May20

Bringing Sexy Back…to Science

disease managementThank God for The Big Bang Theory. They’ve made it cool to be a nerd again.

While traditional brand attributes (efficacy, safety, dosing, etc) will always be of key importance, the last few years have seen a renaissance of scientific enlightenment as physicians across disciplines take a closer look at not only how well a drug works, but why it works.

With the advent of new targeted agents in oncology and virology, mechanism of action quickly went from a dirty little secret buried in the PI to front page news. There are now numerous products that have built their entire value proposition on mechanism of action.

In oncology in particular, where clinical improvement between new and old drugs is often measured in teaspoons, the science behind the brand can often stand as a key differentiator. Avastin—one of the most successful drugs in oncology—created a simple scientific rationale for its use: stop cancer cells from creating new blood vessels and “starve the tumor.” With three simple words they took a complex process of tumor growth and development and created a unique opportunity in oncology that they have effectively owned since its launch in 2004.

Science Sells

The ongoing race toward “scientific innovation” is redefining how we market specialty brands.

  • Have a good pick-up line: In specialty marketing an entirely new nomenclature has spawned, significantly impacting our ability to change physicians’ perceptions of our brand. Simple terms to describe the science have now become synonymous with clinical attributes we could otherwise never say in a branded way. “Targeted” or “selective” now means safe and well-tolerated, “multi-functional” equals efficacious. Understanding how one simple word can affect how physicians view your brand is now key, requiring comprehensive research and knowledge of the market.
  • Be yourself and if that doesn’t work be someone better: No longer content to be classified under traditional terms, products have been using science to create entire “new” drug classes. Avastin rebranded themselves from a VEGF inhibitor to an “anti-angiogenic,” and DDP-4 was redefined as an “incretin degradation inhibitor” in type 2 diabetes.
  • Dress to impress: Where once MOA materials were simply required to be informative, now visually dynamic and digitally distinct tactical initiatives have quickly become a cost of entry for products seeking to separate themselves from the competition.

And while I can say with absolute certainty that an in-depth knowledge of molecular drivers of cancer will not help you talk to girls at parties, understanding the science behind the brands and their competitors is now crucial to opening up new doors for creative exploration, messaging and differentiation in specialty marketing.

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Also posted in behavior change, Content Strategy, copywriting, Creativity, Data, Efficacy, Healthcare Communications, Learning, Marketing, Medicine, Pharmaceutical, Physician Communications, positioning, Strategy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment
Mar13

SXSW 2014: Technology and Society

sxsw logoIn Part 2 of his SXSW blog series, Robert Egert recaps some of the SXSW themes that are transforming the way the world looks at technology and society.

THE GREAT MERGE
The Idea: Society and technology are now one.

Ubiquitous mobile access combined with digitization of every aspect of our lives means that what happens online is no longer a reflection of our society but it is society itself.

The implication here is that we need to look at the way we govern the Internet no differently than the way we look at governing our nation. You can’t have a free society without having a free Internet.

One example of how this can play out is apparent in the attempts by autocratic regimes to limit access to the Internet by creating firewalled, state-sponsored Internets. Iran, North Korea and Cuba are just a few countries that have major censorship programs in place, but it is also worth noting that many large nations— most notably China—have pervasive censorship mechanisms in place.

Why this is important: As society continues to migrate social behavior (commercial, interpersonal, financial, etc.) to the digital space, unrestricted access will be a political, social, and commercial issue with substantial impacts to business, human rights, education, and social stability.

SURVEILLANCE AND PRIVACY
The Idea: Big data brings with it the threat of totalitarianism.

Everything we do online leaves an indelible record. Our searches, browsing history, comments, Facebook likes, text messages, tweets, and shopping carts are all recorded, stored, and subject to analysis by companies and scrutiny by governments. Taken together, this data can paint a detailed picture of almost every aspect of our lives.

In a live streaming interview from his embassy refuge in London, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange spoke of the inherent dangers this data poses to a free society. He suggests that the extensive collection of personal data by the NSA, for example, provides the government the ability to use personal information to control elected officials and by extension is moving toward the establishment of a total surveillance society.

Why this is important: Systems are currently in place to monitor and record our online behavior in painful detail. These systems can be abused. We may be entering a world without the options of privacy or anonymity. This brings significant threats to democratic values and a free society. For those of us in the healthcare industry, we can expect privacy to continue to be a hot button topic, and initiatives that require collection of personal data will require careful consideration for protection and privacy.

ROBOTICS, DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGIES, AND UNEMPLOYMENT
The Idea: Technology and robotics reduce the need for workers.

When WhatsApp was purchased for $19 billion, they only had about 50 employees. Like many new social and tech businesses, WhatsApp relies on the aggregated social activities of its many users to produce value. But unlike traditional employees, users of apps and social networks are not compensated for their efforts.

Similarly, while manufacturing is on the rise in the US, many of the manufacturing operations that used to be performed by humans are now performed faster and more accurately through robotics.

Another example is self-driving cars. Though still predicted about ten years from widespread commercialization, self-driving cars promise the benefits of safety, speed, and fuel economy, but will also put every taxi, truck, and bus driver out of work forever.

Viewed at a macroeconomic scale, technology produces value and wealth but not necessarily jobs.

Why this is important: Without robust employment, the consumer economy will suffer. We may need to seriously think about implementing models of compensation for user-generated content.

SXSW Series:

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Mar11

SXSW 2014: Technology and Health

SXSW_Logo_2013_BlackBG_CS

In Part 1 of his SXSW blog series, Robert Egert recaps some of the SXSW themes that are transforming the way the world looks at healthcare.

Massive—that’s the first thing you need to understand about the SXSW experience. At any given time, there are 30 to 50 events to choose from taking place in multiple locations throughout downtown Austin. This means that, unlike conventional conferences, each individual attendee cuts his or her own path through the events by selecting and reselecting from the nearly unmanageable array of keynotes, panel discussions, presentations, and workshops.

Events that feature celebrity speakers or that focus on hot topics can fill up quickly. Dashing from event to event, waiting in long lines, and striking up random conversations en route is part of the experience. Many events include audience QA, so if it suits your fancy you can become part of the public conversation, even if you aren’t an official presenter.

Here’s a highly personal recap of the themes, issues, and events that impressed, stimulated, and/or frightened me:

BIOMETRICS

The Idea: The pervasive collection of quantified biometric data will transform healthcare.

Wearable, implanted, and otherwise applied technologies will collect vast amounts of data on each of us throughout the day and night regardless of where we are or what we are doing. The collected data won’t only be sent to our phones—it will also be shared with physicians and aggregated into an ever-expanding library of health data.

This library can be used to evaluate the impacts of lifestyle choices on health and longevity (how much of what kinds of exercise must you do to reduce hypertension?). They can also measure the impact of pharmacologic therapies (which drug was more effective?), they can help identify disease patterns (what patterns around comorbidity should be looked at?), and they can provide real-time reports on just about anything you want to know about human behavior and health.

Why this is important:

If we combine biometrics with the predictive capabilities of DNA analysis, we’ll be able to obtain a detailed image of our individual health within the larger social context.

CROWD-SOURCED DRUG DISCOVERY

The Idea: Crowd-sourcing health studies and clinical trials.

Current approaches to drug testing and conducting health studies are expensive, slow, and cumbersome. What if we used crowd-sourcing to answer quantifiable health questions?

Jessica Richman, who is the founder of uBiome, a start-up that uses a crowd-sourced approach to collecting scientific health data, proposes that we dramatically change our approach to scientific inquiry. She suggests that with the right protocols and infrastructure in place, crowd-sourcing will be used to speed the evaluation of new products, measure the effectiveness and safety of products already in-market, and obtain quantifiable data on the health impacts of lifestyle choices.

This approach promises to allow us to quickly and efficiently collect larger data sets than ever before. But with this comes the responsibility to maintain processes and checks to maintain scientific integrity.

Why this is important:

It can dramatically reduce the cost of conducting health and drug studies, and it can generate libraries of data for ad hoc inquiry and analysis.

SXSW Series:

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Also posted in clinical trials, Data, Health & Wellness, Healthcare Communications, Pharmaceutical, SXSW | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment
Mar4

Let the Sunshine (Act) In

5116469For many of us in the healthcare industry, the advent of the Physician Payment Sunshine Act has loomed large and ominous. The mere mention conjures up visions of significant changes in the way we work with healthcare providers (HCPs), in addition to endless data collection and reporting. On March 31, 2014, healthcare manufacturers are required to submit their first annual federal reports; these reports will include data captured from August 1, 2013, through December 31, 2013. By September 30, 2014, CMS will publically disclose the information on their website. This regulation is associated with the Affordable Care Act, and as we have come to learn, there may be changes, revisions, or postponements to current guidance on reporting and timing of data review and corrections. Nevertheless, the industry needs to be prepared and many of our clients have been adapting for some time.

So to date, do we really know how this regulation will transform our corner of the healthcare geography? Are we prepared to adapt and innovate?

From a medical education and scientific publication perspective, we have already seen substantial changes in the way our clients collaborate with HCPs.  For example, in December of 2013, GSK announced that the company will begin a process that will effectively stop direct payments to HCPs for speaking engagements and for attendance at medical conferences. To fill this gap, it appears the company may expand its focus on developing multichannel capability to support the dissemination of information about its products and relevant disease states to healthcare professionals.

The effects of the Sunshine Act are also noticeable in the scientific publication realm. Due to the transparency requirements, academic research institutions are once again modifying their guidelines and tightening their restrictions on working with industry on clinical trials and subsequent data publication to avoid the perception of and potential for conflicts of interest. These restrictions also pertain to the development of disease-state articles that update standards of care and provide best practice approaches for HCPs and allied health professionals.

Clearly the Sunshine Act is meant to shine the light of transparency and public disclosure. But it also has the potential to hamper scientific exchange, which is the lifeblood of effective medical communications.

How do we as an industry respond? My vote is to adapt along with our clients and lead and encourage the innovation and continued delivery of robust scientific exchange. How will you respond?

CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com. Please allow 24 hours for response.

 

 

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Feb21

Choosing Your Road—Transitioning From Bench Science to Specialty Healthcare Communications

road

 

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by…  – Robert Frost

A common question floating around the brains of many researchers is, “Where do I see myself in the future?” It was one that I faced many times throughout my scientific training. The well-travelled path of continuing in academic research is the one that is traditionally followed. But if that’s not for you, what is it like transitioning away from research and into medical/healthcare communications? After years of being a “bench scientist,” the transition to working in an alternative career can be a little scary. As researchers, it may feel like we’re not prepared for a career outside of what we know, but our training actually provides us with a thorough, deep understanding of science and a lot of transferable skills. These skills, including the abilities to learn quickly, problem-solve, integrate information from varied and disparate sources, and communicate and advocate concepts and ideas, can be assets for both the company we work for and the clients we work with. Additionally, it can be really exciting to work on the “other side” of the biomedical industry—taking highly complex scientific information and communicating it to stakeholders in simple and meaningful ways. When working in research, as a natural function of the job we tend to focus very specifically on a disease state and even on a particular pathway or phenomenon within that disease state. As a member of Science and Health Strategy within Specialty Marketing at Ogilvy CommonHealth, I have had the opportunity to touch many aspects of a product’s lifecycle, including brand identity and development, HCP marketing, direct-to-patient marketing, medical advertising and promotion, and scientific communications. Through this career path, I have been able to expand my scientific expertise from a background in virology and immunology to one that encompasses a wide array of therapeutic areas, including oncology. Additionally, through this career path, I’ve been learning more about the multiple channels of communicating scientific/medical information. If you realize that you want to move away from academia or research but don’t know how you can transition, here are some ways the skills we learned as scientists, combined with our scientific knowledge, can apply in the medical/healthcare communications field: 1. Problem solving: As researchers, at some point or another we’ve had to MacGyver our way into how to do an experiment for the all-consuming paper or thesis. It may have involved trying to trouble-shoot an experiment, figuring out how to borrow and extend reagents because research funding was low, or convincing a company that their product was faulty and they needed to return the thousands of dollars you wasted (not to mention time) because of said product. (Yes this has happened, and it was definitely a “no really, it’s not me, it’s you” and “I need a DeLorean” type of situation). When it comes to alternative careers, problems will still be a fact of life. Your ability to recognize the issue, assess the situation, and come up with a solution will be a great asset. 2. Communicating and advocating concepts and ideas: With the number of times we’ve had to give seminars, poster presentations, write papers and abstracts, and present our data at meetings, you’d think we’d have the communication thing down cold. While we have a lot of experience in the art of communicating our ideas and research to a high-science audience, we often forget that they actually aren’t our only audience. An important piece of advice I received when I was a second-year graduate student was to learn to be able to tell people what you do in just a few sentences. Nobody knows what you do better than you do, so this is the best and sometimes most complicated place to start. In a career in healthcare communications, it’s important to be able to communicate high-science information in an easy-to-understand manner. In this career, you’re writing messages for doctors, nurses, patients, and caregivers, so you have a very varied audience in terms of scientific knowledge and expertise. Don’t underestimate the importance of communication and public speaking skills. 3. Integrating information from disparate sources and critically analyzing data: These two skills (which actually encompass many other skills as well) are particularly important for medical/healthcare communications. In this field, one of your jobs is to pick out useful nuggets of information that can help promote your client’s product and position it appropriately in the market, while remembering that fair balance and ethics are critical. Being able to critically analyze data and integrate information can also be useful when strategically comparing your product against the others in the marketplace. When looking for the right opportunity, make sure you find a position and company whose goals and mission match your skills and passions. It’s also important to look for an employer that values its employees having diverse backgrounds so that it can develop solid teams capable of different points of view with a high degree of depth in their respective fields. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide is one such company that embraces this, and as a result is able to develop unique solutions based on a strong scientific platform communicated across various channels. As a scientist who previously worked with other scientists, it’s been an incredible learning and working experience to be able to function on teams comprised of people of all different backgrounds—from art to copy to project management—and converge all of our talents to provide our clients with marketing, advertising and strategic solutions that are unique and smart. Knowing yourself and what you can offer are the first steps to choosing a path that is beyond the traditional…don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. CONTINUE THE CONVERSATION: Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at blog@ochww.com. Please allow 24 hours for response.

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Jun5

Falling Into Planning and Landing in Medical School

Would you ever think that a career in planning could end with medical school? Well now you know it can!Doctors_thumbnail

I started working at Ogilvy Heatlhworld as a Science and Research Specialist within the Planning Department approximately four and a half years ago, right after completing my Masters of Public Health degree from Columbia University. One quick email of my resume to a craigslist post, and two weeks later I was working at Ogilvy Heatlhworld.

At the time, I worked with two other research specialists, one a scientist and the other a medical doctor. Our main function was to work with the planners who worked on healthcare accounts to provide scientific and strategic guidance that helped our clients achieve their business goals.

Over the four and a half years, it has been a very rewarding experience. I have worked on accounts across several therapeutic categories, including:

  • Depression
  • AD/HD
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Postmenopausal osteoporosis
  • Menopause
  • Nosocomial pneumonia
  • Complicated skin and soft tissue infections
  • Transthyretin familial amyloid polyneuropathy
  • Prostate cancer
  • Immuno-oncology
  • Chronic myeloid leukemia

One of the remarkable aspects of my trajectory at Ogilvy Heatlhworld was that I stumbled into advertising and planning as a career. However, over the past four and a half years I was able to learn about how to gather insights and translate them into best-in-class marketing strategy that has successfully created excellent creative that has transformed our clients’ business. One of the biggest challenges I had as a planner was taking the science and transforming it into something conceptual that helped the creatives develop campaigns across these therapeutic areas. Ultimately I have decided that, like fine wine, planning is just something you get better at with time. Today I can now say I see science differently.

My career plans were to eventually matriculate into medical school. It is with great pleasure, but sadness at the same time, that I share that I will be leaving Ogilvy Heatlhworld this year to attend medical school. My years of listening to patients in market research will definitely help me to be a much keener physician who will take a more holistic approach to treating my patients. But in retrospect, as I look back at my time at Ogilvy Heatlhworld, my experience as a science and research specialist has definitely equipped me with the right skills to become a key opinion leader (KOL) in the future. Outside of the obvious—that is, learning and understanding scientific content at record-breaking speed and simplifying it to a third-grade level—I am now able to:

  • Relearn how to pull an all-nighter to get the job done
  • Critically review fair balance for potential adverse events
  • Think of objections to challenge sales rep when they attempt to detail me about a product
  • To say declaratively…I know Ogilvy Heatlhworld did not produce that creative

Finally, without my experience as a planner, I would not have received my acceptance to medical school. It certainly provided me with great conversation points to discuss during my medical school interviews, which ultimately made my interviews stand out amongst other candidates. For that, I am grateful to Ogilvy Heatlhworld.

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Oct23

Branding the Science

What is the “purple pill?” Most people can instantly identify this as the core branding identity behind one of the best selling prescription drugs: Nexium. But would the science behind the drug command a similar reaction of immediate recognition?

Branding the science is just as important as building the brand, and may in fact be a part of its core foundation. The unique scientific attributes of the compound are key to differentiating the brand from its competitors and establishing its overall value. Before there are platforms, positions, and brand personalities, there is a molecule that has to be called something by the press, publications, investors, investigators, and the competition.

Often, the terms used to describe new market entrants are arbitrary, focus on a particular aspect of the molecule, and are commonly predetermined by medical researchers. Scientists may excel at science—but communication of the benefits of that science is often not so clear and meaningful. Science is rife with arbitrary labels that have little or nothing to do with the key properties of the thing described, or why we should care about the molecule in the first place. Even in the most well documented content areas, such as the hepatitis C virus, labels for fundamental drug properties are essentially random. NS5a? NS3a? The labels for protease inhibitors simply reference the proteins identified in a laboratory assay. There is something here, but naming an entire class of drug over something as banal as “non structural protein 5a” seems like an enormous lost opportunity to talk about the truly differentiating properties of the drug.

However, a strong scientific lexicon is the first critical step to introducing a new product or brand long before it actually comes to market. It must accurately reflect the scientific elements of the story and be clear, concise, and simple. The scientific lexicon must also be differentiating, sustainable, ownable, and must create a unified value proposition across a broad range of stakeholders. Most importantly, the scientific lexicon must be evocative and memorable.

The foundations of a clear scientific lexicon are not inherent in dense academic jargon, and must instead be strategically constructed. To do so, the linguistic landscape of the compound or disease state must be analyzed, while the competitive issues facing the brand and its unique scientific attributes must be identified. Class designation, molecule name, or disease-related language can be built and delivered via virtually any medium.

Once established, the opportunities to leverage the scientific lexicon for a new brand are nearly limitless. However it is essential that marketers begin by saturating internal communications and ingraining routine use among the people who work with the brand every day, such as commercial and clinical teams as well as MSLs.

As pharmaceutical marketers, the opportunity to signal that what is coming now is different from what has come before should not be overlooked or squandered. Once a drug looks reasonably certain to launch—with the amount of talk generated about it by analysts, the medical community, and advocates—it is time to establish significant differentiation in the minds of readers. A strategically crafted scientific lexicon has the potential to be as iconic as bold colors and a catchy tagline. Let’s give products the language that does the molecule justice.

 

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