The coronavirus has forced industry to change gear, change how it communicates and, above all, change its perspective. Despite the earth- shattering turbulence of COVID-19, however, Andy Hayley from TBWA\ WorldHealth believes positive lessons and practices will emerge
Modern healthcare is experiencing an era-defining chapter, as international systems adjust to the very specific needs of their host countries, while also using the experiences of other nations as a constantly evolving frame of reference.
Meanwhile, with limited global intelligence being received in the weeks leading up to the arrival of COVID-19, pharma and health organisations have had to rely on instincts, agility and digital expertise as they adapt to the new world. Consequently, the unique events have triggered the biggest operational experiment for decades.
Pharma marketing firms are among those mobilising to ensure operations can continue at a time when the currency of treatment knowledge and groundbreaking medicine has never been higher.
Andy Hayley, Global Managing Partner at TBWA\WorldHealth has been observing the sea change at first hand: “Companies are witnessing unprecedented changes in their marketing dynamics,” he said. “As the rate of patient presentation and contact with healthcare professionals changes dramatically, face-to-face interactions have been replaced with telemedicine, while drug administration and patient support have entered uncharted territory.”
TBWA\WorldHealth works with some of the biggest companies in pharma and Andy has described recent weeks as a ‘crisis crucible’ in which the company has required cool heads as staff navigate the new terrain and join a fast track to the future.
Land of the giants
As the new landscape looms, three zeitgeist-seizing aspects of neo- pharma marketing must be encouraged to flourish. Firstly, the global integration of marketing operations. Although very challenging in a world that has become, in a physical sense, almost entirely cut off. Global marketing organisations in pharma are more operationally joined up than ever.
The sudden acceleration towards the implementation of an omnichannel strategy, however, throws up system, role and function questions for these businesses. From an agency point of view, a collective of equally matched agency expertise is required, irrespective of geography.
In addition, there has been a greater emphasis on digital transformation and the possibilities of a virtual ecosystem across pharma; one that offers vibrance, efficiency and ambition, while also representing a driving force for joint working.
Andy explains why a step change from the rep-led/digital supported model to a largely digital-led/rep supported model, must now take precedent: “COVID-19 has accelerated the move to omnichannel and it makes a lot of sense to now investigate the ‘flip’, and go where other B2B industries have been for some time.”
Indeed, in the realm of pharma marketing – and industry more generally – upstream customer engagement via digital propositions will increasingly become the primary game in town. As customer expectation levels rise, this will require a cultural shift and a greater emphasis on precision marketing followed by personal promotion.
The third theme to come under the microscope is the evolution of the development of creative platforms for brands, and the age- old debate about either a purely conceptual or analytical approach in relation to marketing.
Andy is convinced that an either/or choice doesn’t hold the key but, rather, a cocktail of components, which reject traditional methods and, instead, offer a hybrid skill set capable of navigating both conceptual and analytical approaches.
Andy concludes: “The creative process will be far less driven by an ‘old skool’ creative pairing of writer and art, but a group of data, medical and brand capabilities; combining multimedia creativity, writing and designing across all media types.”
Like in all industries, pharma is finding a way through the welter of challenges. For Andy, the crisis is an opportunity to learn how the future can come into the present – faster than anyone expected.
By John Pinching