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Digital reach is 'gold dust' for pharma

How companies perform online will be a key differentiating factor, says Merck & Co's Gerhard Arnhofer

Pharmaceutical companies' approach to digital channels will be a key factor in whether or not they succeed in reaching their customers, according to Merck & Co's Gerhard Arnhofer.

Arnhofer serves as the director of strategy, content partnerships and US market for Univadis, the online medical education service Merck launched in 2001.

“In the future digital reach is going to be the gold dust in the way we interact with our customers,” he told the Digital Pharma Conference in London last week.

“To reach each of our customers digitally there are two options: either you build up the reach yourself, which means you invest in a database, and those who have done that will know the pain involved, or you're going to want to use third-parties.”

“In 2001, although the internet bubble had burst, Merck decided we had to do something in this space - and it was really that simple. Senior management said 'Merck wants to own the internet', this was approximately the tagline.”

To this end one of Merck's key aims with Univadis was to raise the levels of trust between doctors and the company. Consequently the service carries no product branding and a limited amount of corporate branding.

It is also underpinned by content partnership deals Merck has struck over the years with a number of the leading medical journals, including The Lancet, BMJ and the JAMA network of titles.

This allows Merck's sales reps to have something new talk to doctors about, though sales calls for the company products and those where reps talk about Univadis and its content are kept separate, Arnhofer said.

The service now has about 1.7 million healthcare professionals who have registered as members and around 320,000 who Arnhofer classes as “monthly active users”.

Concluding his presentation, Arnhofer said pharma should be thinking about globalisation from the very start of a project, but in doing so it has to allow for a continuous balance between global and local needs.

8th February 2013

From: Marketing

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