Not Just Brochures Anymore


(photo by the Onion)

By Dan Licht

Pharmaceutical sites aren’t just brochure-ware any more. As the world goes online so are it’s patients. They are flocking to sites for information and access when they cannot get to a doctor or when they are curious about their condition. So how should Pharma sites speak to their audience? Should they follow the traditional path, or embrace the new methods of design and interaction?

Since medicinal practices began patients have always referred to the knowledge of their medical providers for recommendations on the method of healing. And why not? That’s why doctors have gone through all that schooling and training and that’s why they have dedicated their lives to helping others. But what if that patient is informed? What if they knew what’s out there, what’s worked for others that suffer from the same ailments? That is the direction online pharma campaigns are going. Just like many other categories, agencies are pushing Pharma campaigns into the realm of social media, social marketing. It makes sense… this is where the patients are. They are trying to gain access to resources and with the time that they get to have face time with their MD down to an average of 12 minutes they really feel a lack of control over their health. WebMD has roughly 20 million unique visitors a month . This tells us that patients are stepping out on their own to find the information they seek. Now, this is not meant to be an endorsement of self-diagnosis. On the contrary patients should be seeking these sites out once they know their course of treatment.

Once a patient finds a site that they are either referred to by their MD or via searches or even by visiting sites like WebMD for more information they need to be treated as information seekers. The designs of these sites if they are sponsored by a drug should be inviting and they should offer the visitor relevant information. A good example of this is the site for DUAC Topical Gel. Starting with a print campaign designed by Palio, Zemoga then began our conceptualization of the site. How would it look? What features would a user want or need? How would it fit in to the offline campaign? How would we work with the offline agency(Palio)? All these questions are at the start of a process that ultimately led us to a more user centric site and design than had really been attempted before. The drug is a topical acne treatment and thinking about the patients that would be seeking this type of treatment led us to giving them the ability to have a dialogue with each other. It was also a challenge to come up with a way for the patients to be educated about their condition. We decided to create animations (think back to those 16mm films from elementary school) that educated patients on the causes of their condition. Using something as accessible as animations to describe something so clinical was very successful for the site and it’s patients (there are even some doctors that use it as reference).

But making things easy to understand with animations isn’t the only way to interact with patients online. Other methods of interaction come not just in users sharing their story but in the overall experience. One way we have found to drive traffic and also increase brand awareness is with the simple time tested coupon. By giving your visitors a coupon (they still need a scrip of course) you will further endear them to your brand – because in the even a powerful prescription medicine is still a brand. The site won some awards for its animations and ease of use, but the real reward is leading the way into the digital fray for pharma online.

Animations and patient dialog are just the beginning. AR (augmented reality), social media and mobile are all there for the taking. The question is are companies (including yours) brave enough to take advantage of these opportunities?

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