Publicis taps new Razorfish Health chief to help pharma reimagine the sales rep

Kara Dugan, shown speaking, is the new president of Razorfish Health, an HCP-focused agency inside Publicis Health. (Publicis Health)

Publicis Health is promoting a veteran agency executive to be its next chief of Razorfish Health. Kara Dugan was named president, stepping up from her role as general manager.

Dugan has spent 20 years at Publicis, including working on consumer goods accounts Procter & Gamble and Nestlé. She took a break along the way, leaving for a stint at GlaxoSmithKline and returning afterward.

Still, the past year has been like no other, accelerating digital trends and innovation in pharma marketing beyond any expectation. Because of the pandemic, pharma's visits to healthcare providers dropped to zero, and while they are coming back, many doctors want to maintain the changes.

Her new task, then, is reimagining the pharma sales rep to better engage healthcare providers in the new world.

Publicis’ own research shows that 87% of physicians don’t want to go back to typical sales rep engagements. Razorfish is focusing on “putting the personal back in non-personal promotions,” Dugan said, to reconnect with HCPs after losing in-person meetups.

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That’s requiring new levels of creativity. Sales reps are orchestrating ways to get information to HCPs, as Dugan put it, which may include those less-frequent in-person visits, but also organizing digital roundtables or sending HCPs digital self-guided informational tours on treatments.

And new levels of technology. For a recent brand launch, Razorfish created mailers to HCPs that included an Amazon Dash button that, when pressed, sends a request for a sales rep call or an order of samples.

While the increased interest in digital has generally led to a boon for agencies—Dugan said 2020 has been Razorfish Health's strongest growth year—not all of its clients have felt the same positive impact.

“It has had a silver lining for our business, although it’s a mixture. We have clients that have primarily business in chronic conditions and those have been a tough situation,” she said. “We’ve had boons but we also have had dips. We’re navigating the highs and lows of the different effects from COVID-19.”

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Razorfish Health’s client roster includes Astellas, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Sanofi. Dugan will lead offices based in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia, and will report to Publicis Health CEO Alexandra von Plato.

In the announcement, Von Plato said Dugan's "consumer marketing and media experience as well as her exquisitely contemporary understanding of both HCPs and patients make her the perfect leader to guide Razorfish Health into the future.”