Media makeover: Eli Lilly media chief switches up marketing mix and overhauls go-to-market model

When Lina Shields took over as chief media officer at Eli Lilly two years ago, she was surprised that the U.S. ran basically the same marketing and media consumer plan it had launched more than a decade before with Cialis.

While it made sense—Cialis was highly successful with that strategy—consumer behavior and media had changed significantly in the passing years, and Lilly needed to take that into account, Shields said, speaking at Digital Pharma East and in an interview with FiercePharma.

By the time she took over media, the budget was 84% spent on television with the remaining amount spent mostly on print buys, along with a small share on digital for display advertising.

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However, that was a problem for Shields. Not only because TV had changed dramatically, with even more changes foreshadowed, but also because Lilly aspired to deliver 20 new products in the next 10 years. A TV-heavy model wasn’t financially responsible or even possible with that kind of launch load.

“Gone are the days of shooting three spots, put them on air, see what happens with sales and then go shoot another campaign. We had to take a step back and understand that before we go to market, we had to create a back end that marries tech and data so that we can understand the journey of consumers as they move across their experiences with the brands,” she said.

So, Lilly created a “digital transformation manifest” built around engaging consumers differently while still keeping Lilly’s established insight-based marketing.

“It’s really about getting to a more personalized experience with each brand and understanding the personal journey before, during and after prescription, so we can target information in a way that’s relevant. For instance, if you’re already on the medication, I should not tell you about the medication, I should tell you why it’s important to stay on it,” Shields said.

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Today, Lilly’s media spending is still strong in TV, but the mix is a more balanced 50-50 split with digital spending.

Shields, who was recently named to Advertising Age’s 2019 Women to Watch, said she often looks to consumer brands for lessons to apply at Lilly, citing data personalization inspiration from Bacardi and Hershey's method of moving from test-and-learn to a do-and-pivot when trying out new creative.

“People are experiencing brands differently today. They are choosing to interact with brands. We’re no different. We are fooling ourselves if we don’t think this applies to healthcare just because we’re healthcare. We may not have the same type of business model, but we have to understand that consumers are more involved not only in the way they choose information but also how and when they interact with the brand,” Shields said.