The target market for pharmaceutical advertising has always been split between the medical healthcare professional & the consumer. Medicines, schedule 0 to 8 can be advertised to a healthcare professional but only schedule 0 to 2 to a consumer.
The pharmaceutical industry has used sales reps for face-to-face interactions with healthcare professionals. This has been their tool for building brand awareness for new launches and gaining and maintaining attention in competitive drug categories. The rep has been critical for launch successes. For the first 18 to 36 months they drive the majority of a new brand’s performance.
To date they have used printed material like detail aids and brochures to train the healthcare professionals on the products. Branding items have been popular as they are used in their work space as reminders to script, dispense or recommend that particular medicine over a competitive product. Brochures are left in the clinic waiting rooms, for patients to pick up and read, and the retail outlets expect help, in the form of point of sale, to assist with consumer sales.
With the onset of COVID19, the sales reps were suddenly denied access to all healthcare professionals and the industry was left in turmoil. The only route to go was the digital route, and the advertising agencies who had already incorporated the digital advertising space into their mix were the ones who would continue and survive.
Pharmaceutical companies have been forced to restrict face-to-face interactions and scale up the use of remote technology, to ensure continued engagement with healthcare professionals. They and their ad agencies have had to rethink marketing strategies. Content delivered virtually needs to be all the more engaging, detailed, and easy to consume. Such content could include live videos, webinars, online brochures, presentations and mobile apps.
The question now after the pandemic has abated is… will we go back to face-to-face interactions and will print training material, branding items and point of sale still be relevant?
The answer is yes. Whilst face-to-face interactions will become less frequent, they will still be necessary. The healthcare professionals will never be content with virtual interactions alone. Their relationship with the medical rep is an important one. They will need face-to-face training on products, demonstrations where applicable, free samples, printed material to give the patients and in-pharmacy point of sale to assist with sell-out of the products. Branded items that are useful in their workspaces will still be sought after and they are a powerful force to keep the brand top of mind.
It will be the responsibility of the sales reps and healthcare professionals to take precautions by wearing face masks and maintaining social distancing.