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

Corner Officer Shifts: Martin Fecko leaves Tangerine

Plus, PointsBet Canada and Thinkific name new marketing leaders as Lole gets a new ecommerce VP.
Corner Office

Martin Fecko departs Tangerine 

After roughly two years of serving as Tangerine’s chief marketing officer, Martin Fecko has a new gig. And this time, the financial services vet will apply his marketing leadership to a new sector, having been named CMO of Dentalcorp.

Fecko will lead the dental network’s end-to-end patient journey, support its overall growth, and work to maximize patient experiences across every touchpoint, the company said in a release.

“Martin’s in-depth expertise in engaging and retaining customers through a digitally enabled experience will be valuable in realizing our vision to be Canada’s most trusted healthcare network,” said Dentalcorp president Guy Amini.

Prior to joining Scotiabank’s digital-only banking brand in late-2019, Fecko was country manager for Intuit Canada and spent 10 years at American Express in consumer and digital marketing.

PointsBet Canada nabs former Bell marketer as it pursues expansion

Dave Rivers has joined PointsBet, an online gaming and sports betting operator, as Canadian VP of marketing.

Rivers joins from Bell, where he was most recently director of brand marketing and sponsorship, responsible for driving the company’s national sponsorship strategy and portfolio. He will report to PointsBet Canada chief commercial officer Nic Sulsky.

According to Sulsky, Rivers will “play a key role as we prepare to launch a business that is unique to our roots here in Canada.”

PointsBet has a significant presence in Australia, where it was founded, and in the U.S. In July, it named Scott Vanderwel, a former SVP at Rogers, as CEO of its Canadian subsidiary, one of several hires aimed at establishing the company’s presence locally.

Thinkific names first CMO among other executive appointments

Vancouver’s Thinkific, a platform for creating, marketing and selling online courses, has appointed Henk Campher as its first chief marketing officer as it invests in marketing to support its growth plans. It has also upped Chris McGuire to the role of chief technology officer and moved former CTO and co-founder Matt Payne into the new role of SVP of innovation.

Co-founder and CEO Greg Smith said Campher and McGuire “will play key roles building high-functioning teams around them and optimizing investment as we continue to carve out an increasingly prominent and differentiated position in the global market.”

Campher joins from Hootsuite, where he was VP of corporate marketing. Before that, he was VP of brand and communications at CRM giant Salesforce.

Lolë names new VP of digital omni-commerce as parent company exits bankruptcy protection

The Montreal-based athletic apparel and accessories retailer has appointed Rob French as VP of digital omni-commerce.

French will lead Lolë’s efforts in consumer insights, supply chain-to-consumer models and online customer journeys. In what is a new role for the company, he will also work to grow the company’s retail brand. He arrives with sixteen years experience in ecommerce, having spent the last few years as chief digital commerce officer at sporting goods retailer Decathlon.

In May 2020, Lolë parent Coalision Inc. filed for bankruptcy protection, citing several years of losses as a result of a downturn in the retail clothing market, increased competition and excess inventory – problems exacerbated by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time of the filing, Coalision was seeking an investor or purchaser of its assets.

It successfully exited bankruptcy protection last year and is currently rebuilding its executive team, according to a spokesperson.