Tracking First interviewed Dominic Tassone of the Indegene Encima Group for this two-part series focused on the unique campaign tracking challenges faced by marketers in the pharmaceutical industry. Part one covered the challenge, and part two explores how pharma marketers are tackling it.
Tracking First: Thanks for your helpful explanation of the unique tracking challenges facing pharma marketers. Can we talk a bit about the regulatory environment that impacts drug advertising, and how they work with it?
DT: Pharma and medical device companies need to be very careful, particularly about how they market to consumers and to a lesser extent to physicians. All drug marketing has to pass medical, legal and FDA reviews. The regulatory hurdle creates another trickle-down of complexity, like requiring different collateral for consumers and practitioners. The drug companies have to be transparent and consistent with messaging to practitioners, while simultaneously working to create demand or stimulate interest on the consumer side.
One of the tracking codes you see a lot of pharma clients using — and one we recommend — is essentially an audit code, that allows the pharma company’s lawyers or the FDA to go back and say, “This patient downloaded information about Drug X, watched a video and printed out a doctor discussion guide that they took to their physician.” It offers a means to track the media the patient was exposed to, all along the way, in case the company ever has to provide that information. The one flaw in this is that it requires a click from the channel, as it does not work so easily with passive response (viewthrough), which is mainly an issue for display/video.
It’s important because physicians working in a given practice area may be bombarded by marketing for a half dozen medications for a single condition or disease state. Multiply that out by the number for which they are treating people, and you can see why the burden is on the drug companies to document the marketing trail.
Additionally, as you know from drug ads on TV, marketers in pharma have to include disclaimer language (interaction warnings, adverse effects, etc.) in their branded marketing, describing potential risks and side effects. The challenge of doing this digitally has evolved recently with Google ending the use of their “black box warning” indications — that’s the stuff they really wanted to draw your attention to, so they would put it in a big black box. It offered pharma companies a way to do paid search.
These days you’re more likely to see a display ad or a banner. If you roll over one of these while surfing WebMD for example, the disclaimers will pop up. It’s what they call the “fair balance,” language — the medical and legal language they are required by law to disclose whenever they mention their brand and its potential benefits.
Tracking First: That adds context to the unique legal and regulatory concerns around marketing. What are other best practices you recommend to help pharma clients overcome these obstacles?
DT: Pharma marketers have devised smart ways of doing a lot of their marketing without mentioning their brand name, to contend with the regulations. Suppose a patient is researching Restless Leg syndrome. They might be directed to a promoted site called, RestlessLegs4me.com. This is called an unbranded site and it’s designed to pique a patient’s interest, and ideally to offer them a lot of valuable information that never mentions a brand name anywhere. On the typical unbranded site, 99.9% of the content is purely to educate the prospective patient. But at the end, there may be a follow-up email for hand raisers or a link on the site saying, “click here to learn about a drug treatment that you can ask your doctor about.” There will be a popup with a clear warning, “you are leaving Site X and entering a drug manufacturer’s website; click if you’re okay with that.” Only then does the patient land on a branded site, with all the requisite warnings and regulatory language.
A significant amount of marketing dollars now are directed to these unbranded sites, trying to educate the consumer and direct them toward a registration event — usually a sign up. This marketing is an attempt to provide a service — education of the target consumers. At the same time, if you’re a pharma company with a treatment for Restless Leg syndrome, there’s nothing quite like having someone opt in and say, “Yes, I’m interested in that,” for populating your CRM.
If you consider the complexity of practitioner advertising, and branded advertising, and now throw all the unbranded advertising into the mix…you see again why tracking is so important. If you get the tracking right, and your analytics is configured properly, you can track someone through a multi-touch and even multi-site patient journey across media channels (display, paid search, organic search, social, email) and site paths that they experienced. This can include unbranded media or an unbranded site, the branded website, physician contact, or a registration event (usually the key objective). If you can track them properly, then you can finally think about cohesively optimizing media and site experience for the patient.
Tracking First: Walk me through the steps you take with a pharma client who wants your help with analytics tracking.
There are three core ingredients to success for the companies we work with: technology, people and process. We look for where the fail points are, because they’re all solvable problems.
First, we try to assess the lay of the land. We aren’t going to change things for the sake of change. We will do an audit or analysis of what kinds of analytics methods and technologies are in place and try to size them up for their level of digital analytics sophistication. They could have the wrong tools, or they could have the right tools that they’re just not using properly.
If the problem isn’t with their technology, it could be that they don’t have the right people in place. But most often, it’s a process problem. Someone has to go through the requirements process, and someone has to implement. Marketing teams are notoriously difficult to keep on task for looking at the basics: what is it that you want to track? What’s the most important data point? What do you want to measure and optimize? The client may be focused on click tracking, but how are they measuring passive response or end-to-end attribution? Is it a last-click world? Or are they looking at non-click data? Clicks, passive response, attribution and also non-click touch points, like view-through; we try to help them evaluate all of that.
We’ll also look at their channels. Are they focused on search, display, etc., and where are they seeing movement? There’s value in all the different media vehicles. Having the right tracking in place should help you see that value. Looking at particular media partners and trying to scrutinize more thoroughly the value they provide relative to each other is an obvious place to look because that’s where the client spends their incremental money.
After we look at the media side, we may look at the targeting logic: do we want look-alike modeling, or retargeting, or prospect-based marketing aimed at search behavior? Not to mention the creative elements. There are multiple dimensions to look at and you could spend a lot of time doing a lot of analysis, but our measurement plans and recommendations come down to, what do you really want to optimize?
My team is focused on analytics capabilities and digital technology enablement. We try to align ourselves with the client’s current strategic direction. If they are not spending money on media, it’s not something they should make a priority for building optimization. If they’re doing a lot of display advertising or click-based channels, we might look there. If it’s more about the user journey, we may map the onsite funnel, and getting people from landing page to registration form as quickly as possible. It varies, and it’s consultative. We want to understand the client’s marketing goals first, then layer in the measurement planning side, and then finally get into the technical requirements.
Given all these complexities and maintaining manageable ongoing processes, I’m a big fan of the kind of solution Tracking First offers, to help address these problems with clean, consistent data right out of the gate. It’s not a silver bullet: you have to have the right people and the right process, but having the right technology in place can definitely make a big difference.