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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Media planning on a global scale

Think international when combining the most appropriate media vehicles and formats for marketing efforts
Global scale atom

Fast Track

  • Cross-national advice for differing core markets under one roof is increasingly prominent
  • Medical journals are still the most influential method of communicating with HCPs
  • To bundle media activities a network of specialists is required
  • There is no substitute for local knowledge.

Whether a small or medium-sized enterprise or a large corporation, internationally positioned pharmaceutical companies increasingly appreciate cross-national advice for differing core markets under one roof from partners who bundle forces and create synergies, ensuring best possible channel and cost efficiency.

Media business is becoming increasingly international. According to local news reports, the German media enterprise Axel Springer wants to expand its business overseas, and company director Mathias Döpfner is reported to have said that Axel Springer's market is the world. The publishing landscape is changing and within the healthcare sector, individual pharmaceutical companies do their own thing. Take the German healthcare market, which does not aim for globalisation to a large extent. In the country marketing campaigns are predominantly nationally orientated. Compared to the fast-moving-consumer-goods (FMCG) industry, the pharmaceutical sector uses transnational co-operation opportunities and system solutions comparatively infrequently. This is despite medical technology and pharmaceutical corporations increasing their export share.  

Think globally – act locally

The idea of 'Think globally, act locally' is well-worn but it rings true; the world is growing closer together. Digital technology transcends country borders and logistic barriers: we network via point-and-click; information flows faster. However, established national market forces tend to stay the same, and this is true for the area of marketing. Thus, within the healthcare B2B segment printed medical journals are still the most influential method of communicating with healthcare professionals – on an international as well as on a local level.

Therefore, highly visible media campaigns, as well as supplementary media activity, should be prepared in line with the international overall marketing strategy. Equally for the digital sector, from banners and e-mail alerts to entire websites, all digital media requirements within local markets and across national boundaries have to be coordinated. Online media activity should be planned and consolidated to ensure it is integrated, interactive and effectively targets the audience.

Effective international media planning – demand and reality

The expectations of clients towards international media planning differ. While some may want to focus on only a few partners to merge international briefings and operate processes from a central source, others have their sight on quality improvement. This means concentrating knowledge within one owner-managed healthcare specialist agency, explicitly distancing themselves from large agency networks, which may be represented internationally, but often lack the necessary specialist local knowledge of the healthcare sector. Looking at the European agency landscape, owner-managed media agencies are normally the ones that have specialist knowledge of the healthcare sector.

In comparison to large agency networks, owner-managed agencies dominate the areas of market positioning and knowledge. Thus, clients expect discipline-comprehensive concepts and perfectly coordinated trans-boundary media campaigns, healthcare B2B expertise – and this, preferably, from one source. Furthermore, a client is able to control planning activities and spending as well as stringent brand management through centralised media coordination. Though, in my opinion, the reality is rather different; international pharmaceutical companies still tamper with different media agencies in their various markets.

Developed healthcare competence

In order to bundle media activities and to achieve better conditions and negotiating positions as an international operating pharmaceutical company, a network of specialists is required. Ideally, one central contact coordinates all international media activities within this network – print or digital as well as production of reprints. The implementation is then carried out by the appropriate local agency within each individual country. In detail, this means individual briefings are reviewed at the headquarters based on quantitative and qualitative options, summarised and forwarded to the individual countries. This has to happen in close coordination with the client or the internationally responsible media planner. In addition the client or media planner should be able to rely on the fact that the quantitative and qualitative maximum will be achieved for the media budget in all associated countries. And here the  healthcare expertise of owner-managed specialty agencies comes into play.

The task of such a specialty network is to centrally provide and manage coordinated and consistent international plans and campaigns. All local agencies should have vast experience in creating the most effective and appropriate media plans for individual and cross-market activity. And all agencies should be firmly established within key and expanding markets. They should have relationships with publishers that have been built up over many years. But as there is no substitute for local knowledge, plans must be produced locally and then consolidated at an international level to provide unrivalled market insight and economies of scale.

Effective international media planning is about combining the most appropriate media vehicles and formats to achieve brand or corporate objectives as well as expertly negotiated preferential rates and key journal positions. Therefore, all activities effectively and efficiently have to target the full breadth of European or international audiences at every touch point.

Article by
Matthias Haack

is the CEO of the owner-manager WEFRA Werbeagentur Frankfurt, a Germany-based advertising agency.

WEFRA is part of HEAL [International], an international network of significant owner-managed media agencies specialised in the healthcare market.

The headquarters are located in London. Members across Europe and the US include WEFRA, Conseil Media Santé, Medical Media Services, Ruiz Nicoli, Era Hora and CMI.

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24th December 2014

From: Sales, Marketing



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