There's a lot of change going on in pharma comms right now, but curiously not a lot being said about it. Some say that the era of the 'big creative idea' is over – certainly the rise of standardised global imagery and of digital presentations means that many fewer campaign images are being created by agencies.
But this said, we shouldn't be too simplistic about the rate and extent of change digital brings. While it is certainly revolutionising what every client and his agency produces, I believe we are only just beginning to come to terms with the effect this has on our most important asset – our ideas.
A new era of creative thinking
Old-fashioned creativity was all about the image but that isn't an important part of a digital selling tool or a med ed campaign. Now we need to have a different kind of idea – something that gives us scope far beyond the single image. This idea has to work across many different digital media, from iPads to websites to social – as well as the traditional paper elements that are still often needed.
So what are these ideas and what do they look like? Fortunately there are lots of effective consumer examples that we can look to, learn from and adapt for our different and specific needs.
In consumer marketing they have had to learn to move from the dominance of TV commercials to a world of multiple media and sponsorships, and in doing so adapt their creativity and communications ideas so that they continue to uphold and communicate the brand's values.
Take Red Bull. Its TV ads use the line 'Gives You Wings', but it gets as much if not more coverage and brand positioning from its sponsorship of adventure sports, which feature neither the ad line nor a single image yet they embody the brand positioning wholeheartedly.
What we can learn from 'experience marketing'
The consumer marketer often calls this 'experience marketing' – the bringing to life of the brand experience for customers in a real, tangible way.
It is time we began to understand that the potential of digital communications means we can begin to think like this too. These days a campaign can include some print but also digital presentations, mode of action videos, patient films, iPhone apps and many other elements that bring the brand to life and help audiences appreciate what makes it different and interesting. To make all these communication vehicles cohesive, the agency must create an idea that is not merely a single visual but a creative idea that can live across everything – from an iPad presentation to patient education.
The 'big idea' of these new exciting times also has the advantage that it changes over time as it grows with input from its customers – they interact with the theme, giving feedback and adding to the story, making it richer and creating a sense of loyalty.
Yes, the 'big idea' has died in its ad form. No campaign these days is big enough to make it stick. But it is now reborn as a brand positioning that works across any medium you need. Long live the 'new big idea'.
Dominic Owens is managing director of Seven Stones
He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org