S&R Blog

It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile!

In its heyday, GM developed an advertising campaign for their Oldsmobile brand in an attempt to sway younger buyers.  Oldsmobile had been a long standing success for GM among middle-aged and older buyers, but they wanted younger customers. So they came up with a new campaign, “It’s not your father’s Oldsmobile”, which spoke to the innovation, sleek styling and sex-appeal that an Oldsmobile could provide.

At the risk of sounding like my own father, I have concluded that doing business today is a lot like that now-famous Oldsmobile campaign.  Doing business today is not based on the practices I was taught to honor, respect and hold sacred.  In fact, today’s business world is quite like the Wild West—plenty of outlaws, snake-oil peddlers and people looking to be the “biggest gun in town”.

The first difference I find is the ability to take people at their word.  With all the muttered promises, downright lies and “handshake” deals that frankly are not worth a damn, you simply can’t do that anymore.  Could it be a generational gap? New generational values? Or am I becoming an old fart?  It almost doesn’t matter, because when you are unable to trust people to do what they say, something is wrong.  Taking people at their word should mean that there is an understanding between two people that certain expectations will be met.

The second difference is a growing inability to conduct business on a face-to-face basis.  As I compose this blog on my computer, check my smart phone for text, e-mail messages, check my voice-mail and find comfort and safety behind my computer screen, I understand where some of the problem resides.  The ability to engage people in a “live conversation”, either face-to-face, via the phone or via virtual meeting technology is increasingly more difficult.  But I simply can’t think of many successful personal or business relationships I have had where I wasn’t able to interact with people “live”.  Really, how can you build trust and understanding when you have to submit proposals and information via a “blinded web portal”?

The final difference is the “it ain’t grown here” mentality.  My business, in great part, depends on selling ideas, creativity and high-quality implementation of those ideas.  Yet it often feels like that is not what our clients really want.  The typical interaction with our clients is often very one-sided: the client says, “We want an electronic sales program that looks like this and says this, and we need a price for that by tomorrow afternoon.”  Now, some of you reading this might ask, “What’s wrong with that?”

What’s wrong is that it may not be true that an electronic sales program is the correct solution to the problem they are trying to solve.  What has been lost is the long-term strategy (translation: today’s stock share-price) that’s critical to the process and driven by the following key questions: What do your client’s customers really want?  How should you create messages and images that ensure your customers understand and accept your brand?  What media will best reach the demographics of your target audience?

If the above are, in fact, the hallmarks of business practices in the future, so be it.  I personally don’t agree with doing business in these ways—but then everyone has their own opinion (and orifice).  It’s just that when you can’t trust people, interact with them on a face-to-face basis and expect them to have an open mind on how they manage their business, it, doesn’t bode well for the future.

So, with that in mind and that said, I think I will change my Depends, wipe the drool from my chin, sit on the front porch of the assisted-living center and try to find some Oldsmobile ads in the magazine I am reading.

David H. Recht

CEO North State Resources
Holding company for S+R Medical Communications


Augmented reality + mobile + pharma = bright future

Coming to a mobile phone (Android and iPhone) near you, in the not so distant future, is the world’s first Augmented Reality Browser – Layar. Layar is a free application for your mobile phone, which shows what is around you by displaying real time digital information on top of reality through the camera of your mobile phone.

Layar is derived from location based services and works on mobile phones that include a camera, GPS and a compass. By looking through the phone’s camera lens, a user can see houses for sale, popular bars and shops, jobs, etc. I can see a world of opportunity for the healthcare industry, especially for providers and physicians. What do you see?

Is this the future of patient education?

It seems like new boundaries are being broken everyday in the ever evolving world of engaging users through different mediums. Whether it be a technological advance (crohn’s app) or a new way to use a traditional medium (visual dictionary), marketers are finding new ways to deliver relevant content to consumers. So what’s next?

YouTube has provided fertile ground for Pharma and patient education (JNJ, Sanofi, GSK, Astra Zeneca) but they have only tapped the surface with this platform (videos). Enter BooneOakley (Charlotte agency). Their new website using YouTube as a platform brilliantly shows how you can apply the annotations and hyperlink features of YouTube for narrative purposes. Additionally, it brings life to video and introduces an unlimited amount of possibilities for patient education. What do you think? (you have to visit YouTube to get full experience)

The not to interactive guide

by Mark Kocourek, Executive Vice President, S&R Communications Group

The March 2009 issue of Medical Marketing & Media came with a great supplement entitled The Interactive Guide. It was full of discussion about the adoption of digital space by the pharma industry and what the future will bring. This supplement, coupled with the fact that my good friend and close colleague, Dave Recht, recently made a post about the importance of re-establishing the pharma sales representative as a resource for physicians, leads me to this posting. I’d like to extend the “useful resource” discussion to the use of web and electronic media in the promotion of pharmaceutical products.

Like it or not, the Web 2.0 and other interactive electronic media are the future of communication between pharma, healthcare professionals, and patients. Yet most pharma companies’ efforts in this area are hopelessly stuck in the 20th century, Web 1.0 era, and their offerings are nearly, if not totally, useless in the eyes of healthcare professionals and patients alike. Why? Because they are not even remotely interactive nor are they very helpful, resourceful, or innovative.

Take pharma product web sites for example. The vast majority of pharma product web sites look like they were built using a $29.95-do-it-yourself-web-site package purchased from CompuServe just before they went bust. The most interactive thing about the site is the Contact us button. Oh, and do you think you could add just a little more text to that home page? I mean is 25,000 words per page really enough?

Anyway I digress. But I do know this as a pharma product manager: in order to be successful with your online and electronic media initiatives, you have to be able to answer yes to 2 important questions.

1. Is the initiative truly interactive and innovative? Does it open the door to meaningful 2- way communication with your customers?
2. Will the initiative be viewed as a real resource and not just a big ol’ fat product advertisement?

Webinars are another example of a huge missed opportunity for continuing an interactive conversation with someone who is truly interested in your product. After all, the attendees took the time to participate in your webinar so they must have some interest in your product, right? Our experience shows that follow-up with this interested party leads to a big boost in ROI for the promotional spend. Yet very few pharma companies have any kind of plan for interaction and communication with attendees AFTER the webinar is over.

I could provide examples of missed opportunities all day long. Don’t even get me started on the “e-detailing initiatives” (read that as e-detailing MISTAKES) that most pharma companies are making. But that is a subject for another day.

A successful web and interactive media strategy is a process of careful planning, integration between initiatives, and, above all, imagination. It goes way beyond the “Web site? Yeah I got one. Checked that box” mentality that is so prevalent with pharma product managers today.

When we at S&R Communications Group discuss web and interactive media initiatives with our clients, we make sure that for each initiative the answer to the above questions is an unequivocal YES.

Can you?