One of the common themes coming out of the awards shows these days is that marketing to Healthcare Professionals (HCPs) just isn’t cutting it from a creative point of view. All too often, we hear that no trophy was given within the HCP categories. But why is this area of health marketing so under-served when it comes to ideas and innovation?
If you look at the direct to consumer work that is being done today, you see an incredible shift in the quality of the thinking, the execution and the level of innovation. On the HCP side of the house, the pace is very different, and our industry seems content to serve up work that is old-fashioned and staid. Many stick with the tried-and-true scientific headline and visual metaphor combo. Which is then repeated everywhere.
Not only does this make the work not particularly award- worthy, it has much more serious ramifications. Our industry is in danger of losing the attention of HCPs — because the way doctors consume media and content has changed just as much as it has for consumers — and doctors are starting to turn away from the traditional marketing tactics for their information. Just look at the increasing number of doctors who do not see sales reps. As a well-known Oncologist once said, “If the data is important enough it will find me.”
That means we need to change too, because HCPs are too important in our industry to simply offer up mediocrity or have a low bar.
Doctors are time pressured. There are not enough doctors to serve a growing, aging and, all too often, chronically sick patient population. Their patients need real help and support. HCPs also need real help and support. Our industry’s response? Let’s bullet point the copy because doctors don’t have time to read. The bottom line is, HCPs are not relating to or relying on the pharma industry the way they once were.
Digitas Health (DH) is stepping up to rethink HCP marketing. This is not the time for incremental change; we need to make our professional work dramatically better than the industry standard. DH is the Agency of Now. As such, we are taking a deep dive to think about what is happening today and into the future. Let’s ditch the tired old stereotypes, media plans, tactics, and (please, please, please) throw away the cookie cutter.
We need to reevaluate our assumptions about how HCPs connect. How are they connecting with their peer group? How are they using social? Where do they get their information? How does the Oncologist quoted earlier expect information to find him? What is the best content for them and how should it manifest? We need create programs that make it easier for people –both patients and HCPs — to find their way through an increasingly hard healthcare system to get the right treatment to the right people.
It’s time to stop worrying about where the work will appear and figure out what matters most to the Doctor. What is the emotional and practical opportunity? It’s about putting aside our own prioritization of media channels and prioritizing the development of information that will empower Docs to make the biggest difference to their patients’ lives. Once that’s in focus, we must determine the context in which the messages will best resonate, the places to appear, how to get the timing right to hit HCPs, with the right message at the right time to drive the best possible outcomes. As we turn marketing into a service to create new experiences that support doctors in making better, more confident health decisions, that’s exactly what we mean when we say DH is “helping, not selling”.