Tough medicine: McCann and FCB discuss the biggest challenges for health marketers

Chief execs at global health marketing networks McCann Health and FCB Health Network offer up their thoughts on the challenges of operating in this space.

John Cahill, global chief executive officer, McCann Health

1. The drive for global marketing efficiency

Clients continue to seek greater global marketing efficiencies, often involving centralized decision making. McCann Health offers a ‘smart network’ solution, which is being praised and increasingly used by our clients worldwide. It focuses on a tailored approach based on deep local insights.

2. Elevating the role of science in health communications

The world of healthcare is getting more complex due to accelerating advances in science, technology and medicine. To help clients and other stakeholders navigate this landscape, we launched the McCann Health Global Scientific Council – a brain trust of over 450 managing directors, PhDs and scientific and medical experts who can distill, unpack and more effectively communicate the benefits of these advances to consumers.

3. The pursuit of value-centered healthcare marketing

Essential to effective healthcare marketing is deep insight into what value means to each and every stakeholder, on their terms. This can range from the exchange of evidence-based data, to cost-utilities, to patient values. Essentially, it’s about the user experience and engaging the consumer. However, the healthcare industry rarely enters into a dialogue with its consumers. If we are truly committed to generating effective health outcomes, we believe pharma needs more tools of conversation and fewer presentations.

Dana Maiman, president and chief executive officer, FCB Health Network

The biggest challenges are all derived from the same demon – complexity. From awareness to access, creating a global brand to maintaining one, the healthcare landscape has grown exponentially more complex. And looking ahead, simplification is still a far from realized state.

1. The complexity of access

A major challenge in healthcare is ensuring patients can afford it. Within this broad concern is the specific challenge of making sure people are actually able to get their prescriptions paid for, through insurance or other means, as these treatments can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. Many drugs require specialty pharmacies, or are complicated agents rather than simple pills requiring expensive specialized production and distribution. That is a very complex value proposition and each market around the world deals with access issues differently.

2. The complexity of global brands

Creating a global brand has gotten more difficult. You need a brand name that resonates across markets. You need one unified, recognizable logo. Pharma companies have gotten much better with branding, but evolving media reaching ever-expanding audiences keep it a constant and critical challenge. Competition is a challenge as well, and not just because the categories and markets are getting more competitive. Pharma companies are also vying for patients for clinical trials, so they can secure approval and/or expand their indications.

3. The complexity behind awareness

Another huge challenge is awareness on the part of the physician and the patient. Expensive marketing campaigns, sensational new data and even the official product information and instructions for use must all compete for attention with unsolicited real-time social media opinions, misinformation and, of course, competition. Ensuring the right information cuts through the noise is complicated for patients and professionals alike.

Physicians and healthcare professionals are so time-crunched they don’t always have time to learn about the newest drugs. Many of the best medications aren’t even on the radar of some physicians. Often they end up prescribing the generic, or defaulting to an established, familiar treatment based on reflexive habit or what they were schooled on. There are so many new agents available and a lot of these require multiple steps to fully understand. We can change that through education and awareness.

To learn more about the healthcare marketing sector, pick up a copy of The Drum’s October issue, where we check in with Babylon founder Ali Parsa; discover how changing attitudes to food and health are fueling the vegan dollar; and look at the medical and health subscription startups that could change the way we manage our health.

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