Please login to the form below

Not currently logged in

Smart Thinking blog

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

Creating a digital campaign

Are your stakeholders still stuck on rhetoric – playing the waiting game before committing fully to an online presence? Skilfully interacting with a target audience simply means a change of mindset...

Conversations about creating digital campaigns often raise questions about ABPI guidelines, operating department practice (ODP), secure sockets layer (SSL), structured query language (SQL) and no conversation ever, and I mean EVER is complete without the use of my favourite of all, digital kybosh phrases: “What's the RoI?” Would all of this negativity and 'prove the concept first' attitude abound if it were a £60k spend on branded pens and USB sticks?

Enough carping on. We've all read countless articles about how slow pharma is to adopt digital and I'm not going to discuss this topic again here (personally, I think that it's partly due to poorly thought-through, planned and executed projects that have dented a lot of confidence in the digital channel). Instead, let's focus on the positive and look at how you can create a digital campaign that:   
a) makes it off of your desk, and
b) makes it happen for your brand?

Getting the project to fly
The first thing is to make sure whatever you're thinking of ticks these three boxes:
• is it truly in line with my brand strategy?
• does it supplement existing projects?  
• is there a good rationale for doing this digitally?

The second thing to do is a little more of a stretch – it's paradigm shift time. Shake off your concepts of agency silos, a comprehensive digital strategy will, undoubtedly, cross all the traditional boundaries of creative, med ed and PR agencies.

The diagram below shows some of the range of digital options available for any digital campaign and it clearly illustrates the 'crossovers' and silo-busting activities that creating a digital campaign necessitates.

To break the silos you'll need to employ a so called '4th agency': a digital healthcare agency that can work across all boundaries and, importantly, with all your other external agencies, to ensure that you get the maximum return for your projects.

A good specialist digital agency will help you refine your strategy/campaign, scope out individual projects within the campaign, advise on, or prevent ABPI disasters before they happen, and provide case studies to help reassure medical/regulatory teams that digital projects like these have all been done before somewhere else.

So far so good…
The next step is to refine all your proposals and then get buy-in from all relevant departments and stakeholders, before anyone so much as touches a keyboard.

Set up a group meeting with IT/e-commerce/e-business departments to review any technical/corporate guidelines and/or requirements and to get their input at this early stage.

Most large companies now have policies and procedures in place that any agency developing a digital campaign will need to know about very early on in a project. This meeting will help determine some fundamentals, such as the technological platform chosen to build the project, any hosting or security requirements, testing procedures, audits, etc.

Meeting with regulatory/medical teams will tackle other issues and may unearth further corporate standards, or absolute no-no's that you may be unaware of. For example, some medics physically go pale at the thought of open text box responses on a website 'contact us' page (easily dealt with, by the way).

Then there's always the fun of access to websites – we had a three-month, ongoing debate with a client about the need (or not) for verification of healthcare professionals visiting websites (that is the use of things like a GMC number to prove a doctor really is a doctor).

This requirement came in and out of the project three times before the ABPI Code was scrutinised, common sense prevailed, and we kicked into touch once and for all the need for physician verification, and embraced the adoption of 'industry standard' practice for all subsequent projects.

By adopting a consultative approach, a full project spec with final costs can now be completed and agreed, and all with the minimum chance of any last-minute technical or medical disasters later on in the project. A project spec is an absolute must-have; to keep the project to a manageable size and help contain costs.

One caveat – keep everyone informed at key milestones of the project to make sure there are no sudden changes of heart anywhere, or misunderstandings like, “Oh you mean it's like a chat room? That's strictly against company policy.”

So, your boss is bought in to your plans, the techies have told you all about the exotic software that has to be used to run your project, you've agreed a project spec, your funky new digital agency is champing at the bit and marvelling at your professionalism, and the medics have, albeit tentatively, given you the green light… We're ready to build! Erm… not quite yet.

Plan well then keep the momentum
First and foremost, have a good project implementation plan, and a phased one at that; a plan that everyone is aware of, and has agreed to. All stakeholders involved need to understand clearly their responsibilities. The project should have key milestones and regular update meetings to help identify any blocks in the progress of the project and to keep momentum going.

The reason for all this planning and communication is that it is vital to have momentum and focus, and a great deal of it, to avoid getting bogged down in all of the navel-gazing and requests to expand the project scope that digital campaigns seem to attract like magnets.

To maintain momentum for the project you need resource (and energy) – that means the time you and other personnel responsible for managing the 'sign off' processes dedicate to it, and sufficient budget to secure the high standards you want not just for the project build and its promotion, but for its long-term development and success.

It's all too easy with a large digital project to run into deep sand and, before you know it, your kids have grown up and left home, and your ever-expanding and complex project still has yet to see the light of day. Make careful note of the advice of Dave Chaffey (digital guru to the stars) when he says, “Build it, build it quick and be prepared to make mistakes... just fix 'em quick too.”

Phase the project into simple, bite-sized chunks and roll out in a planned modular fashion as quickly as you can; gain feedback from users, and quickly fix and adapt anything that doesn't seem to work for them.

Now it's almost time to think about touching computers… almost…

Make it end-user friendly
It is at this point where we take a deep breath and dip our toe into tech speak. The old adage 'content is king' still applies, and that means don't just spend the time and effort getting the content sourced and sorted but factor in a plan to keep it changing and evolving so that the information is current. Make sure your content has quality! Don't just re-hash existing leaflets/brochures.

Consider how your audience might go about finding and accessing the information. Now is the time to think about architecture – no not Norman Foster-style, but 'information architecture', and 'user journeys', or, “Is all the stuff I want to say laid out and clustered together in a logical fashion that makes sense to the end- user?” and “How can I guide them through all the information to my key messages by helping to facilitate the way that they navigate through the various pages?”

Good design will obviously help with both of these activities, but they are very important in their own right as they will dictate design and navigation, and can make a huge difference to the end-user and the ultimate success of a digital project or campaign.

If time and budget allow, wireframes (a basic visual guide to the layout of the vital elements) can be built that demonstrate how a 'user interface' actually works and you can get a feel of how easy it is to navigate around, access information and get your key messages across quickly very early in a project.

Once the wireframe has been tested and reviewed, it's all hands to the keyboards and full speed ahead to implement design, architecture and add all the content to the project. Your agency should be able to guide you through this process and help to build a 'beta version' for testing and/or client approval.

This has been a whistle-stop tour of the nuts and bolts of how to go about creating a digital campaign. But remember, digital is fun – enjoy your projects, don't fear them!

Article by
Wayne Page

managing director at Big Pink. He can be contacted at or on 01753 860046

14th September 2011


Subscribe to our email news alerts


Add my company
Genesis Research Group

Genesis Research Group provides life science companies with a better way to develop impactful evidence and optimize market access by...

Latest intelligence

Clinical Trials Investigator and Patient Engagement Planning: A Customer Story
New Playbook Alert: Virtual Patient Engagement
Millennials: the wellness generation
Looking at the results from a global healthcare research study focusing on the patients of the future...