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November 15, 2016 0

Appealing to millennials is difficult enough for most industries, however the health insurance industry specifically struggles, as millennials feel invincible, and would rather diagnose themselves through Web MD than visit the doctor. Steve McCallion, CMO and creative director at Zoom+, recognizes this, and has developed a new approach to targeting millennials. McCallion says, “millennials are a healthy group, so you have to figure out how they think of their healthcare on a deeper level…not just something they have to do, but they want to do”. The team at Zoom+ emphasizes the millennial love for wellness, by offering incentives for healthy lifestyles, such as running a marathon. They know this younger age group is much more concerned with eating healthy and staying active than seeking medical intervention. One of their first campaigns was an animation, reminiscent of Schoolhouse Rock! The idea was to take the lengthy and confusing language of the ACA, and put it into a platform that millennials can relate to and understand.

To learn more about how Zoom+ is engaging millennials from MM&A, click here.

Lily Stauffer

March 18, 2015

Having split my career neatly into two halves – first non-pharma, then pharma – I feel I have a good sense of what best practices can, and should, be lifted from the regular world into pharma marketing. In my experience, attitudinal segmentation by disease area isn’t one of them. In the non-pharma world, a segmentation study can be extremely helpful, and can help you narrow your gaze to a laser focus on the unmet needs of the most valuable target audience.

To clarify, I’m talking about good old-fashioned customized attitudinal segmentation studies. The ones that start with a foundation of qualitative research to uncover the range of attitudes, perceptions, and needs that exist in your category, and then plug those dimensions into a quantitative survey – culminating in a neatly segmented pie of a condition-specific universe. Each of those slices represents a target that is more or less valuable to your brand, based on unique mindset and demographics. These segments go on to inform creative development and help you make sense of future tracking studies and copy testing.

In the non-pharma world, a segmentation study can be extremely helpful, and can help you narrow your gaze to a laser focus on the unmet needs of the most valuable target audience. For example, I imagine that, years ago, Volvo figured out that among the car-buying public, there were people with deep pockets whose greatest concern was keeping their kids safe. They then developed deep equity in owning safety –  literally – and in their communications, based on the understanding that this segment was real, and its needs unmet. Similarly, Dove was successful in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) world by segmenting the market and figuring out that an opportunity existed to serve the needs of women who rejected popular notions of beauty.

Why does this custom attitudinal segmentation fall short in pharma? Because there is a profound difference between pharma and non-pharma that reduces the value of segmentation. Primarily, there is a fundamental difference in how consumers enter the category in each world. In the consumer world of goods and services, people choose to be in the buying universe. One chooses to identify as a Volvo person vs. a Subaru person vs. an Audi person. One nominates oneself into that universe. One chooses to buy into Dove’s brand image vs. Chanel.

In pharma, the rules are starkly different; no one chooses to be in the diabetes club, or the psoriasis club. You enter these clubs kicking and screaming, and if you had your way, medicine would not be in your life at all. Yes, if you have a condition that is profoundly impactful, such as arthritis vs. an asymptomatic condition such as high blood pressure, you will enter the club sooner rather than later, but ultimately, regardless of the condition, pharma is the only category where the primary end users want little to do with it (which is why caregivers are such an attractive target… but that’s a whole other article).

So, how do you profile your best opportunity?

The fact remains that to anchor great communications and build a brand, it’s critical to understand what portion of the disease universe represents the best opportunity. The good news is that a different type of segmentation can play a role here; specifically, a segmentation of overall healthcare attitudes (as opposed to a segmentation of patients diagnosed with a particular condition). Everyone has healthcare attitudes, and everyone who consumes healthcare (that is, the entire human population) can be divided into recognizable healthcare attitude segments.

If you work in healthcare marketing, you have seen these segments under various names. There is the Proactive Health Preserver – the person who takes charge of their health, has a strong sense of identity, does not allow themselves to be defined by their condition, and plays a strong role in their own treatment decisions. At the other end of the spectrum, there is the Disengaged and Uninvolved. That nomenclature speaks for itself. And in between, there are another two or three segments that represent people you would recognize at a backyard barbeque.

The reason that general healthcare attitudinal segmentation is more valuable than a condition-specific one is that healthcare attitudes remain fixed across conditions, and often across time. A Proactive Health Preserver (or a Solution Seeker or an Uninvolved) with diabetes represents essentially the same type of opportunity as a Proactive Health Preserver with psoriasis. The condition-specific study does not need to be fielded, because you can predict in advance what the segments will look like and who will be deemed valuable in DTC terms. Spoiler alert: it’s nearly always the Proactive Health Preserver/Solution Seeker (or whatever he/she is called in your study), because they are the ones who are most open to medication and most influential in their treatment decisions.

Further, over time, attitudinal segments tend to remain stable, because they tap into profound perceptions about sense of self and authority that are central to who we are as people. For example, people with a strong internalized identity who are not defined by external circumstances (such as their diabetes) are likely to retain this mindset over the long term. They will see medication as a tool in their arsenal and will not avoid treatment because they don’t want to be “that guy with diabetes.” They will research treatment options and partner in their treatment plans.

Similarly, those who are unable to extricate their identity from their condition are not likely to change this attitude over the long term, and those who leave it all to the doctor are likely to continue doing so over time. This is opposed to other types of segmentation (such as patient-journey based), which, because they are rooted in an external temporal structure rather than an internal mindset, are not truly segmentations. Those segmentations map a patient population as it moves along a disease path. This information may be useful when developing a CRM program, but again, that’s another article.

What can a pharma company (and its agency) do to bring segments to life?

Rather than spend several hundred thousand dollars on segmentation studies that continue to reveal the same segments when the dust clears, a pharma brand team would be better off using existing data to bring their core segments to life. For example, by using the healthcare segmentation already provided by syndicated studies from Kantar Media (MARS) or The Futures Group, and then layering your disease state over that segmentation, we can then profile these augmented segments to determine where your best opportunity lies. The result is a detailed view of attitudes, demographics, and actual media consumption that is actionable. This profile can be cross-referenced with other sources such as qualitative research to flesh out the richness and detail of your target and bring them to life.

What can I do with my de facto segments? The segmentation keys (provided by the vendor) can overlay your de facto segments on to your customer database, so you can create customized messaging for priority segments. You can fold them into your tracking study, so you can track the impact of communications against the patients who are most valuable for your brand. And you can use the segment screening criteria to recruit patients into qualitative research. To learn how to do this, all you have to do is call whatever syndicated vendor makes the most sense for your brand.

So, I still need to do qualitative research? Yes! Leveraging off-the-shelf segmentation with an overlay of disease state does not negate the need for in-depth qualitative research among patients. Understanding how your patients think and feel at every step of the journey – the obstacles and opportunities at key touchpoints – is crucial. The research is also critical to bringing your segments to life in the rich and nuanced way that is necessary to anchor great briefs, and great work.

However, to ensure that your qualitative insights are reflective of your key segments, it’s important to put thought into recruiting these segments for qualitative, which can be done, again, by leveraging the segment tools that can be provided by the vendor. If that’s not possible, the next best approach is to apply a proxy for the segmentation key, ensuring all recruits are proactive about their health and influential in their own treatment decisions – attitudes that, when it comes down to it, are really the key criteria for evaluating the value of one segment versus another.

Deb Silverman

March 17, 2015

Children and fools speak the truth, they say. When Galileo first said that the Earth travels around the Sun, he was held for a fool. When industry pundits say that patients are at the center of the life science Solar System, they, too, are sometimes accused of throwing around mere buzzwords. But that doesn’t make it any less true. Patient centricity matters for the sake of patients as much as for the sake of business. So how can it be done well?

1. Prioritize face-to-face encounters
Of course, we do market research, social listening, and a myriad of other activities to gain insights and improve business strategies. Those things are needed and necessary. However, how many of us are actually engaging patients personally? While words can convey a great deal of information, but visuals, the voice, the face, and body language all provide relevant context to what is said. Nothing shows greater respect and a higher level of interest than taking the time to be physically present and interact personally with someone. When was the last time you actually had a conversation with someone who had the condition you are working on? If that was not recent, perhaps that’s the place to start.

2. Be human
If you ask patients what’s most important to them when they choose a healthcare provider, overwhelmingly, they’re looking for someone who cares how they’re doing. For a number of reasons, pharmaceutical brands can be perceived as lifeless, cold, necessary evils. They are viewed as merely pills, injections, or infusions, and their benefits sometimes get lost in the commercial mandatories for people to only find that they can’t remember why this brand was a good idea in the first place. We shouldn’t be content with just being “necessary.” Successful brands have a human face, because they work with real people living with the disease, and they offer real support rather than just marketing messages.

3. Include care partners
A large body of literature points to the importance of close family and friends to help patients adhere to their treatment regimen and to provide for the right care at home. In some disease categories, reaching care partners is arguably more important and more appropriate than reaching the patients themselves; think of Alzheimer’s, autism, or any kind of pediatric disease, where it’s mostly physicians and care partners making the most important decisions on the patient’s behalf. A parent caring for a child with a disease will struggle with a different set of worries than someone caring for a spouse, so customization is vital. Care partners often end up being just an afterthought, but in our experience the best patient communication programs have always taken loved-ones into account early in the process. Being mindful of how an illness affects not only the person, but also those around them, is a critical consideration in the communication strategy.

4. Be relevant – tell stories
Research points to three main drivers of medical adherence: patient comprehension, recall, and motivation. Only one messaging format can address all three supporting factors to improve behavioral outcomes: stories. As studies at the University of Princeton have shown, storytelling can lead to neural coupling, where the brains of listeners essentially mirror activities happening in the brain of the storyteller. What this means is that if you hear a story, your brain comes close to actually experiencing the story. Stories get our attention, so our brains are switched on, which helps us understand and remember what we’re being told. And since stories also stimulate us emotionally, we are more open to messages that encourage certain behaviors.

5. Choose peers as messengers
The most credible messenger for any target group is a peer. Testimonials and personal recommendations by people in our inner circle have always had the strongest influence on our most important life decisions. We trust people who are just like ourselves more than total and utter strangers. Storytelling is good, but it has to be culturally appropriate; i.e. your messengers should have a similar demographical background as the target group. Don’t speak through “the average person on the street,” but through “the average person living with the condition,” or a person just like the ones you’re trying to reach.

Bottom line: Engaging with patients takes commitment and preparation. Yet, regardless of brand, it needs to be done – it’s about accepting the facts surrounding the entire healthcare universe. It’s about listening to “fools” like Galileo.

Chemelle Evans

March 17, 2015

People actively involved in their health and healthcare generally have better outcomes in managing their condition. So how do those of us working in healthcare and healthcare marketing motivate people to get more involved? While we don’t have all the answers, Health Union has learned some valuable lessons and practical tips for enhancing patient engagement since launching our first platform,, more than four years ago. Here, we share some key insights from our recipe for cultivating active, engaged patient communities, and hopefully, help marketers avoid common pitfalls.

1. Listen to patient communities
Our mantra – the community is always right! Observe patterns of engagement to learn what interests patients and what doesn’t. Success will come from aligning your agenda to respond to their needs, which will continue to evolve over time. For instance, early in the lifecycle of our community, Health Union created a series of yoga videos that could help patients with rheumatoid arthritis increase strength and flexibility. Unfortunately, we offered a great solution to a problem that our current members weren’t interested in fixing. However, as our RA community continued to grow – and interests became more diverse – these yoga videos eventually became relevant to a certain segment of the community. Engagement often depends on offering the right content at the right time, and it’s important to continually assess the needs of patients as your audience grows.

 2. Segment based on behaviors, not demographics
In our communities, we observe similar behavior patterns at various phases throughout the patient journey. For example, in people with type 2 diabetes, we recognized that patients who were newly diagnosed, adding a new medication, or lapsed treaters were all relating to tips-and-tricks-type of problem solution articles. So, we created a profile for these “frustrated quick-fixers” and developed a strategy to develop this type of content on many different topics. Once you recognize a behavior segment, seek to understand what’s driving those behaviors and find multiple ways to meet the true underlying needs.

3. Meet people where they are
Make it simple for people to engage, regardless of how much time, knowledge, or interest they have. The easier it is for people to engage, the more likely they are to do it, and keep doing it! While this seems obvious, it is important to keep in mind that what is easy for one person, may not be easy for another. Provide multiple, unique, and easy opportunities for people to participate where they are and according to their comfort level. We often initiate engagement on Facebook (without requiring a site visit) since patients are already there and willing to participate with a like, share, or comment. On our websites, anonymous polls enable “lurkers” to participate. We also build content to meet the needs of different types of community members. While some content is simple, basic information that can quickly answer commonly asked questions, other content is more detailed with higher-level scientific data.

4. Validate concerns or challenges first, and then offer solutions
Most people know what they should do to improve their health, but they don’t take action, for many reasons. Choosing healthy behavior is difficult. We’ve learned that we can increase engagement and empower our community members when we acknowledge and validate the challenges of making health improvements before offering solutions.

Many people with migraines become frustrated when encouraged to exercise by their healthcare providers. For some, exercise can trigger a migraine attack; for others, migraine is chronic and getting out of bed is exhausting in itself. Exercise tips and advice are often met with negative reactions among the migraine community. However, when we acknowledge that exercise can be a challenge for people with migraine and offer varying ways to increase physical activity while managing potential migraine triggers, we create a positive connection and encourage healthier behavior.

5. Align interests and opportunities
Once you learn what interests and motivates your audiences, provide more opportunities for them to get involved. Use past performance to guide strategy. Experiment with variations on proven areas of interest to create new ways to engage. For instance, we received an overwhelming response to our annual Migraine In America survey, making it clear that people with migraines are seeking opportunities to be heard, share their opinions, and compare experiences. As a result, we started building more feedback mechanisms into our communities – from quick polls and questions for our Facebook community to creating specific opportunities for patients to opt-in for survey invitations from corporate and academic partners.

While there are many ways to create and maintain patient engagement, these principles are some of the most critical for success.

Editor’s Note: This is the first installment in a two-part series from Health Union. Check out our April issue of DTC in Focus to read about making engagement a habit and how these principles apply to adherence and patient support.

Amrita Bhowmick

February 18, 2015
The strategic role of content marketing in DTC campaigns is a hotly debated topic. While many industries have shifted their focus to building content that is authentic, educational and even whimsical in the hopes of building a rapport with patients, the healthcare industry is still finding its voice. Brands leading discussions can be perceived as self-serving, and creating authority in a world where brand communications are rarely heard is a challenge.

When determining the role of content marketing for Rx brands in the healthcare industry, our hands may be tied a bit, but it can still be a valuable tool when used correctly. The greatest opportunity for Rx brands is in content with broad appeal, because content has to compete for attention on a level playing field with everything from information to community to entertainment. This means that therapies addressing conditions with larger patient populations are most likely to have success with content marketing.

Given that content can travel across the Internet, many pharmaceutical marketers aren’t comfortable with models that distribute branded content into places their legal teams aren’t able to approve ahead of time. For many, this will mean that initial content marketing tests are best conducted with unbranded communications. Before you start producing content though, developing and agreeing upon a sound strategy is key.

It is important to focus on information patients, KOLs and caregivers want from you. Not trying to be everything for everyone is difficult to accept, but having focus can still allow your voice to be heard.

The recent campaign by Shire Pharmaceuticals does just this. The campaign focuses on driving education and awareness around Binge Eating Disorder (B.E.D.), a condition officially recognized in 2014 by the American Psychiatric Association. When treated, Shire benefits with approval of their drug Vyvanse being the only medication approved to treat moderate to severe B.E.D. in adults in the US. Because of this unique situation, they are in a position to drive the conversation around B.E.D. among patients in a landscape where they are one of the few voices.

When you are in a position to drive a conversation it is easy to be heavy-handed and talk only about your company or brand. This is one of the biggest mistakes Rx brands can make in this area. Eisai Pharmaceuticals developed a content and social campaign around their weight-loss drug Belviq. They have developed a social strategy under their corporate name, which is a step in the right direction, but it is clearly focused only on their own agenda.

It is no surprise that the above message has very little engagement as the entire program is focused on promoting their support and savings programs. Consumers can sense when they are being sold to versus having a conversation with, and will act accordingly.

While consumers hate being sold to, they do appreciate and trust authorities. Focusing your information to the right audience is important, but proving to be the authority on that information is what will gain traction and trust with your audience. Biogen Idec recently announced a partnership with two athletes who will act as patient advocates for the company’s multiple sclerosis campaign, Both Tyler Campbell (former NFL prospect) and Chris Wright (former NBA player) suffer from the disease and take Biogen’s MS infusion treatment, Tysabri. The goal of is to drive MS sufferers to submit their own inspirational stories just as both Tyler and Chris have. Chris Wright (@self_madeest89) is regularly promoting the site as well as his own foundation while Tyler Campbell’s Hall of Fame father Earl (@earlccampbell) also actively promotes the effort.

This is a great example of a brand knowing they cannot always be the face of a content campaign and get the results they want. Instead they align themselves with an authority figure that can help get the message out.

A common hurdle most pharma content marketing campaigns face is keeping content fresh. A large part of this can be attributed to the seemingly insurmountable challenge that regulatory bodies can present in approving content at a pace that will keep patients engaged. With legal reviews, what goes in is not always what comes out, and unique and creative content is usually the first thing to hit the cutting room floor. Knowing this variable isn’t going away, it stresses the importance of thinking strategically about what role content marketing plays for your brand and if it is a channel worth pursuing. If you are not able to produce the content that is truly meaningful to your target audience, an alternative channel or platform may be a better option.

While there is no doubt that content marketing can have a large impact for Rx brands when done right, it is not always a feasible option for everyone. Before content development begins, it is important that the appropriate marketing teams think strategically about the role it plays and quantify the value to determine its worth.

Chris Tuleya

February 18, 2015
Direct-to-consumer marketing efforts for many prescription drug brands rely not just on appropriate clinical targeting but on creative executions that are emotionally relevant and resonate deeply with appropriate patients. That creative, whether it’s a television or a print ad or a website or a brochure, needs to be grounded in a big creative idea that breaks through in a world crowded with health messages and experiences clamoring for patients’ attention.

We’ve been expanding our discovery of the target patient beyond their clinical profiles, disease conditions and standard demographics, and digging into the attitudes and behaviors of the target as a member of a generation. Baby Boomers (and Generation Xers and Millennials, and every other generation as well) have shared the same formative experiences, historical events and life stage milestones, developing generational attitudes and behaviors to culture, consumption, life, work, love – and health. We take these generational mindsets and apply them to the health and wellness experience of the target audience, especially when our Strategic Planners brief our creative teams on DTC television and digital marketing projects.

In one recent briefing on a specific disease condition, Tonic’s strategists ensured that the creative teams were steeped in Gen X’s favorite TV shows and music, their undeserved reputation as directionless slackers, their focus on family, as well as a typical day-in-the-life of a busy Gen X working mom. Our creative teams learned that the Gen X woman is a fan of the TV show “Parenthood”, is sentimental about Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer”, doesn’t think her post-college job at the thrift store meant she didn’t have a plan, has her work-life balance planned down to the minute, and puts her family first. All of this helped build a textured portrait of a very demanding patient who needs a treatment solution that meets their clinical needs and is easy to take, as well as one that doesn’t interfere with the hard-won and finely calibrated lifestyle and family life that Gen X values so greatly

Whether the brief is for Baby Boomers with diabetes or COPD, or Millennials or Gen Xers with allergies or HIV, Tonic strategists ground the creative teams in the experience of the generation with pop cultural references like hit songs and popular movies as well as news events and historical timelines. These shared experiences have shaped the values and beliefs of the generation and when these are extended to, say, how a person with allergies feels about their medicine or someone with HIV feels about talking to their physician, the stage is set for powerful insights that can inspire vibrant and resonant creative ideas.

“The more detailed the picture of the target is, the more the content we make for them will get their attention,” says Tonic’s Chief Creative Officer, Phil Silvestri. “Knowing the target is a Boomer or a Millennial helps us bring their broader lives into the creative, making it mean more to them.”

The creative teams have been reinvigorated and inspired, producing fresh creative ideas that are resonating with target audiences from all generations.

Katie Rogin

January 20, 2015

Technological innovation has changed how people react and connect to each other, how consumers engage and communicate both with and about companies, and how companies think about and use data to engage with consumers. These changes are impacting the Life Science and Health industries in much the same way and require a level of thoughtfulness around harnessing this more personalized approach to patients, physicians, and caregivers.

Personalized Experiences

More so today than ever before, the modern consumer is looking for personalized and tailored experiences when they are engaged online, regardless of channel or screen. This desire goes beyond a favorite site remembering a user ID for sign-in, a mailing list asking for frequency preferences, or seeing a personalized welcome message on a home page. Instead, the pharmaceutical marketer can create an experienced-based environment in which the consumer feels at the center, acknowledged and highly valued. It’s within these experiences that the consumer will engage and connect with the pharmaceutical marketer.

The convergence of “digital” is happening at a rapid pace and is pervasive in all forms across television, radio, video, search, and mobile, and a common thread running across that convergence is custom content. The consumer can find what they want, when they want it, wherever they want it, and engage or interact with it as they consider appropriate.

Consumers are actively searching for information and community, and today that means they are also present in social environments that are not controlled or curated. Wikipedia, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter are some of the obvious choices. All social media environments are not the same, and consumers don’t interact with them in the same ways either. The pharmaceutical marketer understands this and tailors engagement efforts to match the strengths of one (e.g., Twitter is an effective broadcast medium) and downplay weakness of another (e.g., YouTube is not particularly interactive).

Consumer Concerns

Often, the consumer is faced with requests for information that may enable the tailored experience they are seeking, but it is not necessarily clear to them how the two are connected.

The pharmaceutical marketer understands that it is not just the overt request for information like “tell us your email address,” but also the passive or unseen tracking that cookies can enable. The pharmaceutical marketer makes the effort to connect the request for information with the value received in the return – the personalized experience – and demonstrates the link between the ask and the result. They should communicate that digital tactics like cookies can capture anonymous but individualized information that enables the marketer to find, communicate, and engage the consumer on their own sites and/or when they are on other websites.

Working with the Chief Privacy Officer, the pharmaceutical marketer should map out a framework incorporating those applicable regulatory obligations to the jurisdiction(s) in which they operate and fold them into the overall engagement strategy.

If part of that strategy is to include content created and customized for consumers on the marketer’s own website(s), it will be essential for the marketer, in cooperation with the Chief Privacy Officer, to formulate a comprehensive point of view about the collection, use, and disclosure of both personal and anonymous data collected about and from the consumer. This point of view should be broadly shared and communicated with relevant internal stakeholders.

As we know, innovation and the rapid pace of change has also created a great number of non-traditional platforms on which we can find and communicate with the consumer in order to provide those personalized experiences. Unfortunately, the regulatory framework may be incomplete or silent on critical issues of compliance for the pharmaceutical marketer when engaging with these platforms. As a result, there is a need to develop internal, key principles that can form the basis of a self-regulatory approach based on accuracy, transparency, and accountability. There may be others given specific circumstances or objectives, but these three represent a good foundation.

At first glance, it may seem a daunting task to create meaningful engagement with consumers in this time of change and choice. No longer bound by the old model of one size fits all, the consumer is using the tools on their desktops and in their hands to find, curate, and connect with each other, content, and brands. Marketers recognize this and view opportunity where others see risk and challenges, and are ultimately rewarded with strong, trust-driven customer relationships.

83% of consumers expect marketers to know them as they interact across channels and devices, as reported by the Neustar-MMA Mobile Marketers Insight Study, Oct. 2013. This is a real challenge to marketers in general and to pharmaceutical marketers in particular. Today’s pharmaceutical marketer meets that challenge by spending increased time, thinking, testing, and launching initiatives to form the experiences sought after by the consumer by bringing the content to life.

Bennie Smith

November 18, 2014

For years, marketing has begun with the brand, the campaign, and the big idea.  It has been shaped by what we want to say, how we want to say it, and how many times we want our “targets” to hear it. We would spend months and months developing headlines, copy, TV spot, print campaign, email and banner ads. Then, at the end of the process, we’d call the media team to find a place to stick it. Of course, the best places where we could “hit” as many people in our target audience as possible. Often not realizing that we shared this audience with our competition.

Many brands in healthcare tend to focus on women aged 35-64, either they suffer from the illnesses we aim to treat or we believe they hold the keys to every healthcare decision in their household. This is why for years, and even now, shows like the Today Show look like they our sponsored by big pharma and healthcare; we have been stuck in a game of “whack-a-mole,” trying to hit our target with our message as many times as possible, with a goal to change her behavior.

We need to remind ourselves that health is a journey like no other. From the moment we are born, it begins; from boo-boos and scraped knees, to getting fit, giving life, battling illness, the health journey is something we all have in common. It is a journey that is continuous, challenging, and sometimes rewarding – but always requires fortitude – from within and from without.

Health is a journey that matters. It’s one of the reasons that health is one of the most searched categories on Google, and the most discussed topic in social media; the reason that there are 1.2 billion pages of web content dedicated to health and wellness, and that half a trillion dollars of investment have been spent there in just the past 10 years.

Health is a journey made up of moments; moments that are full of emotion, decision and action. Moments that require us to take a step back and make sense of a new situation, to assess, learn, ask advice and seek answers. It is time to stop thinking first about the big idea and the campaign, but to begin our thinking with understanding where these moments and conversations happen. Basically shift from a media last mentality to embracing a media first point of view.

Media’s Evolution

For years media was the afterthought. When we were in a “tonnage” game this was fine. We were able reach the majority of our audience through prime time television and print. And let’s be honest, shooting the TV spot and the print campaign were much more sexy than talking about TRPs and reach frequency curves.

However, today, media is changing faster than advertising. If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest country behind India and China. According to comScore (May 2, 2014), 166 million people in the US own smartphones (68.8% mobile market penetration). These stats were not the case only 12 months ago. I believe media is the new black and where the sexy is happening.

Media has moved beyond spots and dots and impressions, to delivering critical information about what our customers truly want, how they want to engage, and where they gather information across their health journey. It’s beyond buying space. Media agencies today are working with publishers and producers to broker content deals. This is happening because our customers don’t want to hear everything from the brand. Furthermore, in pharma there is only so much we can say. However, we need to realize our audiences need more support and information than what is prescribed on our label.

Publisher partners can lend credibility and a trusted voice to help meet the needs of our customers. Oftentimes they can deliver the content our audiences desire faster and more cost efficient than creative agencies. For example, if your audience requires information around food, why are you creating the content, and not Food Network? If your audience loves music, why aren’t you streaming content from Pandora? Media agencies can help identify and develop partnerships with these types of publishers and move you from simply selling your brand to providing a service.

So, next time you are kicking off a campaign, thinking about your next big idea, I encourage you to look around the room and make sure your media team is present. Health is different. It is the only journey we are on that never stops. As brand marketers, we need to know where and how we are going to show up, not just what we want to talk about.

Matt McNally