Although government regulations have traditionally prevented pharmaceutical companies from advertising their prescription drug products directly to consumers, the explosive impact of the internet and rapidly escalating consumer demand for media and health information is powerfully influencing the pharmaceutical marketing landscape across...

Although government regulations have traditionally prevented pharmaceutical companies from advertising their prescription drug products directly to consumers, the explosive impact of the internet and rapidly escalating consumer demand for media and health information is powerfully influencing the pharmaceutical marketing landscape across Canada.

With exponential growth in the use of Direct To Consumer (DTC) campaigns over the past few years particularly in the USA, where, for example, Claritin spent more on paid advertising than Coca-Cola in 1999 many marketers now believe or hope that the Canadian regulations will soon be amended. Meanwhile, there is enough leeway within the regulations to allow marketers to launch influential non-product-specific information campaigns for the right product under the right conditions. And when it works, the effects can be dramatic.

Of the pharmaceutical advertising agencies participating in this

supplement MC Heathcare, Torre Lazur Canada, and Infinet Communications all three understand this emerging new reality

and are strongly positioned to educate their clients about its exciting potential.

MC Healthcare, a fast-growing Toronto-based agency founded in 1997, specializes in integrated pharmaceutical marketing programs, using everything from traditional journal ads, Direct-To-Physician Programs, multi-media Direct-To-Consumer programs, as well as Physician Advisory programs.

"Ask major pharmaceutical companies who their customers are, and some will say the doctor, some the pharmacist, some the government, some the consumer" says Mark Nolan, Account Director, Health Care Services. "The definition is shifting every day and that’s where the dissemination of DTC information can help consumers to self-identify their medical problems and visit their doctors earlier."

Nolan says his agency’s single greatest strength is its mix of traditional pharmaceutical marketing skills and a more mainstream consumer package goods skill set: "We recommend and use whatever media vehicles are most appropriate to build sales volume, always aiming to have a balanced, consistent marketing strategy for all parts of the channel."

A recent media campaign launched by the agency broke new ground for Hoffmann-La Roche with a two-pronged push/pull, consumer/physician strategy for its acne drug, Accutane. Following a highly successful, award-winning multi-media Direct-To-Consumer campaign in 1998-99 which reached a large number of moderate-to-severe acne sufferers, MC Healthcare initiated an extensive medical journal print campaign in February that will run to the end of the year.

The first time Hoffmann-La Roche has ever used medical journals to push Accutane, the ads adapted the consumer creative to maintain a consistent look and feel to link the two portions of the campaign. "Very few medical ads take a consumer approach while talking to physicians, so the ads will certainly stand out and register an impact" says Nolan.

To assist their clients in making tough decisions about whether or not to use DTC marketing, Torre Lazur Canada has created "DTC Launch Track", a proprietary model that brings together the agency’s fully integrated range of healthcare and consumer expertise. "We use a simple yet powerful combination of experience, expertise, media clout and integration to realize maximum return on investment for our clients" says president Anthony Phelips. "But DTC advertising is by no means a forgone conclusion when considering how best to grow your brand. There are many inter-locking issues at play, so you must look

before leap."

For example, Phelips says marketers must assess whether the patient’s or consumer’s health issue is important enough for him or her to talk to their doctor. Are their certain aspects of the product that would allow you to cue the patient to the product? What response are you hoping for from the physician? What will be the impact of your DTC campaign on the medical community’s opinion of your drug and your company?

Included in the agency’s arsenal of marketing tools is PromoPulse.com, an effective way of determining whether DTC is making financial sense, measures ROI, and re-allocates advertising and marketing spending

as needed.

At Infinet Communications, a Toronto agency started in 1995 by physician-turned marketer Dr. John Reeves, a smart blend of medical and

e-Health internet expertise is pushing eHealth marketing to new levels of sophistication. The agency first made headlines in 1996 with the launch of Sympatico’s HealthWay, Canada’s first healthcare information portal. More recently, Infinet has forged the on-line launch of Viagra and will soon break the internet portion of the Canadian Celebrex campaign two of the most successful pharmaceutical brands in recent history.

"The age-old relationship between physician and patient is being fundamentally re-shaped by the internet" says Dr. Reeves. "As physicians cease to be the sole gatekeepers of medical information, the web presents pharmaceutical companies with a golden opportunity to become key players in the healthcare industry as providers of value-added content and applications to consumers."

Because recent studies show the general Canadian population to be among world leaders in internet use and because Canadians are increasingly turning to the net for health care information Infinet has positioned itself as one of the first agencies anywhere to capitalize on this paradigm-shifting media phenomenon, leveraging local and global branding techniques through its customized websites.

"E-Health marketing has proven it can create enduring, permission-based relationships between patients and healthcare brands by evolving an ongoing dialogue with individual customers" says Reeves. "Whether it’s through interactive patient compliance tools, on-line CME programs or electronic newsletters, we can establish the client’s site as the credible destination for healthcare information within any given therapeutic area."

Also in this sponsored supplement:

- Building e-health brands: Infinet has helped more than 40 healthcare clients migrate their strategies online

Kraft Heinz beats the street, but reports slight sales slide

The company's Q2 net sales, while down slightly, reveal continued demand for snacks and pre-packaged meals.
Kraft Heinz

Kraft Heinz is reporting earnings of 78 cents a share, beating Wall Street’s estimate of 72 cents a share, thanks to continued demand for snacks and pre-packaged meals. However, the company also reported a net sales decline of 0.5% compared with the same period last year, to $6.6 billion, according to its latest Q2 earnings report, released Tuesday.

The company experienced a favourable 2.3 percentage point impact from currency and a negative 0.7 percentage point impact from its February divestiture of Hormel Foods – including the Planters peanut brand – which closed in the second quarter of 2021.

Its cheese divestiture – which included the sale of its natural cheese division to Lactalis – is expected to close in the second half of 2021, says Kraft Heinz Global CEO Miguel Patricio in this morning’s conference call.

Adjusted EBITDA slumped 5.2% versus the year-ago period to $1.7 billion and increased 6.6% versus the comparable 2019 period. Higher transportation and inflation-related goods costs continue to affect the company’s bottom line.

Kraft Heinz’ organic net sales declined 3.6% in Canada over the last three months compared with a comparable period last year, this as total net sales rose 8.8% year over year. 

However, its overall organic net sales slipped 2.1% compared with 2020 figures. This includes the negative impact stemming from exiting its McCafé licensing agreement. However, this decline was partly offset, Kraft Heinz reports, by “partial recovery in foodservice channels and retail consumption trends.”

“Food service is recovering, and recovering fast,” Patricio stressed in today’s earnings call. He said “the bet to support QSR” early in the pandemic, with individual packets of ketchups and sauces, is paying off.

Channel trends are still normalizing, he warns, and it’s too early to see how at home or away from home, will net out. “We have big ambitions for away from home business,” he said. Consumers continue to evolve how they eat, with Patricio saying that Kraft Heinz is collaborating with a popular DTC brand for its Philadelphia cream cheese.

Accrued marketing costs, the company reports, rose to $968 million from $946 million in December 2020.

“We are investing more in our brands, and better as well, building a much more creative company,” Patricio reported.

Kraft Heinz is also strengthening and diversifying its media presence, he said, driving repeat rates for those discovering and rediscovering the brand. Patricio added that the company is continuing to drive its transformation program forward, modernizing its brands and better connecting with its consumers.