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May 28, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
Rinvoq, a new drug for Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), is on my creative radar this week. The AbbVie drug has an interesting 60 second spot that debuted earlier this year. There are several elements that I think are done quite well. First, the benefits are well explained with a voice over and supers for emphasis. Second, there is a clear demo of how RA attacks the body. Third, and I think most unique for DTC, is how the fair balance is introduced. 

Fair balance is often presented as a quick voice over and supers that sometimes is confusing because it is integrated with the benefit discussion. In Rinvoq, there is a clear transition between the benefits and fair balance. At exactly the 30 second mark a new voice over announcer takes over. The benefit section has a female announcer and the fair balance is voiced by a male voice. I am not sure this has been done before but clearly the consumer is helped by such a distinct transition in voice overs.

Research has shown that fair balance is actually seen positively by consumers. Therefore, why not do what Rinvoq does by clearly presenting the risks and side effects instead of trying to hurry through them as many ads do? Consumers deserve to hear the balance in the same tone and manner as benefits. It gives them reassurance that the drug maker is not trying to confuse them or minimize the risks.

I also like the logo of a swirl that is part of the brand name super. Having some logo to aid brand recall is important. It can give consumers an alternate way to describe the band to physicians. It also can connect the brand identification in print and digital media. Memorable devices used in the past, like the Prilosec Purple Pill and the walking bladder from Myrbetriq, exemplify the idea of alternate brand identification.

Rinvoq shows an ad can add unique elements while still using a fairly standard DTC approach. This vignette approach is done in most DTC ads because the drug industry is heavily constrained by FDA regulations and by nature formulaic. Here we have scenes of a female photographer on safari and a female renovating a house with a sledgehammer. These are probably not what most RA sufferers do,but Rinvoq is trying to show strenuous activities are possible after taking Rinvoq to control RA.

So I guess you can say a meat and potatoes creative approach can still be unique when you add in interesting visual and voice elements. In this case, Rinvoq has created an excellent ad by adding in interesting elements throughout including the oft neglected fair balance portion.
Bob Ehrlich
DTC Perspectives, Inc.

May 27, 2020 GumGum0

Ben Plomion, Chief Growth Officer

Sponsored Content

Though COVID-19 and its swift and pervasive impact on daily life have cast our present in a shadow of uncertainty, one thing remains clear: We’re in this together.  Overcoming the challenge to our immediate and enduring well-being is taking a combined effort––not just from hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, politicians, and all the other essential enterprises and workers facing the pandemic head-on, but from every American.  Now more than ever, everyone has a part to play. 

For most, the part is small: to protect themselves from contracting and spreading COVID-19 by simply staying home. Businesses, too, must play a part. But, for many, knowing what part to play can be its own challenge. GumGum, a technology and media company specializing in machine learning solutions that extract value from text, images and videos, had the good fortune to recognize its own part early on––and how, in playing that part, it could help other companies play theirs. 

One of GumGum’s core businesses is its contextual ad exchange––a solution specialized for safely and effectively engaging digital audiences. The company immediately recognized that its platform gave it a unique ability to quickly and widely communicate messaging that could help slow the virus’ spread. The company also knew that it could help brands contribute to that effort through GumGum Smile, a unique initiative for making a measurable positive impact on society that it was developing with the Ad Council.

When GumGum is running a GumGum Smile campaign, it donates a portion of every direct advertising dollar spent by brand clients toward creating and distributing messaging that inspires engagement and action around public issues. And no public issue is more important than slowing the spread of COVID-19. 

GumGum launched the first digital coronavirus messaging efforts, in support of a White House- and CDC-backed Ad Council PSA campaign, when in late March it began running pro bono In-Screen ads across its publisher network featuring the hashtag #AloneTogether to communicate the importance of social distancing. 

Many media companies felt the urgency to get the Ad Council’s messaging out, but GumGum was able to initiate its campaign just days after the Ad Council announced that it planned to launch national PSAs in response to the coronavirus pandemic, because GumGum’s ad creative and operations teams are uniquely agile and the company’s pre-existing flexible work-from-home policy meant that it was prepared, infrastructurally, to execute the campaign with all team members working remotely.

The campaign’s performance has been exceptional, delivering 91.5% viewability and a click-through-rate of .41%, more than four times the industry average for digital display advertising. 

GumGum has been utilizing its computer vision and natural language processing powered contextual targeting technologies to reach audiences in both the 65-and-older demographic, to whom COVID-19 poses the greatest risk, and the 18-25 demographic, whose constituents are most likely to flout social distancing protocols.

“Our targeting tactics and strategy have been working extremely well,” explained Ben Plomion, GumGum’s Chief Growth Officer, who helped facilitate the #AloneTogether GumGum Smile initiative. “The campaign is generating tremendous interest in the social distancing message and driving traffic to the CDC’s COVID-19 information site.” 

GumGum has now launched a second campaign utilizing its new In-Video overlay unit, which features a dynamic animation and a new, more direct #StayHome message. With the support of its brand clients, the company plans to continue running GumGum Smile campaigns to facilitate COVID-related PSAs until the threat posed by the virus shows signs of abating. 

“I believe there is no more important message than the one we’re delivering right now, but I want to be clear: GumGum is not doing it alone,” said Plomion. “We’re bringing unique technological capabilities and our platform, but it also takes the patronage of our partners to make it happen. Like with so much right now, we’re getting it done together.”

May 27, 2020 Brandi Linfante0

When the world changed due to COVID-19, we adapted. With a firm digital backbone in place, as a whole we migrated to a true digital-first mindset. The coronavirus pandemic has essentially taught us how to conduct our lives online through working, educating, monitoring our health, socializing, banking, shopping, and more. We have seen the advent of totally virtual scenarios for conferences, meetings, and social events, including holiday gatherings, birthday parties, reunions, and happy hours. Social media has seen an increase in new customers, engagement with existing customers and total screen time. People have changed their behaviors as a whole to get through this pandemic together.

As our thoughts turn to what life will be after this pandemic—the question we’re really asking is: what can we expect? How much behavior change will continue due to residual issues of the pandemic, and will the digital-first mindset continue? Have consumers and professionals come to value certain efficiencies enough to continue to embrace them? What behaviors will be forever changed?

The Healthcare Vertical

For health care, it has been an enormous effort to adjust and reframe, notwithstanding the taxation and overall burden this pandemic has placed on the system here in the United States and worldwide. While dealing with the influx of COVID-19 patients and social distancing measures, medical offices quickly translated their practices to telehealth opportunities to be able to continue to serve the population. The US Department of Health and Human Services eased and/or suspended certain regulations related to telemedicine, which was not a targeted mandate until the year 2021. The rules that were relaxed include the ability to use consumer-oriented video chat services and prescription services. Many health plans also waived copays for telehealth visits.

Telemedicine, still in its infancy, has been afforded an opportunity to shine, and has seen trajectory growth during this period. Telemedicine is predicted to be a behavior that withstands the test of COVID-19 time and leaps ahead into the future. Companies are now making available new insurance plans for small businesses that are centered on telemedicine and virtual primary care. These employers are counting on telemedicine to provide primary care as a way to lower healthcare costs while boosting the overall access to care. When one considers that this type of health care provides an opportunity for broader access to expertise and specialists to underserved areas, while offering convenience and flexibility in timing, lower costs, and ease of use, the prediction certainly makes sense.

Telehealth Adoption

Healthcare professionals are utilizing and benefiting from the available technologies while patients have taken to their phones, tablets, and computers to login for appointments when the doctor is in. On March 1 of this year, 40% of US practices had telemedicine systems. By April 1 that number jumped to 80%! Ninety-five (95%) percent of hospitals in the United States now offer a telemedicine option and 95% of employer-based medical plans offer it as well.

This kind of impact and increase does not happen without consequence however, and much like the way electronic health records systems have strived to develop, telemedicine is still in its infancy as a platform and will need to evolve and adapt to drive more efficiencies and better customer experiences.

Physicians have come to realize the technology as a value-add for their practices and patients. And patients have come to appreciate that they can address certain medical issues from the comfort of their own homes, which has been key during the coronavirus pandemic—a development that will no doubt continue once the current health crisis abates.

At this juncture, telehealth’s growth shows no signs of slowing down and widespread adoption appears imminent. Even when we emerge from this world of social distancing, telehealth is positioned to become mainstream. Look for the future to include more integrations with apps and wearables as an added benefit.

May 27, 2020 David Shronk0

The impending death of the third-party cookie has understandably received a lot of attention from marketers, media agencies and measurement companies – particularly in the pharma industry.

Cookies – those little pieces of information left by websites and saved on browsers, allowing marketers to track online behavior and browsing history – have formed the backbone of many of the digital media tactics pharma marketers have relied on in recent years. Moreover, they provided the industry with countless insights that made our jobs more efficient, helped us to better understand our audiences and got us closer to the truth behind the numbers.

Just five or so years ago, cookies provided us with fantastic new measurement tools that both opened our eyes to new realities and confirmed old assumptions about digital media. Cookies-based measurement helped marketers realize that organic traffic, especially from social channels like Facebook and Twitter, was most impactful. Cookies showed us that endemic advertising drove action and that programmatic advertising could be overwhelmingly efficient.

Not everything about cookies has been perfect from a measurement perspective; in some cases, for example, cookies-based measurement has facilitated an environment that favors efficiency over context. However, as new privacy controls and regulations continue to crumble away third-party cookies, so does some of the progress, solutions and the insights they’ve yielded. As a result, pharma marketers, media agencies and measurement companies are searching for cookie-less tactics to ensure they can still reach their target audiences.

There has already been some headway, with some companies reaching back to old solutions, namely relying on email addresses to identify and connect users through active opt-ins. While this is a logical first step – go with what you know – we learned from experience that opt-in only measurement makes it difficult to discern traffic that is truly representative of actual audiences. This runs the risks of compounding problems we are already experiencing in terms of representation in measurement.

Therefore, it is important for pharma marketers to keep in mind that a few numbers from a results report may not tell the whole story about target audiences and their online – or offline – behaviors. As such, it is necessary for the industry as a whole, including measurement companies, to find ways to measure – possibly through re-weighted analysis and first-party data integrations – that are clearly representative of audience behaviors and needs.

The Death of Social Traffic Measurement, Or the Canary in the Cookies Coal Mine

Safari, which represents a majority of mobile browser usage, hasn’t allowed use of third-party cookies since September 2018. And Google, which represents two-thirds of desktop browser usage via Chrome, has been gradually modifying its cookies policy and plans to eliminate them entirely by 2022. As calls for increased privacy continue to get louder and more public – logically and understandably – even more tech companies will follow suit.

But the dissolution of cookies is not new, as publishers who count on social traffic know very well. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Facebook updated its privacy policy in 2018 and prevented publishers from collecting personal information, including cookies and device IDs, from users browsing in-app. As a result, it became increasingly difficult for publishers who received traffic to their content from Facebook to recognize and identify those visitors, and near-impossible for measurement companies to connect those advertising impressions to identifiers that enable marketers to track downstream impact. For pharma marketers, it meant social-driven traffic to their advertising campaigns was under-represented (or ignored) in impact analyses, potentially affecting willingness to invest in similar campaigns in the future.

Social channels can be useful for driving organic traffic, where a person sees content, identifies with it, and chooses to visit the site. Additionally, social platforms like Facebook have algorithms that help identify people who have interest in certain types of content and then serve them with more, relevant articles. Taken together, early analytic measurement showed the value of social in driving audiences and action.

However, once Facebook eliminated use of third-party cookies to collect personal information, the positive impact of social traffic on ad campaigns began to dissipate, with search – the main driver for measurable traffic – becoming the proxy for performance. As a result, social measurement is essentially living in a “cookie-less” world today. Social publishers are being measured mainly by the value of the search traffic they receive, which is not representative of the business model clients purchase.

In the end, clients lose the ability to optimize media funds accurately, leaving them in a pickle as measurement is only as good as the sample it can collect. Without cookies, current media measurement methods can potentially overlook the context and behaviors of people who find content via social vs. search or other methods.

Fortunately, measurement companies recognize these issues with social measurement and are actively working on solutions. These companies see the trends in social measurement as a canary in the coal mine, an indicator of the issues to come when cookies officially disappear completely, not just for social publishers.

Going Back to the Future, Or Email Opt-Ins Are Our Density… Umm, Destiny

Not too long ago, before the industry realized how to harness cookies in a more analytical way, registered users who provided an email address were a key tool to measure ROI for pharma marketers. At that time, email addresses were the only way to link to patients’ health records in a way that was HIPAA-compliant.

As the reign of cookies comes to an end, I have read and heard a lot about turning back to measurement methods that rely on a website’s opted-in members who provide emails. Because registered users agree to privacy terms, this measurement allows for privacy-compliant methods to collect and connect personal information. So it makes sense that email identification is a leading candidate for the future of pharma digital measurement.

Up until about five years ago, when digital measurement based on cookies became widespread, it was well-known that measurement based on registered users was lacking. The limitations were simple: registered users are often not representative of a site’s traffic.

What’s frustrating to the pharma marketer is that, with increasing barriers to third-party cookies, the measurement data available from 2015 to 2017 was more representative than it is today. And today’s data is going to be better than what’s coming next. As measurement enhancements and methodologies evolve to safeguard privacy of personal information, it appears we are (unfortunately) regressing in our ability to measure a fully representative audience.

The Takeaway

It is likely that whatever pharma measurement tool the industry lands on, whether that be email opt-ins or new tech integrations, will have some consequences that could – at least temporarily – set back our understanding of how online advertising impacts offline health behaviors. Measurement has extraordinary value, but the best way forward is to recognize that big data solutions require critical understanding of how data collection and methodology impact results.

May 27, 2020 admin0

Mark Zuckerberg said, “Think about what people are doing on Facebook today… they’re building an image and identity for themselves, which in a sense is their brand. They’re connecting with the audience that they want to connect to.” This is the exact strategy that pharma marketers should follow to ensure success with digital and social media. By combining psychology with technology, targeted content can be delivered to patients who are seeking certain health care information in a space where they have a propensity to search at a time when they are trying to make an informed decision. Psychological theories provide a framework for understanding and predicting a myriad of human behaviors and thoughts. Two theories in particular that are most relevant in pharma marketing with digital and social media are the information gap theory and the social proof theory.

The information gap theory of curiosity is relevant in pharma marketing when patients believe that there is empty space between what they know and what they would like to know. Patients crave compelling content. They may be intrigued to know the complete efficacy of a medication prior to introducing a new drug regimen into their personal health care treatment plan. In digital pharma, an effective technique in creating curiosity is developing a headline that captures the attention of readers who will click on it. The 4U formula with headlines that are unique, ultra-specific, useful or relay a sense of urgency drives traffic, shares and search results. “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy,” according to David Ogilvy whose 1963 book Confession of an Advertising Man is required reading for advertising classes.

Headlines need to be specific enough to attract and persuade readers without being too specific so that readers believe it is unnecessary to click through the data. Information that is forthcoming may be alluded to in a headline, but all of the answers are not provided at the outset. Patients are coaxed into delving deeper. They enthusiastically access the Twitter blog post or Facebook ad by clicking and searching in a definite spot for the information they need.

Another effective technique in generating curiosity is leveraging emotional triggers. It is critical to understand the specific words and behaviors that can be used with patients to drive transformation, cause a reaction and create change. Studies report that emotional responses to a basic online ad have over 200% greater influence on buying power than the actual content. Social media messages that extend beyond the features of medicine and connect with personal feelings and experiences is stronger than a message based solely on science, brand characteristics or facts. It persuades patients to take a moment to consider another point of view and engage in a personal way that has meaning to them. It becomes knowledge that is exchanged in both directions and not a sales pitch aimed purely at the patient.

The social proof theory contributes substantially to the success of digital and social media marketing in pharma when patients who sway other patients adopt beliefs or mimic the actions of individuals that they admire or trust, such as celebrities. Patients have an intense desire to gather information from their influencers, including other patients. For example, patient-generated content, such as online testimonials or reviews, are invaluable in showing other patients that a medical device or prescription medication is dependable. Research indicates that more than 80% of patients click on an online ad with content created by other patients with testimonials.

During the coronavirus pandemic, a surge of patients are directing their attention to online influencers for advice and recommendations instead of seeking medical help at a hospital due to their fear of becoming infected by the disease while at a healthcare facility. With celebrity influencers, some communications about medications and medical devices rely on FDA guidance. Recently, Kim Kardashian West overcame slight adversity with a pharma campaign for Diclegis, a pregnancy morning sickness medication, that stirred up an FDA warning two years ago. Complying with regulatory guidelines while maintaining both transparency and authenticity, helps celebrity influencers prevail over possible negative effects of a flawed marketing campaign.

Another technique in social influencing is adding social plug ins and sharing buttons that show the number of shares a particular sliver of content produced indicating positive experiences that other patients will mimic. Patients who are influenced by the actions of other patients are more likely to send along posts that have been shared by other patients. More traffic is directed to the site when content is shared broadly on social or digital media. The interplay is significantly higher which translates into greater sales and higher revenues. In online patient community chat rooms, such as PatientsLikeMe or AskaPatient, connected patients, who are inspired by the opinions and astuteness of others, take the next step and churn out their experiences by further chatting. Half of the patients who use the internet to self-diagnose with online chat features reserve an appointment with a doctor and then ask the doctor for the brands noted in the chat rooms.

In summary, by integrating into technology not only the information gap theory of curiosity, with headlines and emotional triggers, but also the social proof theory, with social influencers, social plug ins, and sharing buttons, pharma companies experience increased search engine traffic, better brand identity and improved leads. The key is for pharma marketers to provide online paths that help patients and influencers exchange data offering different alternatives to inform decision making. Influencers help build brand trust with almost half of the patients depending on their recommendations from social media. Nearly three quarters of patients who have had positive experiences with a brand are likely to suggest the same brand to their friends and family on Facebook, Twitter, and various patient chat rooms. Pharma companies are realizing that there is not one suitable approach with online marketing; rather incorporating the element of psychology into their online marketing platforms adds to their bottom line success.


Coleman, D. (2013). Rules engagement: 7 tips for successful pharma content marketing. eyeforpharma.

Cornejo, C. (2017). Social media influencers in healthcare and pharma: What’s their role? WEGO health.

Englestrom, C. (2020). Social media marketing for pharma industry. InsightsSuccess.

Jones, S. (2017). 5 Psychological theories to help you understand your prospects. MPH creative.

Mohsin, M. (2020). 10 social media statistics you need to know in 2020. Oberlo. 

Shewan, D. (2017). 6 ways to use the curiosity gap in your marketing campaigns. WordStream.

Williams, B. (2018). The power of emotion in pharma advertising – stronger than ever in 2018. Bastion brands.

May 27, 2020 admin0

In mid-May, the Commonweath Fund, Harvard University, and Phreesia collaborated to publish findings of COVID-19 impacts on outpatient visits and telehealth; this provides an update to an earlier April publication. From mid-February to mid-May, data from more than 50,000 providers from Phreesia’s client base and more than 12 million visits was analyzed.

According to the latest findings, “As in-person visits dropped, telehealth visits increased rapidly before plateauing. The rebound in visits is due to more in-person visits rather than more telemedicine visits.” The research found the rebound in visits to be true across all specialties studied (see chart below). Providers reported consistent data “in the initial decline and resulting rebound in visits” regardless of organization’s size.

Age, however, does appear to factor in to the rebound levels. Older adults are showing higher levels for rebounding in doctor visits versus school-age children when comparing April to May data. For example, those aged 65-74 showed a 61% decline in visits for the week starting April 5th but only a 30% decline in visits for the week starting May 10th. Children aged 6-17 recorded a 71% drop in visits the week starting April 5th and a 53% decrease in visits the week starting May 10th.

The Commonwealth Fund “promote[s] a high-performing health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including low-income people, the uninsured, and people of color. The Fund carries out this mandate by supporting independent research on health care issues and making grants to improve health care practice and policy. An international program in health policy is designed to stimulate innovative policies and practices in the United States and other industrialized countries,” states their website.

One of the group’s researchers, David Linetsky, Phreesia’s SVP Life Sciences, also joined DTC Perspectives for our virtual DTC National: May event discussing the Point of Care space. Click here to hear more insights:

May 20, 2020 Bob Ehrlich0
Dear DTC Colleague,

The first campaign I have chosen to discuss is corporate. Normally I will focus on brand or disease information campaigns. In this case and at this time, however, it is highly appropriate to discuss the new Pfizer spot on research for COVID-19 which first aired April 15. The campaign is a powerful statement on what research scientists at Pfizer and other private and public institutions are doing to battle COVID-19.

The 60 second campaign is themed around the phrase “Science Will Win.” The creative device here is showing vignettes of scientists conducting research. An authoritative announcer narrates the reassuring story that society has faced disease and pandemics in the past and won and will again. What is very interesting is the term Coronavirus or COVID-19 is never said. The ad starts with scenes of people with masks and empty store shelves. We don’t really need to hear the disease name as it is obvious to all of us what the ad is referencing.

“With Science Will Win, we sought to create hope by reinforcing our commitment to scientific collaboration and our pledge to use our resources to battle against and ultimately end the pandemic,” Pfizer’s Dana Gandsman, Senior Director, Reputation Communications told DTC Perspectives.

Why is this ad good? At a time when the Pharma industry is facing so much criticism over the price of drugs, it is inspiring to hear that the drug makers are likely to give us hope for an eventual return to normalcy. The role of drug makers as heroic saviors of mankind may have seemed disingenuous to many Americans in the past. When PhRMA ran its excellent industry campaign a few years ago promoting its research it was probably seen cynically by many critics. Industry has argued that clinical research will suffer under price controls. That argument was difficult to make successfully as politicians and consumer advocates constantly criticized drug company pricing and profits.

The new Pfizer ad is coming at a time when industry probably does have the admiration and support of most Americans. Pfizer does not try to explicitly promote its own company in this ad. In fact the only company mention is in the super at the end of the ad. Pfizer has been in the news for its COVID-19 vaccine development with a German partner and the possibility of a vaccine available by year end.

Drug makers have a huge opportunity to drastically change their image. Gilead just donated all of its existing Remdesivir doses, the first drug proven to treat COVID-19. I am sure a vaccine will be priced very favorably and will not be a huge financial win for the drug industry. Will Bernie Sanders still hate us? Yes, but hearing him still talk about drug company profiteers seems odd and out of touch. The lesson from COVID-19 is we need the power and, yes, profitability of private industry to keep us safe.

Pfizer and Grey, who is the agency behind this ad, deserve credit for producing an ad that gives accolades to every research scientist at all of the companies working on cures. This is not a time for self-promotion as we are truly all in this together. Will ads like these change the feeling about drug companies? I expect that if one of these companies produces an affordable vaccine or cure within a year the image will improve dramatically. Will consumers get back to complaining about high drug prices? They will, but drug companies will build up a lot of goodwill if normalcy returns because their investment in science won over the virus.
Bob Ehrlich,
DTC Perspectives, Inc.