PharmExec Blog

Heady Ideas for Digital Health Marketing

If you really want to know what’s on a patient’s mind, it’s best to skip the small talk and go straight to the brain waves, as demonstrated by Neuro Insight CEO Pranav Yadav in the lead-off presentation yesterday at Chandler Chicco’s Pioneers in Digital Health conference.

“Traditional market research about advertising is often wrong,” said Yadav, noting that his experience as an ethnographer put the fundamental tool of social science – self-reporting – into question. “I’d spend a lot of time with someone, and then give them a survey, and [on the survey] they were not the same person,” said Yadav. “People don’t have the ability to express emotion…if I ask how you feel, the response is how you think you feel.”

To bypass the speech/articulation process, Australia-based Neuro Insight uses steady-state topography (SST), which records electrical impulses in the scalp via a sensor-bedecked visor worn by test subjects. Put in front of a television and shown advertisements, subjects’ brain waves register their levels of “approach” or “withdrawal” from a given ad, which lets marketers predict the ad’s effectiveness, or adjust the content to prevent a dive into withdrawal. Neuro Insight has pharma clients – GSK is listed on the company website – but the case studies were limited to consumer brands, an unfortunate but familiar trend at digital pharma gatherings.

Moving from brain waves to search results, Steve Rotter, VP marketing at Brightcove, a web video hosting and service provider, cited data from Forrester proclaiming that “videos are 53 times more likely than text pages to appear on the first page of search results.” But the written word isn’t completely dead; Rotter said adding a transcript of a video to a webpage dramatically improves SEO and helps visitors find what they’re looking for more quickly. Brightcove has clients including AstraZeneca, Abbott, Genzyme, Roche and GSK, and is currently working on a platform for videos that senses which specific device is being used by the target consumer or patient, and optimizes or renders the video based on that device, said Rotter.

Doug Seifert, president and CEO at Syandus, an “experiential learning” company, demoed a COPD simulation game targeted to physicians. Created for Pfizer and Boehringer Ingelheim (the companies co-market the blockbuster COPD drug Spiriva), the demo was one of the most impressive displays at the conference. The game allows physicians to adjust variables and see how patients with different levels of severity or disease-state would respond. A doctor can make a patient smoke cigarettes and climb stairs, and then watch what happens in the body, for example. Seifert said simulations work because “humans are pattern recognition machines,” and “pattern recognition creates behavior change.” Besides, “endorphins are released” when people play games, a word Seifert defined as “a series of interesting choices.”

The conference ended on a somewhat hypocritical note, in that Facebook – “a distribution platform that promotes authentic sharing” – struck all sharing of its presentation from the record. Conference emcee Ritesh Patel, Chandler Chicco’s digital and social media lead, asked that all remarks from Facebook’s John Patten be kept within the walls of the Alexandria Center’s conference room, given the company’s upcoming IPO. As a result, the tweeters in the room (conference tweets can be found at #CCCDigital) were silenced for the duration.

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