PharmExec Blog

Traditional vs. Digital, or
Integrate! Integrate! Integrate!

Can pharma rely on one agency to create both its traditional and its interactive advertising? Or is there a “best agency model” (pure digital, digital group within larger holding company, or a mixture of both) that industry can follow? This was the question addressed by four panelists today at the ePharma Summit in Philadelphia.

Bill Drummy, founder and CEO of Heartbeat Digital, said the difference between a traditional and a digital-focused agency is that digital is an interactive medium; it’s not interruptive like an advertisement.

William Martino, vice president, digital strategy, of Saatchi & Saatchi Consumer Health + Wellness, took an opposite prospective: “I think traditional agencies have a significant advantage over pure digital [agencies] because of a deeper understanding of the audience or the consumer. However, the traditional agency has to evolve, so they are not labeled.”

Eli Lilly would, ideally, like to have the best of both worlds. However, Lyndsay Younce, the company’s marketing consultant, said that Lilly hasn’t yet found one agency that can bring everything they need to the table.

For e-marketing space, Eli Lilly relies on digital agencies. “I don’t care if they have an integrated offering. But I want them to integrate well,” she said. “A lot of this has to do with the brand. It’s hard as an e-marketer to move away from the traditional advertising mentality, but you have to be able to speak that language in order to move. I have yet to see an agency come in with a specific measurement about their digital work.”

Both types of agencies have their pros and their cons. For example, according to Martino, a digital agency has the tendency to recycle ideas across brands with no understanding that audience and therapeutic areas are different.

“At the end of the day, a really good integrated plan is all about vision,” said Dorothy Wetzel, chief marketing extrovert of Extrovertic. “It really takes the brand team to consider all ideas and options and then put it together. The worse thing you can do is put agencies together and say to them, ‘Come up with a good integrated plan.’ The new school of thought is about building the number of brand advocates.”

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  1. Posted February 23, 2009 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    There’s a better answer! Networked service providers offer clients multi-disciplinary, customized teams of senior-level talent in marketing, public relations, investor relations, branding, and graphic design for traditional and digital media, etc. Many have more than 20 years of experience, giving them a deep knowledge of the industry and audience. They deliver solutions that work from concept through implementation for both small and large assignments. These high-performance teams provide the essential skill sets at competitive pricing because they don’t have the large agency overhead. Pharma companies need to explore the unique offerings of these strategic service providers.

  2. Posted February 28, 2009 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Hooray! at last. Something to allow us to differentiate between agencies! For years I’ve been dumbfounded trying to understand why one agency might be better or not than another. They all come along peddling the same old patter, most can do everything that you want them to do, so they tell us. So the ability to differentiate between them is hard to identify in a lot of cases.

    Now we have those who can “digitally do” and those who can’t. Great! I think that’s very helpful actually.

    Of course, it won’t be too long before the tradtional med coms agencies start recruiting bright young things with good IT skills to develop their digital offerings as this will grow in importance. But the problem is, they’ll want to pay them peanuts whilst charging the clients a small fortune for their digital capability.

    So, as an international marketing director, I’m not really looking for a big med comms agency to charge me a fortune for their new found digital capability. I’d rather go direct to a digital house for my digital stuff and use the big med coms agencies for what they are best at – med coms.

    Or, maybe I’ll go more towards capable individuals who have set up their own small businesses but have all the knowledge and capabilities to do what I need at a fraction of the cost.

  3. Craig Mills
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Is the issue here not one of habit?

    Client demand of their agencies is frequently narrow having already predetermined what they would like to see as a solution, rather than sharing the problem. Agencies may argue the case but many compound the situation. Whether traditional or digital, they work within a confined area of expertise, often driven by what they have implemented over & over before on many occasions.

    The chain gets broken by inspirational marketing directors who demand that their proteges do more than fill out template plans. And on the agency side, it’s where true creative thinking is sought, rather than creative execution.

    The factors that should be driving more change are already here in Europe; word of mouth influence drives debate (between prescribers & amongst patients), patient power is integral to decision making & technology means targeted dialogue is now possible.

    Frustrated mavericks are already plotting the downfall of convention. And why shouldn’t they. Is a deliberate gathering of informed creative minds, who know healthcare inside out, that can seek out powerful solutions too much to ask? Smart agencies then partner with external production teams to make ideas a cost-efficient reality clients.

    Solutions should blend both traditional & digital routes. But whilst ever the 2 remain separate the creativity offered will be limited.

    Roll on the revolution.

  4. Posted March 4, 2009 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    I think it is wrong to compare old vs new agency, or old methods vs new ones – I believe we still need old media as well new (digital) media to reach out effectively to customers/consumers. Old media is still relevant in generating awareness (just compare effect of a 30 sec adv. on prime time TV, Vs a banner adv. on web page). Digital media is at it best to spread knowledge and information. We need to have synergistic approach between old media and digital media to have effective and efficient marketing strategy.

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