Jan23

LIVING THE BRAND—Awakening the Senses at Congress

conventionIt seems that the time has passed when having more sales reps and a bigger booth at a major congress was enough to attract physicians to learn more about your brand. Beyond the financial and compliance challenges that the industry has encountered in the past decade, leading in part to decreasing attendance from physicians, clients as much as agencies are continuously looking for new ways to catch physicians’ attention.

What if physicians were just like us: curious and playful

At times, new data just doesn’t make the cut in the clutter of a congress…and let’s not mention when there is no new data to present. Of course, physicians are interested in learning more about a new product, indication or technique. However, in today’s reality, it just doesn’t seem to be enough. Having physicians engage with the brand in a fun and truly unique way can actually set the ground for a deeper relationship and more memorable experience.  What if detailing on touch screens, offering games or iPad quizzes, to name a few, were already not enough in this rush for new things? What if physicians were just simply looking to (re)connect with brands whilst having fun?

Success lies in the story you tell and how you tell it

Going beyond the usual techniques to drive interest at congress requires us to take a step back and look to the core of what the company, brand or product stands for. What it means for your client and physicians. After all, congresses are a great opportunity to reach a maximum of physicians while bringing your vision to life. The booth and activities around it, including symposia, then are used to articulate this story.

But how to define the story you want to tell? One way to do so is to look at the company or brand ambition. What they want to change or bring in this world, where they make a difference. Another way is to leverage the unique features of the product (eg, physical properties, MOA, mode of administration, unique manufacturing process, etc).

What do you do once you have a clear story? You offer physicians a sensory experience. This is when curiosity and playfulness come into place. Perceiving, feeling and doing will create a true brand experience. Knowledge is only one part of a person’s understanding.

Two client cases can help illustrate how senses can create emotional connections. An ophthalmic pharmaceutical company, living by the vision of “leading a brighter future,” and whose main products are hydrating eye drops, articulated their booth activity around a water light graffiti. As physicians were writing on the wall with water, the surface of the wall made of thousands of LEDs was illuminating. The client got their main message across: water is essential for the eyes to properly function, and light is an important medium for sight.  Another client, a leading dermatology company, developed a full sensory experience to differentiate its new dermal-filler range at launch and demonstrate that each product was customized to fit physicians’ needs. During a major industry event, physicians were welcomed into an experiential room. They were able to walk around and visit various custom-made “tools” to feel and see the products (eg, an injection bar,  a gel texture tool to touch the products, and a visual tool  to play with product elasticity). Both cases were based on the core of the brand vision and did create a memorable journey for physicians.

What will experiential activities do for physicians and your clients?

Physicians are keen to interact with their peers and such activities will make them want to share and tell. Word of mouth will not only drive traffic to your activities but also create brand awareness. Physicians will remember your client’s brand and the experience they had with it. They will probably want to engage with it after the event. Creative executions will also differentiate your client and position them as innovative and bold.

Brand experience is about going back to the basics: our senses

OCH Paris won a 2013 Global Award in the category Art & Technique: User Experience (click here to access the Global Awards website http://www.theglobalawards.com/winners/2013/index.php).

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Jan16

True Integration of Excellence — the Key to Advertising Success

thumbnailAs the communication dynamic between doctor and patient changes, so too must the model of pharmaceutical promotions—offering a challenge for not only brand communications but also, critically, the agency that drives them.

Thirty to thirty-five years ago, in what some called the heyday of big pharma communications, the model was clear: sell to the doctor, everybody else in the system will follow the prescription. Today, communications must be exquisitely integrated across all channels to ensure receipt of a single and consistent brand message that will align understanding for all. A market where the presumption of even a compelling story of the drug benefits, aligned with a novel diagnosis, would have doctors falling over themselves to prescribe to their presenting patients has passed! Through the decades we have seen an accelerating shift from this—not least with the payer/insurer growing the influence of cost pressure and real evidence-based medicine—but perhaps more subtlety with the changing dynamic between the more savvy and informed patient and their own healthcare professional. As late as the 1980s the primary source of specific medical information for a patient was from their doctor. This moderated a level of control not only in understanding of disease but importantly in the awareness of available treatment options. Today, surveys have consistently indicated that more than half of patients will seek an alternate opinion on a doctor’s diagnosis or recommendations. Surveys reported from Pew Research have indicated that the online medical information services, Google, webMD, medicine.net, NetDoctor, etc, have become the de facto second opinion (and, increasingly often, initial diagnosis) for many patients seeking healthcare information. Balance this with the increasing limitation of the pharma industry presenting similar information to the doctor—through restriction of access by representatives—and we recognize the tension in the market space that must be met to ensure the HCP and their patient remain fully and appropriately informed on drug treatments and medical information. Branded communications must operate in this evolved environment—and the agency of the future likewise.

I joined the team here some 100 days ago, and it is clear Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide stands uncommonly aligned with this demand, with an ability to deliver excellence on communication service across channels from one single business footprint. This is clearly a differentiating feature owned by OCHWW. In a market where single-channel communications have become more and more commoditized, the agency that can truly deliver an integrated communications program will lead. James Chase, Editor in Chief at MM&M, commented in an interview a year ago that “the agency of the future would be able to align communications from one point. To deliver a relevant and targeted  brand message to the HCP, the patient, the payer and all of the relevant stakeholders in a way that offers a seamless understanding of the brand, and that will be the reason for its choice—above others.” This doesn’t mean driving a one-size-fits-all approach to messaging and communications. Quite the reverse! It demands building communications in which each customer will see his own nirvana, but will all appreciate this around a single brand hub. In the savvy patient marketplace it is critical that when the patient asks about a treatment or solution in his/her disease management, their appreciation must clearly vocalize the same entity that the HCP is considering, though not necessarily for the same reasons. The agency that is able to deliver that for brands is one where borderless collaboration of Professional, Payer, Patient and Consumer can build a seamless alignment of brand communications to ensure optimal impact in-market, and drive consistency of a singular message through all media—digital, social, traditional or personal. Few agencies or communication networks have the capability, or indeed passion, to do that.  The OCHWW philosophy of creative excellence in communications demands that each of our agencies across the globe and across customer and media communications channels work in harmony—aligning a core strategy to drive impactful creative that is designed to change customer behavior across all communications channels. The structure here is wonderfully built to achieve this, but at the end of the day it relies on a personal commitment to achieve this success. In a market that demands the agency of the future, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is set to offer itself to meet the new communications challenges. Our success, however, depends on the most critical asset of any agency…you!

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Dec10

Asia and the Art of Pervasive Perseverance

singapore thumbnailIn less than two months, a religious festival takes place that is so fantastically crowded and celebratory that it seems unreal. Officially listed as the largest human gathering in the world, the northern Indian city of Allahabad at the confluence of the Yamuna, Ganges and Saraswati rivers will witness as many as 100 million people participating in an ancient Hindu festival known as the Kumbh Mela. The pilgrimage, which dates back millennia, attracts a staggering 10 million people in a single day, who congregate by the Ganges’ banks to ritually bathe in its sacred waters.

The Atlantic’s Quartz website places this event in an easier-to-understand global perspective: “Imagine the entire population of Shanghai—about 23 million—camping on a 4×8 kilometre field. Add to that mass of humanity every last man, woman and child in New York City and you’re getting closer to the Kumbh’s expected attendance.”

Some 3,000 miles away at nearly the same time, the world will also witness the biggest annual human migration, known as Chun Yun (or Spring Festival Migration). Some 700 million Chinese, or roughly half the country’s population, are expected to make 2.85 billion passenger trips during the 40-day period to celebrate Chinese New Year with their families.

What is it that drives hundreds of millions of people, an ocean of humanity, voluntarily through unimaginable hardships—sickness, disease, loss of life even—every year? On one side, the biggest “act of faith,” while on the other the biggest need to just “be back home.”

These two events define for me the spirit and tenacity that is Asia—the need for inspiration, the need to define oneself in a community, affecting in turn the way lives and health are managed.

A recent new study revealed that the average Singaporean has a particularly high desire for inspiration, albeit on a more material scale. Indeed, 69% of Singaporeans want to be inspired when they shop/read/surf, compared to only 49% of Europeans and 51% of Americans—but then the “kiasu” Singaporean culture is what keeps it so vibrant.

In a separate study, in Tier One China cities, when comparing the cost of a critical vaccine against pneumococcal infection vs a new iPhone 5C, it’s no surprise that Jobs’ inspirational device won hands down. The seemingly everyday contradictions with which Asia works start to become a way of life for us who call this part of the planet home. It doesn’t seem unusual, just the way it’s meant to be, really…

How, then, do we apply the norms of behavioural-change communication in an environment as diverse and fragmented as Asia Pacific? Where religion, environments, languages—along with budgets and regulations—are both simultaneous drivers and barriers, be that to an oncologist in the Philippines or a midwife in Indonesia, a GP in Beijing or a regulatory official in Sydney.

Asia forces you to innovate, to find a new way, to uncover an insight that is universal in application and precise in its expression. In a way, Asia offers us a sort of social petri dish in which we can incubate ideas/tactics/strategies in ways not thought of before. Big ideas with small budgets, with the ability to change or save the lives of millions…now isn’t that a challenge worth waking up to?

The formal launch of Ogilvy CommonHealth Asia Pacific in a way is representative of everything we see, hear, feel and smell in this region. From many brands operating as one; from 6 different countries working in unison; from Med Ed & PR to Branding & Creativity. We’re looking ahead to 2014 with hope, promise and most importantly the chance to help define Asian health communications in ways not thought of before.

Join us in this journey, as we rediscover Asia Pacific through the lens of health behaviour change. Reach out and offer your thinking, your ideas. Tell us whenever you’re making a visit: you have a place to call home across the region—India, Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney. The closer we become, the sooner we’ll realise just how small the world really is. Even the taste of Balut or Durian won’t seem so bad (well, maybe those are two things that just cannot make sense any which way you look at it).

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Nov19

The Global Awards Ceremony

blog thumbnailAs you enter this welcoming, creative environment, you are immediately humbled by the amazing creative work on display. The best work from around the world. The creative directors from many of the world’s top agencies are in attendance. It is a true creative event in every sense of the word.

The work is brilliant, and it is judged by only creative eyes. The judging takes place at 3 locations: Sydney, London and New York. And while you are here mingling with creative royalty, there is this great sense of community, as only creatives can experience. It is a chance for us to share stories, discuss the work, and enjoy each other’s company without the daily politics we are so used to dealing with.

This show is a very special one. They do it right, by getting a true global perspective on the work and then putting that judging through even more scrutiny at the regional level. Once it gets past the regional level, only the very best moves into the executive judging in New York. This is where the Global finalists and Grand winners are determined.

The debates over which work deserves to be considered the best are fun and filled with an intense passion. What is special is that we are fighting for someone else’s work to be recognized as the best. No other show does that.

And after we are done with the marathon of judging, we all go out and get to know more about each other, share our stories, and build friendships. Yes, we are rivals during the day, but during this prestigious event we are part of a special group that has a tremendous amount of respect for each other.

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Jul5

Will Health Plans Of The Future Take Care Of Widows And Orphans?

“Widows and orphans” is a long-established phrase that connotes one of the neediest segments of societies. Throughout time, communities have been asked (or commanded, as in the Bible) to support them in some way. One modern-day version of this support takes the form of estate planning. In the 20th century, stocks that provided a relatively high degree of safety (from declines in price) and steady dividends were nicknamed “widows and orphans” because they were good to have in the portfolio and provided relatively steady income. Prevalent among this type of stock were utilities. Utilities offered consistent returns because state or federal governments had established these companies as monopolies. In return for their monopoly status, governments regulated (or seen another way, guaranteed) a specific level of profits after fixed and variable costs were covered.

In 2012, a new group of companies that may fulfill the role of utilities is health plans. The Affordable Care Act fixes the medical loss ratio (MLR) of health plans at 80%, or 85% for large health plans. Here, the medical loss ratio is a metric that means 85% of health plan revenues must be spent on patient care. You don’t need to be a mathematician to figure out that 15% of revenues is left for overhead expenses and profits. So, the level of profits is regulated, just like those of utilities.

The business leaders of health plans are not settling for lower profits, which are estimated to fall from the 7-8% range to 3-5%. Health plans are already diversifying and are either acquiring or developing higher margin businesses. Here are a few examples:

Information technology (IT) or information management (IM) is a popular area. The thought here is: instead of assuming the financial risk of insuring patients, acquire the financial and actuarial know-how to do so, and sell that expertise to others who will assume the risks (and the lower profit levels). The Wall Street Journal says that managed care plans have made about 20% of their merger-and-acquisition deals with IT firms since 2010, up from about 7% in 2007. They’ve reduced their M&A of other insurers from 39% to 27% in the same period.

  • Aetna purchased Medicity in 2011, a company that sells software that transmits health care data across the different systems in different provider offices
  • Aetna also purchased Prodigy Health Holdings, which will allow midsize companies the financial and information knowledge to offer self-insurance options

Other insurers are purchasing physician practices. Humana purchased Concentra, which runs urgent- and occupational-care clinics. The thinking here is to exert more control over physicians and other providers, optimize their approach to patient care, and lower costs (and fatten profits).

Some insurers are expanding internationally, where legal and regulatory (and profit) constraints may be less onerous. Cigna has entered India in the form of a joint venture with TTK.

And recently, WellPoint acquired a contact lens company. Simply, the margins in vision companies are higher, and this is also an opportunity for health plans to cement relationships with consumers without the “middle men” of physicians or external opticians.

What does this mean for marketing communications?

Payer marketers traditionally target 3 audience levels: the payer level, the provider level, and the patient level. While these audiences will remain in the evolving health care landscape, they may need to be approached differently:

  • At the payer level: analytics groups may possess powerful data that show differences in cost or performance for specific drug therapies. Can marketers acquire and leverage these data to reinforce the value of our drugs or other therapies? Conversely, if sophisticated IT systems detect physician deviations from practice protocols sooner, traditional formulary controls such as prior authorizations or step edits may be enhanced and present bigger obstacles to prescriptions
  • At the physician level: if physicians work directly for health plans, their flexibility to practice or prescribe will be constrained more than if they worked on their own. Will drug marketing messages that only contain safety, efficacy, and effectiveness be enough, or will additional message components be needed? How will sales force pull-through campaigns need to be engineered if a greater degree of control binds both formularies and prescribers?
  • At the patient level: cost pressures may make insurance plans a bit more rigid. Out-of-network (or non-formulary) options may be sparse and much more expensive. What value proposition will convince the member/patient to pay for the appropriate therapy?

No one knows what the future will bring. Even if health plans do transform themselves in the 21st century and “take care” of widows and orphans in a hypothetical role as “utilities,” we can probably guess that many payer audiences will still be eager for high-quality information that demonstrates value for each health care intervention. Most likely, health care marketing communications will have challenges and goals that are similar to those of today, yet slightly more difficult.

Readers, will heath plans’ transformations affect drug and device marketing significantly?

 

 

Sources:

  1. King James Bible (James 1:27).
  2. Do “widow and orphan” stocks still exist? Investopedia.com. http://www.investopedia.com/articles/analyst/121802.asp#axzz1x7O6I4Dw. Accessed June 5, 2012.
  3. Reforms prod insurers to diversify. The Wall Street Journal. May 12, 2011. http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703643104576291022457851278.html. Accessed June 5, 2012.
  4. To find new revenue streams, insurers are branching out into nontraditional areas. From Health Plan Week. http://www.henryloubet.com/news030512.htm. Accessed June 5, 2012.
  5. WellPoint to buy 1-800-contacts. The Wall Street Journal. June 4, 2012. http://professional.wsj.com/article/TPBWR0000020120604e8640002u.html. Accessed June 4, 2012.

 

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Jun28

Why Does The Pharmaceutical Industry Have A Promiscuous Relationship With Its Communication Agencies?

Hard to believe that in the consumer goods, financial, and motor industry sectors many client/agency relationships have lasted up to 50 years, in some cases, and in many instances average at least a decade.

Compare this to the hire-and-fire approach taken by some in the pharma industry. While there are some long-standing pharma/agency partnerships, it is not uncommon to replace agencies on an annual basis. Neither it is unusual to remove them if something relatively minor occurs or the chemistry isn’t right.

Is it sensible to believe that creativity and price competitiveness can only be achieved by wielding the sword of Damocles over the heads of the agency with the constant threat of repitch?

Currently there is huge pressure on the pharma industry to improve innovation and efficiency, and sustain or gain competitive advantage. Can this be achieved by continuing to engage with communications agencies in such a promiscuous manner?

At a time when there is a reduction in internal resources in the industry, the true cost of an agency change should be considered. Beyond just the monetary cost, each agency change will involve:

  •  Writing a brief
  • Selecting agencies to take part
  • Q&As in the lead-up to pitch with each agency
  • Pitching 3 to 4 agencies with a minimum half-day each, involving multiple internal stakeholders
  • Bringing a new agency on board with medical and marketing briefings
  • Familiarizing the new agency with company and team processes

All the above can impact what is a condensed marketing lifespan for many products. In addition, companies often lose the knowledge base, continuity of talent, and learning that are some of the benefits of a long-term relationship.

However, it is a true sense of partnership that is often missing on both sides. Why do clients and agencies behave any differently than they would upon entering and sustaining any other relationships?

All successful long-term relationships rely on trust, solving problems together, communication transparency, working out where things are going wrong and resolving them in partnership for a better outcome.

Then there is creativity: how do you keep each other excited in a relationship? It takes hard work and planning—date nights, trying something new together, having fun! This would be hard to do if your partner was constantly threatening to look elsewhere, telling you that others were far more attractive and exciting, and perhaps cheaper to keep!  Why would you want to give your best to a partner who focused on blame, didn’t give you a second chance when things were not going as well as expected, or was not willing to see that “it takes two to tango”?

On the agency side, when there is little belief in the long-term partnership, it is too easy to change the talent resource, be closed to investing in the relationship, not give your absolute best, and not be flexible in the remuneration model. This behavior in turn leads to an unsatisfied partner, and the vicious cycle continues.

With true partnership, the pharma industry and agencies can only gain. Open and trusting communications, a belief that problems can and will be mutually fixed, a sense of loyalty and collective focus on the brand will reap rewards. This includes the agency’s willingness to invest in the relationship, the best talent wanting to work on accounts with clients who behave in this way, a desire to go the extra mile, and a focus on creativity and innovation rather than worrying about the wandering eye of the pharma industry!

 

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May17

The Next Wave Of Healthcare Innovation

In 2010, Internet scholar Clay Shirky wrote an interesting book called “Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators.” His premise was simple yet powerful: The ongoing migration of people from passive pursuits (Shirky particularly calls out watching TV) to more engaging pursuits enabled by the Internet and other digital technologies is igniting an era of “collective creativity” where people are able to connect and aggregate their efforts toward positive ends. Examples of the output from this collective creativity include Wikipedia, the open source software movement, and the myriad companies that have used the Web for crowdsourcing (i.e., online group collaboration) consumer inputs to co-create new products and services.

“Abundance” — Activating the Crowd for Good Works

Now, a new book called “Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think,” by Peter Diamandis (the founder of the nonprofit X PRIZE Foundation whose mission is to stimulate investment in R&D through incentive prize competitions) builds on Shirky’s premise by proposing that this cognitive surplus is starting to be harnessed in ways that will significantly raise global living standards.

Diamandis’ theory is that this collective creativity will soon reach a tipping point (to wit, a point of “abundance”) in a way that activates the intellectual capital and resources on a scale needed to solve intractable problems like hunger and disease. Diamandis sees the confluence of three macro-trends behind this transformation:

  • The exponential growth and accessibility of computer processing power
  • The do-it-yourself ethos of the Internet culture
  • And, the “rising billions” represented by the world’s poor who are coming online en masse thanks to the dropping cost of digital hardware and the growing ubiquity of mobile networks

Abundance and Health Care Innovation

What does all this have to do with health care innovation? Imagine the types of innovation that can be achieved by combining the democratization of clinical data through the open sourcing (i.e., free distribution) of scientific data sets, with the awesome computer processing firepower scientists now have access to over the cloud at minimal cost.

Another example: some countries are leveraging the Internet and mobile networks to bring quality health care to their poorest rural communities. For instance, India uses a combination of digital technologies like SMS, mobile phone cameras and remote monitoring systems to treat kidney disease patients in isolated communities at a cost that is roughly 90% less than traditional treatments. The real kicker is that these rural patients frequently have better outcomes than their urban counterparts who receive in-person treatments on an outpatient basis.

Diamandis’ vision is a bit rosy but by no means unrealistic—considering that today we carry smartphone devices in our pockets the size of a deck of cards that have roughly the same processing power that a mainframe computer the size of a 12×12 room had 40 years ago!

Click on the below links to purchase the books mentioned in this blog post:

Cognitive Surplus: How Technology Makes Consumers Into Collaborators

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think

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Apr24

They Unblinded Me With Science

Few disciplines in our industry are as dynamic as medical education. That’s not what everyone imagines, of course. But nowhere is it truer that the digital shift has required a radical re-imagination of how to engage physicians demanding a higher level of scientific discourse.  Drastically reduced dinner meetings and local symposia, almost no “enduring” (read: print) materials. The full-scale move to the Web demands a higher level of digital strategy in all we do.

But that’s not the biggest change: Much like in the past, when there was CME and non-CME med ed, a new channel has arisen and swiftly grown as an innovative generator and outlet for scientific exchange between the manufacturer and the practitioner. The “owners” of this channel are not in marketing at all—they are in the clinical, medical affairs, R&D and other non-promotional functions within our client base. In some companies, even the baseline financing is not derived from a brand’s P&L, but from zero-based corporate budgets, so as to completely remove any “co-mingling” of promotional and non-promotional funds. The issue: “off-label” promotion was the significant trespass that led to unbelievably large fines and ongoing compliance agreements at virtually every major pharmaceutical company.

But the needs didn’t change. Much of the information exchange needed to inform physicians about innovation in understanding the mechanisms of a disease or advances in new therapeutic modalities takes place prior to any product on market, and discussing these issues from a marketing perspective is forbidden. In comes the med affairs group. They are specifically charged with answering questions or providing educational background prior to a brand’s launch or outside a brand’s labeling—as long as it is completely separated from the commercial purpose or the on-market brand.

Our clients have gone to great lengths, in many different ways both philosophically and physically, to prove this agnostic separation.

And so have we. This marketplace evolution is the driver behind our creation of SCI Scientific Communications & Information. It’s WAY more than publications; it services the entire spectrum of the clinical, med affairs and R&D departments—all the way through presenting our clinical trial retention and recruitment expertise (through Fast 4wD). To partner with these clients, we built SCI Scientific Communications & Information to have totally separate tax ID numbers, separate email, separate payroll, separate servers and physical location, and more.  Finally, we are working with our colleagues in London and Oxford to mirror the same structure and strategy as we see this separation continuing to gain momentum, on a global scale.

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Mar15

Are Centralized Global Marketing Activities the Way Forward for the Pharma Industry?

As pharma companies increasingly come under both financial and human-resource pressures, the trend is to create global central campaigns with minor local market adaptations.

The growing emergence of generic competition is emphasizing the need for even greater brand loyalty among healthcare professionals and consumers.

For these reasons, there is good rationale for pharma to both centralize and standardize marketing activities. However, does this:

  • stifle creativity and innovation?
  • disengage the local markets?
  • fail to develop marketing skill sets at the local market level?
  • create bland generic communication activities?

Without good collaboration and the use of digital enabling tools, there is a risk of all of the above happening. Simply creating global activities without gaining extensive local market input, testing in key markets, and providing clear guidance for markets is a recipe for failure.

However, there are ways to make the centralized approach work that have been successful in the industry. These include:

  • creating virtual extended global teams
  • providing pilot innovation funds to local markets
  • enabling best-practice sharing
  • bringing local market personnel into the central global team
  • working with agency networks to bring learning from beyond pharma regarding creating strong global brands

So now the question is, will the next five years bring more or less standardization and centralization?

Will local markets become increasingly important for the niche specialist drugs of the future, and will specialist-tailored local marketing activity become the trend?

 

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