Not much fun with Pharma spend online

The other day Mark Bard (formerly of Manhattan Research) came by for a quick chat. Mark’s now running the Digital Health Coalition which is trying to get some voluntary agreement on guidelines as to what Big Pharma can and can’t do on sites that feature user-generated content. Pharma’s still tipping all its consumer advertising into TV when it would be much better off moving the 5% it spends online to 15-20%. But because Pharma’s scared of the FDA, and because–despite holding hearings in the 1990s and in 2010–the FDA is still not close to issuing guidelines, everyone is stuck. I saw Ben Lei who runs eMarketing at Genentech speak at a conference this week and he basically confirmed that they could do much more, but they won’t for now. And it may be that this is getting worse. This has real financial consequences. WebMD missed earnings badly last quarter and lost about 1/3 of its market cap because a bunch of pharma advertising was delayed/put on a longer regulatory review. If you want to dig into this, here’s a link to their earnings call Q&A in which Chairman Marty Wygod himself felt it important enough to come face the music–which is being provided by class action plaintiffs as we speak. In any event, I’m sure that the agencies, the online guys and the pharma marketing types are hoping that Mark can come up with something and soon!

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