Big Pharma grows online, slowly

Welcome to the revolution--the social media revolution, that is. Big Pharma is finally joining the party, AdAge reports, with a 36 percent increase in internet-media spending in 2008. Though plenty of folks consider drugmakers' arrival to be too little, too late--even after that 36 percent hike, pharma still spent only $137 million online--the trade pub allows that FDA regulation makes it tough for them to be early adopters.

Some of the mag's examples of pharma's forays online: Johnson & Johnson has a blog; AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim and Novartis send out company news via Twitter; Sanofi-Aventis and AstraZeneca have relatively new YouTube channels. We'd add that Pfizer and Roche both tweet news, too. You pharma-marketing experts know of more examples, few and far between though they are.

Buried in the AdAge story is a case study that shows how tough it can be for Big Pharma online. It took eight months of meetings and a team of 15 to 20 company types from several departments to get AstraZeneca's YouTube channel for Symbicort online.

With the pitfalls of online marketing all too apparent, now that FDA sent out those infamous warning letters on search-engine ads, expect pharma's social media and other internet efforts to remain incremental and slow. Unless those of you who are lobbying FDA for some clarity on online marketing rules--you know who you are--get the agency moving. Then, the revolution could really be on.

- read the AdAge story