Expect augmented reality to come up big for pharma marketers: expert

Augmented reality, used above to show furniture placement, is gaining traction as a visual tool for pharma companies. (Image: OyundariZorigtbaatar / CC BY 4.0)

"Show, don’t tell" could become a new maxim in pharma marketing. That’s because the rise of augmented reality, although still nascent, is emerging as a valuable technique in pharma visuals, according to life sciences cloud-computing company Veeva Systems.

Augmented reality, which shows digital 3D images projected onto what’s being viewed in real life, will become much more common in the coming year, predicted Arno Sosna, general manager, CRM, at Veeva.

Some of the ways AR is used now are to educate healthcare professionals with 3D visuals and create engaging content that promotes empathy, while sales reps use it to show marketing materials virtually.

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“We see augmented reality as another content format,” Sosna said. “There’s an opportunity to go one step beyond current interactivity in some cases. One area where AR helps is creating empathy. When dealing with conditions around the eyes, for example … AR gives the ability to simulate 10% or 30% or 50% vision loss.”

Since AR can be a difficult concept to explain, Sosna said he often uses the Ikea Place augmented reality app to demonstrate. Once pharma clients see the way virtual furniture can be placed, moved and changed in the room they’re standing in, they immediately understand, he said.

Another use case for AR is visualizing new concepts or products. One Veeva client used the software to create a 3D model of a heart to show how a medicine works and moves through. That same information could have been conveyed with a video, he conceded, but the wow factor of “placing a heart on someone’s desk has more impact.”

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Sales reps also use AR to show physicians how marketing materials might look on a wall or on displays without having to order and print the materials in advance. It works the same way in-store, where OTC drug makers use AR to virtually arrange and figure out shelf space layouts and aisle end caps.

“We’re just at the beginning. In one year, it will be a very different conversation because people will have thought of things that don’t exist yet. Creativity starts with a capability and then people start innovating within it,” Sosna said.