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How pharma marketers are tapping into mobile

By Darin Honey

Doctors and healthcare professionals historically have been slow to adapt to new technology. Even in 2005, only one in four physicians was using email to communicate with patients – and only 8 percent of patients reported ever receiving one.

Health IT tools like billing software and e-prescription services were also slow to permeate the industry.

Now, however, for the first time in 21st-century history, doctors are ahead of the game.

While just 50 percent of the United States population is projected by Nielsen to own a smartphone by the end of 2012, 81 percent of physicians either own or plan on owning a smartphone in the next 12 months and 40 percent will own an iPad or tablet. Apple is the dominant brand, with 77 percent of physicians carrying iPhones.

Healthcare providers are using mobile devices in their practice on a daily basis, seeking medical information for diagnosis and treatment plans, as they move from room to room. They are checking mobile Web sites for news, using reference applications and even doing patient billing and other accounting tasks on the device.

Yet the majority of digital marketing opportunities are not in mobile. There are plenty of health vertical networks, but their inventory is based on desktop viewing, not mobile.

Big Pharma advertisers are often left scratching their heads, wondering why they cannot reach their target demographic on this emerging medium.

Given the constraints on how their sales reps interact with doctors that are put upon them by FDA regulations and the hectic nature of HCP schedules, mobile advertising is a godsend for pharma marketers. It is an effective, scalable and an engaging way to reach physicians in the workplace.

Here are some of the ways we have seen Big Pharma tackle mobile – and win.

? Finding a mobile ad network with the right content. Mobile medical content is complicated – there are literally millions of destinations for health-related information.

The mobile partner you choose needs to have aggregated all of the relevant content for your HCP audience and offer unique, unduplicated access to the very best of those mobile sites and apps.

? Targeting by specialty. Any buy you make on a high quality, mobile-only HCP channel is already going to be more effective than your run-of-the-mill ad network. But the pharma brands that are killing it in mobile are the ones who are working with mobile partners that can target by specialty.

For example, AstraZeneca has had great success with its Crestor campaign because it has been able to reach cardiologists as they use research apps such as the Atlas of Echocardiography, as well as reading the mobile version of Pharmacy Times.

? Repurposing creative assets. Many pharma advertisers think that running a mobile campaign is like starting from scratch. Not so.

The right mobile partner will be able to take creative assets from your Web campaign and repurpose them for mobile. Whether it is fixed and standard banners or rich media including expandables, video and full-page interstitials, it is all do-able – and will save you time and money.

? Meeting Fair Balance requirements. This is by far the most important part of pharma advertising.

We have seen brands stress over how they are going to fit the necessary safety information on such a small screen, and panic at the thought of having to take new creative back through legal review.

First, if you work with a partner that knows how to repurpose your already-approved creative in a way that it will not have to go back through legal, that saves you a step.

Second, there is a way to get all of the necessary safety information and prescribing instructions in your ad without compromising your marketing message.

It is a mix of panels and storyboards with mobile landing pages, and having a partner that understands how to do this means you will not waste time figuring it out, and will be able to get to market quickly.

PHARMA MARKETERS should remember to take advantage of the qualities endemic to the mobile medium, such as the sheer variety of response mechanisms.

After viewing an ad, the physician can tap to call (HCP call center), schedule an appointment with a sales rep, request samples, watch a video, download research, view ISI and prescribing guidelines, post or engage in viral activity, or enroll in an SMS, MMS or email program.

There is really no limit to the types of calls to action – and pharma brands that use the right ones will see thrilling results.

Darin Honey is cofounder/president of Mobile Theory, San Francisco. Reach him at [email protected].