Five digital campaigns that show pharma really can do it

Pick a week and you'll find a headline somewhere declaring that digital marketing and pharma just don't mix. Cue the list of hardships: regulatory compliance, side-effect reporting guidelines, risk disclosures or any of the other reasons drugmakers use to justify staying away from digital. While it's true that digital and social media aren't the panacea for what ails pharma marketing, just saying no to digital isn't an option anymore. Need some inspiration? Check out what's working for these pharmas.

Novartis' "Hey MS Take This!" campaign for Gilenya

Novartis ($NVS) tackled MS with attitude and humor with the digital social campaign aimed at attracting the attention of younger MS patients with the then-launch of its oral treatment. MS patients confidently stick out their tongues in a double meaning to the disease and showing them taking the pill. The campaign created by FCB Health begun in 2013 has gained traction since then, employing MS patients as Gilenya Guide advocates and including engaging elements such as a "Let's Talk" section on its Facebook page that encourages community and information sharing. Sales of Gilenya in 2014 were $2.48 billion, up 28% over 2013.

Bayer Healthcare's Grants4Apps

Bayer launched its innovative health accelerator Grants4Apps last year offering 50,000 euros, plus free space and mentors at Bayer's headquarters in Berlin, to five startups with the best tech ideas for healthcare. In conjunction, Bayer created a digital marketing campaign, along with a series of traveling meetups, to drum up interest. The program's website and newsletter are robust news sources for grant info, while Twitter serves as ground zero for social media, including a series of Vines from top executives and scientists in many languages. Last year, 70 companies applied; this year Bayer has already hosted visitors from 200 countries, with the deadline to apply May 31.


Genentech's rheumatoid arthritis treatments have delivered billions in sales, but new competitors have elbowed in--and the company wanted to reassert its leadership role. Its agency, CDMIConnect, helped it create an online forum and community for RA meant to stand out in the crowded space. They tapped patient leaders in the community to be content providers, targeting topics not covered in other forums. They posted Genentech-created content and physician contributions as well. To foster sharing across devices, all content came with Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and email buttons. Once patients were engaged, CDMI's custom software would direct them to the Genetech drug that might work best for them. According to CDMI, patients didn't balk. The effort won a bronze Clio advertising award in 2014.

Johnson & Johnson's Janssen Healthcare Innovation Care4Today

Care4Today is the masterbrand for Janssen mobile and digital healthcare tools that so far includes a suite of sub-branded software apps focused on heart health,orthopedics, mental health and mobile medication management. Some tools allow patient information to be linked and tracked in real time, so that, for instance, a doctor could see when a patient misses or skips taking prescribed medicines, and send a reminder or message. The goal is to engage patients in their own treatment and improve results--before and after hospital stays, or in between doctor visits. Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ), reports high patient satisfaction across its different apps, and tests have shown positive results, such as cutting down wait times to see a specialist or raising adherence rates.

Special Report: The top 10 pharma companies in social media