Gems Amidst The Networking Socially

By February 15, 2009Uncategorized

If I had to reduce my description of the E-Pharma Summit to one word, it would be: strange. Like all conferences it had its moments of "wow" as well as those where the blinding glimpse of the obvious makes one wonder why you pay to go at all. I won't mention the food.

But as someone who focuses on patient strategies and communications, there were some very encouraging signs – really hopeful insights and discussions. Before I went, I made the point that whatever innovation was in the process of occurring still needed feeding from the mass market world to gain the best understanding of how a patient (who is also first and foremost a consumer) behaves, and how to leverage that learning on behalf of pharma/biotech digital marketing. i posted examples from the mass market side of the Ryan agency (


A few moments worth recounting…Bob Harrell of Shire made a point long overdue: offer more holistic communications to patients. “As marketers, we need to think about the whole patient…rather than just a solution [to an illness],” said Bob Harrell, director of eMarketing at Shire Pharmaceuticals. “Why can't we promote a more holistic solution?” he asked, offering by way of example the promotion of Omega-3s alongside Vyvanse, Shire's ADHD treatment.

This can be interpreted many ways — which is what makes for a great strategic/creative experience — but he is so right. Take thrombosis for example: besides offering tips for exercising while on a plane, add content or links about travel in general. In other words, deepen and broaden your  engagement with the patient by seeing them as humans. The flight is only one part of the package –  how about being the brand that takes their health and their happiness in equal portions? Bob's comments are written up by MM&M (  This falls right under one of our most hallowed precepts: do not just see the patient as a sick person, but as a whole person. Kudos to Bob.

The woman from Health Ed Interactive gave a great presentation — did I say yet that their were too many panels and not enough case studies? — on adding greater meaning to communications through use of analogies, video, sound, all the basics that Learning Styles have made clear, but few marketers seem to hear. Ms Collins showed a short video about sustainability and told us to ignore the content and focus on the way it was delivered and how we retain the information much better when these different techniques are involved. At one point I imagined a MOA done in the style of scratch art…the different organs making different sounds — try this one: what about branding the sound of your MOA? What about creating a unqiue identifier for when your treatment shows the cascade of events it causes? Now that would stick with patients.

John Mack ( made some good points in his "10 Things" about the conference. Perhaps unwittingly, he focused on the socializing and seeing pals and buddies and meeting people…made me think that the real social networking was happening in the halls. I actually got pitched in the Men's Room…maybe I should re-phrase that…I actually met an excellent HCP list vendor while washing my hands.

Overall, there was a "clubby" kind of feeling to the event — same people, same complaints, everyone that much smarter than last year, most still frustrated by the slow adoption of digital innovation. Thus back to one of my opening comments: not enough case studies. Not to diss all the very smart people on panels, and I quoted one with Bob Harrell, but this had the feeling of some Masonic Temple where everyone knew the secret handshake, but that the outside world, the brand folks with the budgets, the Regulatrry groups with the power, were nowhere to be found.

Maybe next year.

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