Novartis' Netflix moment? Big Pharma launches new on-demand video hub to boost digital engagement with doctors

Novartis is continuing its digital push under CEO Vas Narasimhan with a new Netflix-style approach to help connect with doctors and better learn what content resonates with them.

This new service, delivered by software company Evermed, works as tailored, education-based videos aimed specifically at rheumatologists and is known as PEAK (Personalized Education and Knowledge).

Personalized is key: The Swiss Big Pharma is looking to go beyond the traditional digital marketing foray, which includes webinars, email campaigns, doctor portals and generic medical YouTube videos, to this on-demand, tailored video/audio service. The content is created by Novartis with rheumatologists and other healthcare professionals to deliver what they see as the best video service for practicing rheumatologists in the field.

The service talks more than just meds, speaking on issues like clinical trial design, disparities in healthcare and so on—with, of course, Novartis’ rheumatology drug Cosentyx being  a major reason why the pharma is appealing to rheumatologists. 

The videos top out at 15 minutes but are generally short-form content at around three minutes long with a host of offerings: mini-docuseries, vignettes, podcasts and animation videos. There are already around 90 assets of these types available to use.

The idea is that the user, i.e., doctors, can then set up what different mix of media they want to use.

“The whole point of this is to explore the best ways of engaging with our stakeholders and be as relevant as possible with them,” explained Gail Horwood, chief marketing and customer experience officer for Novartis Pharma U.S., in an interview.

“Consumer expectations have changed” when it comes to learning, Horwood said. As people switch to more on-demand services in their personal lives, it made sense for Novartis to do the same in a professional setting. They turned to Evermed, which delivers the technical side of the content, to develop a “new way” to talk to doctors, forming part of the Big Pharma’s internal digital drive.

The pandemic has had a big effect here too: Novartis has for years now been pushing for a more digital approach in marketing and across its business, but COVID made these plans more entrenched and necessary.

“Our CEO has called out our need to go big on data and digital, and this on-demand series is a major example of that,” Horwood said. She believes that digital behaviors across the industry are, as a result of the pandemic, "taking root and will be used more and more.”  

It’s also a major opportunity for lessons to be learned by Novartis itself, as the Evermed collab will allow it “to learn what type of content is resonating with our stakeholders and how they want to consume it,” Horwood explained.

This has in addition been “a great vehicle for our marketers to really engage on a day-to-day basis to understand what’s happening, what are people looking at, what are they consuming and what are they exploring on the platform and so on, so it’s been great from that perspective.”

Novartis launched this new hub just three months back and it will run as a three-year pilot. The company will need “a few months” under its belt to really gauge success. But while starting off with rheumatologists, the pharma may well expand into other areas if this proves to work well.

Horwood said they are already seeing that stakeholders are “engaging with all types of content,” whether that’s podcasts or video, though “video is the most engaging” in terms of use so far.

Starting in rheumatology makes sense when you consider that Cosentyx was Novartis’ biggest-selling drug last year with $4.7 billion in sales, which was up a healthy 17% on 2020. The drug has several licenses, including for psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and plaque psoriasis.

Cosentyx competes with a number of other big-selling drugs in this space, including AbbVie’s Humira, Skyrizi and Rinvoq franchises as well Johnson & Johnson’s Stelara and Pfizer’s Xeljanz. Standing out from the crowd in marketing terms is a necessity in such a crowded but high-yielding market space, and Novartis hopes this on-demand service, the first of its kind in the rheumatology space, will help it do just that.