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The right partnership

Pharma must partner with networks that deliver creativity, innovation and global reach

missing image fileIn the old pharma business model, all a good advertising agency had to deliver was effective creative at a fair price.

Nowadays, communication networks need to develop creative business solutions that work across multiple target audiences, borders, local regulations and channels.

It is no longer about process-driven international networks, nor creative hot-shots; it is about having the best of both worlds.

Win-win partnership

Both pharma and agencies require long-term business relationships to succeed. There are a number of business models for cooperation, such as: the single global agency model (eg, sanofi-aventis), where a single partner works across all communication channels and all countries; the global advertising model (eg, Novartis), where a single advertising network is in charge of the development and local execution of advertising campaigns, but is not responsible of medical education or PR/public affairs and the global lead agency model, where one agency develops global campaigns without taking responsibility for having to roll them out.

Each model has its pros and cons. In my experience, when launching a brand that needs to be globalised, the best value is obtained through a single global agency model. It is however, a difficult model to implement for mature brands at different stages in the life cycle. The single global agency model benefits both sides through cost-savings and a significant reduction in tactical programmes. When a global network is developing tactical programmes and is used to benchmark what has been well executed, the marketing teams benefit greatly from these previous successes.

Building a relationship

Involvement from upper-management is key. When a boss makes the statement that partnership with a global agency is mandatory, there is more chance for affiliates to adopt the global concept and execute it. However, some countries are still reluctant to do this - for example, some Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) countries due to concern about price constraints.

Tools like bi-yearly agency evaluations need to be implemented at both global and local levels in order to understand the issues regarding global concept roll-out.

Evaluations below expectations force the network to propose an improvement plan. More importantly, purchasing needs to adopt a partnership attitude in order to understand the agency work flow, simplify the process and eradicate undesired costs. A solid definition of the scope of work from the client's side and clear allocation of resources from the agency's side will improve the financial relationship.

Selection process

Creative pitches should not become routine when selecting an agency as they are time consuming for both parties. Market research has demonstrated that only when there is fatigue in the creative concept and the agency has run out of ideas for evolving the brand, is it worth investigating a creative pitch.

The launch of a new brand traditionally offers good opportunity to implement a creative concept, however alternative processes are worth investigating, such as demonstrating a proven creative business solution, presenting data that shows European/global reach, local presence in the top-5 EU states and local presence in growing European markets.

It should also include coordinating the reporting processes within the agency process, and discussing physician and patient insights and how these can be used in an integrated communications campaign.

European perspective

Europe is more than just a land mass, it is something that exists in the hearts and minds of consumers and clients. There is, however, no such thing as a European citizen, only the concept of Europe imposed by the EMEA. Advertising should speak to Germans, British, Italians, French etc.

Advertising culture is different in Europe and the US, and creative concepts developed in Europe have more impact on Europeans than those created in the US.

Advertising in the US is generally more straightforward, without double entendre, and the headline usually emphasises the key visual. Style and humour or provocative lines are more commonly developed in London and Paris.

Global brands

A pharma company has to face a lot of internal and external issues regarding global branding. However, the benefits of a global brand are extremely high.

There is not so much a world of medical communication as a village - albeit one that moves between international symposia. A brand speaking with the voice of one opinion leader in Atlanta, Vienna and Singapore is perceived as trustworthy.

Globalisation can also generate significant cost-savings on tactical programmes. Developing a global concept for a campaign that not only crosses borders, but also transcends communication channels, reinforces the brand equity. To increase understanding, press communications and promotions should convey the same message in different ways.

The Author:
Regis Gandelon is international strategic planning head at Euro RSCG Life

5th September 2007

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