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Euro'vision blog

A look at the key issues for pharma across Europe

The digital dilemma for pharma in Turkey

Why Turkey’s pharma marketers currently feel they are taking a bit of a gamble going over to digital

The Digital Dilemma

It's taking time here in Turkey for pharma to have confidence in the crop of new, digitally-savvy agencies. We still have a pretty strong divide between those with digital skills and the healthcare communications specialists. For marketers who have built up a long-standing relationship with their incumbent agencies – stepping out of the comfort zone and deploying the services of a digital-only agency takes some courage. The transition from paper to tablets, from printed outputs to digital content is not inconsiderable – and for part pretty much still untested.

Code of Practice aside, pharma is driven by the desire to present appropriate, approvable content in the most attractive way possible. Although sometimes perceived as a goal, rather than a tool, the use of digital media offers us opportunities to reuse existing content in a far more effective way. 

But finding the right party to work with is not the only challenge pharma is facing. Financials come into it too, with three notable cost areas in particular: 

  • The high level of investment needed to buy hundreds of iPads 
  • The purchasing of software to make good use of these devices as stand-alone platforms 
  • The ongoing service/support costs involved.

Healthcare communication agencies are very competent at producing many types of pharma projects. These agencies know all about the healthcare market, the target audience, the strategies, the do's and don'ts (Code or otherwise) and everything else. However, when it comes to digital, a different creative thinking process is needed. 

Certainly, when creating digital work there are additional – and really important – considerations, in particular the digital system and the user experience. The best-looking artwork may not be the best thing appearing on smartphones or tablets.

Besides taking a different line in creative thinking, the structure of traditional healthcare communication agencies may not have caught up with the needs of a digital programme. The more traditional agencies may lack the expertise in house and have to hire in digital skills or outsource the work, which in both cases may prove expensive to the client. Agencies with digital experience (who have probably been serving FMCG clients for years) have an immediate advantage – they usually already have the structure well in place having made that investment years ago.

So here in Turkey we still see quite a divide – those agencies with digital expertise, and those largely without – the healthcare communications agencies. But one of the dilemmas for the pharma marketer is that these digital specialists may well lack the market insight and understand the sector dynamics. Their new digital partners will need much more detailed briefings than healthcare agencies, as this may be their first venture into the pharma business. Having settled into a long-serving relationship with their healthcare communications agency, it's quite likely that the pharma company may not always know what information to give to a digital agency. It takes time for both sides to gel and ask the right questions. Bringing the agency up to speed on the nuances and regulations within pharma and having to develop new briefing material etc, means extra work for pharma's marketing team, which should also be regarded as an extra cost. 

And back to the issue I raised earlier: the risk(s) of partnering with a new agency with a different skills set to what you are used to. If you fail to mention any part of the pharma code to your digital party, it may cost you a fortune, too – as you may be punished for miscommunication to your target audience, however unintentional.

So the pros and cons of working with these two different parties is proving challenging for pharma here. Where do you place the weight of your business? Whose know-how do you think more valid? Can one agency do it all?

Today, agencies in Turkey are moving towards an integrated digital/traditional channels business model. The new trends in marketing and communication push the agencies to consider the integrated business model more than ever before.

Since the clients are always seeking efficient, cost-effective and innovative ways of advertising, the digital environment seems promising for the mutual benefits of agencies and payers.

Now, it is time for agencies to make a decision about how to add digital to their credentials. Building digital teams in-house, outsourcing, acquisitions or mergers are all options. This all depends on the volume of work to be done and the risk:benefit ratio for that agency.

Article by
Şeniz Kartal

president, gHealthcare (part of the Indigenus Network), Turkey

25th January 2013

From: Marketing



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