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  • Writer's pictureMarvin Bowe

Idea 3: Is advertising dead in the life sciences industry?

When we breakdown the proverbial facets of marketing – product, price, placement and promotion – what we are really talking about with respects to marketing is almost exclusively promotion. Now, I am not reducing the value of marketing by isolating promotion. In fact, quite the opposite. Promotion is a complex matrix and most essential to the success or failure of a product. For promotion to be effective, marketing needs to define the audiences that will best be receptive to the product, determine the environment best suited for the product to flourish, and even decide the messages that are most essential to the success of the product. But, the development of the other P’s, especially product, in many cases, happens before a marketing team is even established. Not to mention, price and placement are seldom the exclusive responsibility of marketing. Therefore, as it pertains to promotion, marketing is very much alive. But what about advertising?

Well, if you’re are a purist and fully appreciate the guidance provided by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) then you would argue that advertising really never existed for drugs, medical devices or other products regulated by the FDA. According to the FDA, “labeling” encompasses any written, printed or graphical material containing drug information that is disseminated by or on behalf of a manufacturer and is intended for use by healthcare professionals. By this definition, most of the advertising materials produced for the life sciences industry (e.g., sales aids, slim jims) are considered – by the FDA – labeling. Of course, if you are still producing pens, post-its and napkins displaying brand logos then, yes, advertising is alive. However, dating back to the early 2000’s, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), an industry self-governing body, drafted guidelines discouraging the use of such advertising materials, hence killing the few initiatives considered advertising by the FDA.

If you are not as technical on the term advertising, as previously stated, then we can go with a more general definition that advertising is the process of making a product or service known to an audience. Note, I used the word “known” and not simply “aware.” In today’s highly-connected and technology-driven world, advertising that is focused exclusively on awareness isn’t as important as it once was. But, helping healthcare professionals understand novel products or services is increasingly important. To put this into perspective, novel drugs approved annually by the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER) has more than doubled over the past decade. Additionally, in 2018, 32% of approved drugs were considered first-in-class. These drugs often have mechanisms of action that differ from those that are already on the market. Compounded with the fact that 58% of these same drugs were approved to treat rare or orphan diseases, it’s very clear that the need to help healthcare professionals “know” about these drugs is ever more important; simply making them “aware” is a disservice.

Here at Biophilia, we don’t split hairs when it comes to the terms pertaining to marketing and advertising. We do, however, know that healthcare professionals need and appreciate timely and relevant information about products or services that can improve the health and wellness of their patients. We also know that content reigns king. How that content is communicated and where it gets placed will continually evolve.

If you’re a marketer that is tired of weeding through agency scopes of work that are overgrown with brand awareness initiatives focusing more on clever creativity but lack valuable substance, let’s talk. Our brandscapers focus on cultivating ideas that help brands grow. We transform awareness to knowledge that is key to successfully promoting your product or service.


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