Panels cover enriched ways to reach, engage patients
By Mia Burns (email@example.com)
Healthcare marketers face many challenges which panels addressed via Advertising Week in late September by examining new strategies for brands and how marketers can engage with patients more effectively. Healthy Brands: Marketing on the Front Lines of Health & Wellness in America was Advertising Week’s first ever panel discussion with a healthcare marketing concentration. Company executives say that the panel discussion was centered on how brands are building business by helping people achieve and maintain improved health. I have a Name; it’s Not Patient: Better Connecting with Your Audience included discussions on how marketers tend to spend a great deal of their time marketing at their audience compared with engaging them as individuals. The group’s adjective was to determine how marketers and publishers can develop content to better meet patient needs, and also how data mining enables better communications.
Alexandra von Plato, president and global chief creative officer, Publicis Healthcare Communications Group moderated the Healthy Brands panel, and she told Med Ad News Daily that plans exist to hold additional panels in the future. “We take great pride in sparking new conversations about the role of healthcare marketing,” she says. “We see this intersection of the global healthcare crisis and the role brands play in helping people make healthy choices to be an area of growing interest and opportunity.”
According to von Plato, the underlying message of the Healthy Brands panel is that marketers can and should take both responsibility and credit for helping people make healthy choices. “For the brands that are among the healthcare or health conscious set of solutions, I also want to help the wider audience – both consumers, professionals, and even politically – see the positive and powerful role that brands can play as part of the solution, rather than always seeing brands as part of the problem,” she told Med Ad News Daily.
Regarding the role that healthcare advertising agencies play in coming up with new and effective ideas for brands, von Plato says, “Good agencies should be and have always been the source of new ideas -- whether they are ideas for new technology, ways to create new partnerships, how to make an emotional connection with consumers. Today, agency creativity needs to go beyond the advertising idea to embrace the customer across channels and over time, I think that advertising agencies are and should be on the front lines of helping clients understand the customer’s emerging desire for and adoption of new technologies and tools. Agencies also need to play the role of matchmaker, identifying partners -- whether they be media partners or consumer products or new technologies – that our clients can leverage to offer services and solutions that go beyond the pill.”
Jedd Davis, senior VP, media, Publicis Health Media moderated I have a Name. He told Med Ad News Daily that he found some of the key takeaways from the panel were that the marketing landscape for digital and health and wellness is extremely complex. “The good news is that technology has made it easier to listen to what consumers want, as well as provide them the information they need in a timely and appropriate manner,” he says. “The consumer is at the center, and publishers, agencies, and marketers are all working together to get them what they need to make good decisions about their health.”
During Davis’ opening remarks, he mentioned how marketers and agencies often perform extensive research early on to uncover all of the underlying motivations and behaviors of their audiences, but once the marketing, messaging, and communicating begins, some of this falls by the wayside.
“Healthcare consumers seem willing to participate in surveys, closed communities, and other brand facilitated research, if you engage them on their terms and make the value proposition apparent,” Davis told Med Ad News Daily. “Marketers are also able to measure the performance of their digital initiatives through attribution modeling to better understand how well they are addressing needs that are beyond the condition, as well as condition-specific. It’s really a mindset that marketers need to adopt to think about a whole person and what they can do to provide value beyond a pill to help that person get on with their life.”
Lisa Emrich, who is not only a musician and teacher, but also a patient advocate at HealthCentral.com, was part of I have a Name’s panel. As a multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis patient, Emrich shared the story of her journey in receiving her diagnoses and the impact that her conditions had on her life in her opening panel remarks. Emrich took a proactive role in researching and managing her conditions and has helped others to do the same, but as she explained during the panel, it is important for companies to understand that each patient is an individual with needs that change over time. Erich’s needs have changed as she has transitioned from a new patient who needed to learn as much as possible about her conditions compared to what she needs now. Today, Emrich needs less hand holding and is now more interested in moving on in her life.
During the panel discussion, Emrich mentioned that she has found some product advertisements impersonal. She told Med Ad News Daily, “Advertisements which feature the story of a real patient using their own words make a larger impact and connect with the viewer on a more emotional level. Ads which do not give the patient an individual voice seem more impersonal. I prefer to listen to the voice of experience rather than listening to what marketers ‘think’ I might want to hear or see.” In addition, Emrich said during the panel that she has spoken to patients who have found some advertisements to be condescending. “The lack of understanding by advertisers of the severity and intricacies of the disease being portrayed in ads is a source of frustration for patients,” she told Med Ad News Daily. “The actors in these ads do not appear to have the functional disability which accompanies RA, and the ads go too far in simplifying the issues and treatment. RA is a serious disease which affects not only the joints, but also many organs including the heart, lungs, eyes, skin, intestines, kidney, and vascular system. Commercials limit the description to pain, swelling, and joint stiffness, which creates a false image of the disease.”
Despite finding some ads to be impersonal, Emrich did credit some companies in doing a better job with advertising. She told Med Ad News Daily, “The ads which stand out are more realistic and feature patients, not actors, who have faced disease challenges. The ads don’t imply that treatment equates to a cure, nor do they downplay the seriousness of illness itself through the use of idyllic imagery. Companies who support a variety of non-branded campaigns distinguish themselves from the crowd. These projects provide a level of engagement with the patient community which traditional advertising does not. The campaigns are often genuinely inspiring and serve to demonstrate the company’s interest in satisfying a community need, apart from marketing a product.”
Patients are expected to take a more active role in healthcare and accurate information must be accessible, according to Emrich. “Patients want to know the specifics regarding a treatment: type of therapy, mechanism of action, time to effectiveness,” she told Med Ad News Daily. “Too often, ads do not address these common questions, whereas online brand marketing does. The availability of financial assistance is included in most pharmaceutical ads; however patients are not hearing the message. Many are unaware of these programs and turn to websites such as HealthCentral.com to ask for advice on affording medication. When I suggest the patient contact the company-sponsored program, I am met with sincere gratitude for sharing this information.”
Emrich has worked closely with healthcare marketers as a patient advocate. “It has been through healthcare marketers or independent consultants that I’ve been invited to participate on patient advisory boards and meetings around the world,” she told Med Ad News Daily. “The marketing agency serves as the intermediary between the pharmaceutical company and the advisory board. It’s the healthcare marketers who organize the meetings in conjunction with the pharma company. I believe that, through advisory boards, a company can develop beneficial relationships with representatives of the patient community who are willing to help them develop or improve educational material, both digital and in print, as well as support programs which resonate with the community.”
According to Emrich, it is a positive that some companies now facilitate Twitter chats. In response to the feedback that Emrich provided on the chats during the panel discussion, Davis told Med Ad News Daily, “It’s evidence that specific channels (e.g., social, mobile, web, traditional) serve a particular function at certain points along the patient journey. We need to understand the audience need in those moments, as well as the role of the brand if there is one. Twitter is one social platform, and we need to remember that social media is not all the same. Message boards, blogs, Facebook, Vimeo, and Instagram - they all serve a purpose.”
As the panel closed, Emrich provided an improving grade for healthcare marketers and Davis agrees. “I thought she was spot on,” he told Med Ad News Daily. “It’s taken a relatively long time for healthcare marketers to adopt some of the channels that are so commonly used by their audiences, and they are still learning how to best use them. When it comes to the audience and media channels, there is no complexity, there’s just life in a digital world. To some extent, we’ll always be trying to catch up to them.”
Posted: October 2013