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January 14, 2019

The pharmaceutical industry today is in the nascent stages of transformation aimed at optimizing speed-to-market and costs, and industrializing digital marketing processes. Pharmaceutical marketing is the last leg of information transfer regarding therapeutic areas and drugs to their audiences namely patients, healthcare professionals, and consumers. While a pharmaceutical company engages with various third party partners and vendors all along a drug’s value chain and lifecycle, when it comes to sales and marketing, largely the industry would engage partners like digital marketing agency, IT partners, channel vendors, and so on in order to enable marketing operations. In the sales and marketing function of the pharmaceutical company, a significant portion of the digital marketing spend goes to digital marketing agencies for their services such as ideating and conceptualizing marketing strategies as well as  IT partners for supporting technology solutions. This calls for a delivery model that integrates digital marketing agencies and IT partners, enabling a seamless and collaborative digital marketing process.

 Here’s how it works. The mutually beneficial model aids the digital marketing agency to deliver ideas and the IT partner to standardize and optimize the IT solutions, transforming ideas into successful projects. In the ideation phase, digital marketing agencies and brand marketers ideate and conceptualize the strategies to build visual and design aspects of a digital asset. Based on this, they create a build kit that includes wireframes, PSD, videos, and PDFs.

The Medical Legal & Regulatory Review (MLR) team is a key stakeholder in the process as it helps approve the build kit before it is sent to the IT partner for implementation. Finally, the implementation phase involves feasibility analysis and implementation estimation to build and deploy the digital assets followed by continuous support.

Factors critical to the success of this model

 The key success factors of the model include:

Educating stakeholders: It is essential that the governance body educates the stakeholders in various geographies about the design and benefits of the model to ensure scalability of the delivery model.

Defining roles and responsibilities: It is also critical to define roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the delivery model through a well-defined Responsible, Accountable, Consulted, and Informed (RACI) matrix (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: RACI - Digital Marketing Agency Collaboration Model

Publishing standard creative guidelines for digital marketing agencies: Defining guidelines for digital marketing agencies helps maintain consistency and create digital assets in a technically acceptable format for the IT Partner.

Three ways to optimize digital marketing assets

Once the model is well established, it is critical to optimize the digital assets. This can be done by:

Adopting agile methodologies to enhance communication: As the delivery model is based on collaboration between marketing agencies and IT partners, it is essential to have continuous and transparent communication during the handoffs.  For example, the handoff of the build assets like the manuscripts, wireframes, and Photoshop files from the agency to the IT partner, and eventually, from the IT partner to the agency for user acceptance and MLR reviews. Communication and collaboration tools such as Slack, Trello, JIRA, and Appear can help improve stakeholder collaboration during such times. Companies can pick a tool that is most suitable to their business environment and needs. The advantages for this can be realized at the time of the date of brand campaign launch or Date of First Use (DOFU) via FDA.

Enabling early MLR: When digital content is presented to MLR, changes are sought and this triggers a change cycle for both the digital marketing agency and IT Partner. After the completion of the ideation phase, the material goes to MLR -  as a pre-review phase - for making crucial changes before project implementation. Key aspects like Safety Information and Copay details can be finalized beforehand to avoid late changes.

Involving IT early on: The IT partner brings in vast experience of delivering digital marketing assets and technical knowhow on latest trends and feasibility aspects. As a result, involving the IT team during ideation enables effective project planning and helps reduce technical risks associated with the solution at a later stage. For example, highlighting the risks of Pharmacovigilance (PV or PhV) if free text web forms are ideated or helping to find feasibility for tools like Symptom Trackers and Doctor Discussion Guides to assist patients and care givers.

Good governance and strong change management key to successful model deployment

Digitization is driving an increasingly fluid pharma landscape. Successful implementation of the collaborative model will require pharma companies to implement processes that provide regular feedback to the stakeholders to take corrective action, if the model does not work well in certain situations or needs further fine-tuning. Transformation underpinned by sound governance and a strong change management system will ultimately enhance speed to market, reduce cost, and help scale the model across affiliates to cater to the growing digital demands of the business.  Once established, construct of the model will allow the pharma company to reduce dependency on digital marketing agencies and create and manage reusable pharma marketing material, thereby reducing the spend and further leveraging the model to deliver key services like Social Media services.



Balamurali Krishna is a manager with the digital marketing portfolio in TCS’ Life Sciences unit. He has 15 years of IT experience with over 13 years in the life sciences domain. He has been part of the digital transformation program for a global pharma major and currently owns the responsibility of leading all digital services for the customer. He holds a bachelor's degree in Electronics Engineering from Mumbai University, and has managed several large and critical projects during his career.


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