The unique analytics challenge of pharmaceutical marketing – Part 1

hand-1106934_960_720Claravine interviewed Dominic Tassone of the Indegene Encima Group for this two-part series focused on the unique campaign tracking challenges faced by marketers in the pharmaceutical industry. Part one covers the challenge, and part two will explore potential solutions.
Claravine: What makes the challenge of marketing analytics in the pharmaceutical industry unique?
DT: Within pharma, you find all the usual challenges of tracking digital marketing that any team faces, compounded by an unusual level of added regulatory complexity.
The core problem facing any team is keeping all of the tracking codes and parameters used for click tracking organized. This gets very complicated when you have lots of different marketing channels. And it gets more complicated when you start talking about multiple agencies and multiple channel owners, or different agencies for different channels, or potentially multiple agencies within one channel.
For example, for a single product, Company A may have one agency running display advertising targeting healthcare professionals, and another doing direct-to-consumer advertising. Two different agencies, potentially two different ad servers. And both of these agencies are running paid search, social media, email promotions…completely separately, but under the same brand. It’s up to the analytics team to ensure that all of these groups abide by a core, standardized convention for tracking. Because when it comes to the response side (measuring and comparing the impact of different ad vehicles), if you want to make any sense of it at all, it’s essential that all these participants use the same tracking conventions, routed to the site analytics platform of record, enterprise-wide.
It’s easy enough for one team to deploy a site analytics system and a tag management system alongside it, but that’s a one-to-many kind of thing (the “normal” situation that many companies face, one platform with lots of different users). Within pharma you have a many-to-many situation, with a constellation of agencies and in-house marketers working within and across channels, each potentially using their own analytics and tag management systems. In a situation like that, it becomes much more urgent to pay attention to the details, and to make sure that all are working from the same tracking parameters. Otherwise, it becomes the ultimate “garbage in, garbage out” situation.
Claravine: I’m starting to understand why this is such a difficult space to market in. Do you think most marketers who enter the pharma market are prepared for this challenge?
DT: In the current market, I like to say that we’ve given most digital pharma marketers just enough rope to hang themselves with. They now have all these tools for accountability and tracking, and an uninitiated marketer may make the assumption that everything is going to be tracked right. But that’s a dangerous assumption. It’s not always possible to track everything right. And then you add the periodic onboarding of new agencies, or turnover within agencies, or just turnover internally (churn within digital teams can be sizable). Sometimes the standards you think you have today may walk out the door, and they may not be there tomorrow. It is an ongoing challenge to manage the teams, processes and technology.
These issues cause headaches for any digital marketer concerned with granular on-page engagement tracking. But the daily complexities for pharma teams in particular scream loudly for more automation. You need one standard process and one repository for data that can be accessed and used by multiple parties, despite different agendas and strategies. They can still have their own priorities and methods. But when it comes to tracking, you can’t wing it or improvise, otherwise you get garbage in the reporting.
Many of these channels have a ton of money flowing through them, and depend heavily on clickthrough measurement (viewthrough presents yet another, separate challenge). Over time, there are just so many fail points that can happen between the campaign going live and data being captured in the analytics system. Clickthrough URLs should not be the place where the failure happens. Theoretically at least, that is something that’s within the client’s operational control. In practice, a lot of clients rely on their agencies to police themselves. Sometimes agencies do a good job of that, but sometimes they don’t; and if that’s the case, you can find yourself looking busy, producing ads, blowing lots of money, and ignoring the fact that you are unable to track some large portion, or perhaps all of the data.

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