Point-of-care marketing could shoot past DTC as pharma's latest trend

ZS principal Hensley Evans

Point-of-care marketing (POC) could quickly overtake direct-to-consumer advertising as the pharma marketing trend du jour, according to a new study by ZS Associates. The firm estimates that consumer-focused POC marketing spend has shot up 10% annually since 2010 to $400 million this year, nearly 8 times the growth of DTC spending during the same period.

Pharma marketers have been targeting the captive audience in clinic waiting rooms for years. POC campaigns are relatively easy to produce, and the same materials can be used in multiple settings. But as aging baby boomers visit doctors more often and grow more receptive to health-based information, POC could become even more effective than other advertising mediums, ZS principal Hensley Evans told FiercePharmaMarketing.

"Higher risk patients, or patients that have multiple comorbidities, are having 14-plus doctors' visits each year," Evans said. "You're talking about close to 7 hours of waiting time where they're looking at health-related information. That's attractive to marketers and consumers."

Changing technology could also spur more growth in POC marketing. Costs are dropping and marketers can roll out campaigns quickly via new digital channels. Broadband connections and wireless connectivity are becoming less expensive, allowing marketers to use more devices in more settings, according to the ZS report. Drugmakers can now get their messages out through tablet devices, interactive wallboard and digital displays, whether in exam rooms or hospital waiting areas.

Marketers should pay attention to the medium as well as the message when rolling out a new POC campaign, Evans said. She mentioned the web analogy of 15 years ago, when pharma marketers first started building consumer-facing websites by repurposing material from print brochures. Numbers lagged, and marketers realized they needed to create materials for each specific channel. "The most successful POC is specifically tailored to the channel and not just repurposed from another consumer initiative," Evans said.

And instead of striking off with independent POC campaigns, marketers should integrate the strategy into their existing repertoires, Evans told FiercePharmaMarketing. POC marketing can complement ongoing sales initiatives, such as rep visits to physicians' offices, and link back to a broader campaign.

"Patients are seeing different communications from brands along their journey, so it's really useful to have point-of-care integrated with other touchpoints," Evans said. "As vendors continue to expand their scale and more specialized therapies come to market, the highly targeted nature of POC will be that much more important in reaching specific patient populations."

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