understand potential safety issues…[Is that possible for branded DTC ads? Or is he really suggesting that DTC ads only be unbranded and condition educational?] [presentation]

What was your take on this year’s conference now that it is behind us?  Did I miss any key points?

Lastly, congratulations to all those agencies, clients and consultants whose communications won a DTC National Advertising Award. [At Advance MarketWoRx, we too, were honored to have received one for best new drug launch.]

Latest link to all presentations online- here.