Celebrating 25 years of the Marketer of the Year competition

2018 marks 25 years since the first PharmaTimes Marketer of the Year competition took place, and in that time the competition has helped thousands of marketers across the industry hone their skills, advance their  careers and keep up to date with very latest  business thinking.

Designed to assess and reward the competencies and potential of pharma marketers and aspiring marketers, the Marketer of the Year (MOY) competition identifies and benchmarks marketing talent within pharma organisations against the wider industry. Unlike other awards, MOY  functions as a true competition where  entrants must demonstrate a dynamic combination of knowledge, creativity and strategic thinking in real-time challenges within a protected environment.

A unique opportunity for individuals and teams to sharpen their skills and showcase their talents, the competition continues to raise standards, drive innovation and put patient outcomes at the centre of healthcare marketing.

PharmaTimes is incredibly proud of the  success of the competition and the positive impacts it has had on the industry – so to celebrate this important milestone we spoke to members of the competition’s executive steering group, as well as some past winners, to see how things have changed in the last quarter-century and what the competition has meant to those who have taken part.

How has marketing changed in 25 years? 

Marketer of the Year always strives to keep up with industry trends to ensure that entrants are tested on the skills that will be most important to them in the current climate. For example, this year will see the introduction  of a brand new award category to reflect the  competition’s increasing  commercial focus: Aspiring Business Unit/Marketing Director.

If you were to jump forward in time from the first MOY competition in 1993, you’d probably find that the way pharma marketing operates today is almost unrecognisable, such is the scale of the industry’s changes over the past 25 years. We asked three members of the competition’s executive steering group, who have been at the heart of the industry as these changes have taken place, to give us their views on how things have evolved and where they might be heading next.

Mark Lawson, global senior commercial lead and asset leader at Mundipharma and co-chair of the executive steering group

Over the last 25 years the pharmaceutical industry has moved from the growth to the mature phase of its industry life cycle and has seen a number of tumultuous environmental changes. Three major changes the industry has faced are:
Firstly, the dominance of the payer in decision  making and the resulting shift in the commercial selling model from 1:1 selling to key account management and  multi-channel marketing.

Secondly, because of changes in policy and regulations R&D has shifted its focus from the development of mass market GP blockbusters like Seretide, Losec and Viagra to speciality niche busters.

Finally, the industry’s approach to compliance quite rightly has significantly changed and has impacted on how we partner with healthcare professionals in areas like medical education, public and professional relations  and congresses.

Sabina Syed, managing director at Visions4Health and co-chair of the executive steering group

Twenty-five years ago I was on the cusp of joining the pharmaceutical industry from the NHS, where I was working in HIV, and pharma was about to revolutionise how patient treatment would save lives. I saw this as a great reason to join the industry despite my NHS colleagues saying I was heading over to the “dark side”.  So what have I observed?

  1. I started my pharma career in sales where most of the emphasis was on salesforce. Today the sales person is part of a multichannel approach
  2. I used to have paper-based marketing tools. Now with the technology and information revolution, not only has how we use and “tailor” our messages changed, but our customers are accessing information more easily and are better informed on products which means customer access challenges are increasing significantly
  3. In the 15 years that I have been working in market access there have been many changes. For example: pricing controls have become more advanced with the introduction of HTAs, managed entry agreements and an increased interest in paying for outcomes based on real world evidence; the power of the clinician is becoming diluted; we are seeing an increased focus on patients choice; and there are new customers (e.g. pharmacists, nurses) making prescribing and procurement decisions.

One frustration I still harbour is that the industry remains disproportionately focussed on the clinical sell. We need to shift this paradigm faster to equip the sales team to have value-based conversations.

Jonathan Dancer, managing director at Redbow Consulting and executive steering group member

There have been many changes in the way we direct our  marketing efforts in the last 25 years. I would say these fall into three main categories: Impact of technology, compliance and customer organisation.

For a brand manager in 1993, email was a minor communication option if it existed at all. Profs and Lotus Notes were in their infancy and MS Windows was not widely used corporately. Things were done largely on paper. As well as making our work slower, it also limited the volume you could actually process. Finding information was of course much more laborious without the broad-based internet that exists today. Today’s brand manager expects to be accessing and responding to email worldwide pretty much 24/7 from a smart device.

Compliance has always been a mainstay of pharma marketing, but in the last 25 years the requirements of transparency and compliance are very much front and centre. Many marketers feel this is onerous, but I would argue that we need to be more creative than ever to communicate effectively, with impact, and compliantly with our customers.

There has been wave after wave of change in our industry, as we strive to mirror an evolving and mercurial NHS. The pendulum started to swing with early changes in response to fundholding – then it swung back as the impact was smaller than expected and then back again as everyone recently realised this was for real. Now our organisations and the way we transact with customers bears little resemblance to that of the early 90s. Far smaller salesforces, with greater focus and concentration on the customer Decision Making Unit (DMU), means that the job of a marketer and salesperson have converged and aligned in a much more powerful manner than ever before. This change is reflected in the new category we have introduced this year, Aspiring Business Unit/Marketing Director.

Rather than the definitions of marketing that favour meeting customer needs at a profit, I prefer to define it as the “creation and exchange of value” with our customers. As customers and wider society get more and more in touch with what represents value to them, and indeed demand it, the role of marketing can only get bigger – whether or not its locus is actually in the physical marketing department – and more interesting. The future of pharma marketing must be bright, with the extent of change we are experiencing and the need for bright people to help navigate the evolving landscape. Only those that can spot the opportunities and threats faster than their competitors and respond more immediately and precisely using the resources at their disposal can win out – and that’s what makes our world so interesting.

MOY winners – where are they now?

The Marketer of the Year competition is about more than just a trophy – for many finalists over the past 25 years it has also been a huge boost to their career. We caught up with some past winners to see why they entered MOY and where it has taken them in the industry.

Thomas Weldhen, biosimilars brand manager at Napp and Aspiring Marketer of the Year 2016

Why did you enter the competition?

Our sales and marketing manager at the  time persuaded me to enter the competition as he felt it would be good for my development – he had previously won the competition a few years earlier. After some cajoling I entered thinking it would be a good opportunity to put into practice some of the brand planning skills I’d learnt working in  business intelligence.

How did you find the process?

I was very nervous before entering the competition and didn’t know what to expect. The challenge was tough, asking us to formulate a brand plan for a new product that had some unique challenges in an hour and fifteen minutes. I spent the first few minutes not knowing what to do, but after collecting my thoughts, I gradually started to form a coherent plan about how to tackle the task. Presenting back to the panel was a nerve-racking but fun experience – the panel were friendly but asked some challenging questions. I felt relief after finishing and pride at completing the challenge. I did however have no expectations of winning.

How has winning impacted your career?

Since winning my career has changed unrecognisably. My manager started to hand me small marketing projects and nine months later I become the brand manager for our biosimilar portfolio at Napp.

I won the Head Office Person of the Year at our company meeting and I am now off to do a year’s secondment in our sales team to enhance my commercial experience. I could never have imagined my career taking the direction it has before entering the competition and winning gave my career a kick-start it needed.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing pharma marketers right now?

  • Developing marketing strategies and tactics in a fast paced and ever changing environment
    Utilising true multichannel marketing in a cost pressured environment
  • Doing more with less!
  • Technology offers pharma marketers untold opportunities to deliver bespoke messaging that is quantifiable in its effectiveness. Trying to harness it in a compliant and an effective way is something I think we can all get better at.

Debbie Bevan, executive coach for pharma marketing professionals and Senior Marketer of the Year 2009

Why did you enter the competition?

I was persuaded to enter the competition and saw it as a great opportunity to gain external feedback on my marketing ability and development areas to focus on.

How did you find the process?

The process was tough as there was an initial submission on a market access challenge, followed by a full assessment against a case study requiring (to my horror) a three-year brand strategy to be written in less than a morning. It was an exam-type setup followed by a presentation to the board and felt pressured but really exciting to be part of.

How has winning impacted your career?

Winning the category felt fantastic and being given in-depth feedback from the judges spurred me on to continue my development with more confidence. I had only worked in the UK market and went on to manage my own teams and work internationally in global marketing. Shortly after the award, I was also asked to join the competition steering committee for PharmaTimes which I still really enjoy being part of today.

I am certain I will spend the rest of my career in pharma but more recently I have moved away from an in-house role and taken several freelance projects. I love the diversity and also now coach senior marketing professionals in the UK and US. My aspiration is to continue learning and share the knowledge.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing pharma marketers right now?

Successful marketers have always needed to think big and use the right data to make decisions, whilst taking their team on the journey with them – it’s never been for the faint-hearted! Now is there are many more stakeholders to consider, alongside a very complex external environment. Opportunities for marketers to develop themselves or the brand they work with are everywhere; I’ve yet to meet a marketer who has worked in every therapy area, at all stages of a brand life cycle and in every market!

Andrew Jackson,  commercial director of Lundbeck and New Marketer of the Year 2013

Why did you enter the competition? 

I wanted to test my skills against other industry peers and see how I stacked up.  The awards are renowned as being a challenge and I looked forward to stretching myself and getting some feedback from senior leaders in the industry.

How did you find the process? 

The process was as rigorous as I suspected, with time pressures and a complex challenge to get stuck into. Everyone was incredibly helpful and supportive and the camaraderie among entrants was excellent.

How has winning impacted your career? 

I went on to develop my marketing skills further and after a variety of sales and marketing roles I am now commercial director of Lundbeck.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing pharma marketers right now? 

We work in an environment which is increasingly regulated, and our customers are under significant pressure both financially and with their time. Finding new ways to access decision makers and demonstrate real value for our medicines is crucial for today’s marketers. With the key difference being that many companies are now working on reduced budgets, innovation in this complex environment is key.

Priya Narayan, global heart failure franchise manager at Bayer, Senior UK Marketer of the Year 2014

Why did you enter the competition?

I entered as I thrive on challenge and also wanted to see how I fared against my peers. Plus my peers pushed me to enter!

How did you find the process?

Challenging and fun!

How has winning impacted your career?

It has given me confidence in my abilities especially when career hurdles have come my way.

What are your aspirations for the future?

To launch HF drugs globally. I have a personal passion for the disease area which when combined with my abilities seems like a good fit.

What do you think are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities facing pharma marketers right now?

I think there are significant opportunities (should pharma continue to invest in the UK market) - i.e. with more complex environments and rapidly progressing technology, marketing becomes all the more relevant. The challenges are that the UK in general may not be considered a haven for pharma marketing and sales which may result in global companies pulling away from UK markets - hence impacting jobs for UK marketers.

Marketer of the Year 2018 is now open for entry and marketers at all levels of their career are invited to enter. For more information visit www.pharmatimes.com/marketer