Industry working group to look at UK digital marketing
The PM Society has set up an industry working group to bring some much-needed clarity to the uncharted waters of digital pharma marketing in the UK.
The pharmaceutical industry is increasingly engaging with new media forms but UK companies have been unwilling to break new ground for fear of breaching the ABPI’s Code of Practice.
“We aim to help members understand the application of the Code,” Steve Gray, who leads the working group, explains.
“We are to look at ideas that members might want to see covered, but the intention is to provide something useful for the [pharma] industry as a whole.”
Gray, a member of the PM Society Committee who has worked for AstraZeneca, is now an independent consultant on compliance issues.
The group’s recommendations are expected before the end of the year, when they will be submitted to the ABPI’s arm’s length Code regulator the PMCPA for consideration regarding possible changes to the ABPI Code.
This could mean they are ready for inclusion in the 2010 version of the Code.
But Gray insists that the working group cannot expect wholesale changes to be made to the Code by the PMCPA.
“We don’t believe they’ll take what we’re saying word for word,” he says. “But we’ve got a wide range of companies, agencies and independent consultants involved.”
However, he admits that regulation, however up to date, can never match the pace of change in the digital arena.
“What the industry will want to do will always be ahead of what the Code can deliver,” he says.
Wide remit for working group
The initiative has been spun out of the society’s own ABPI Code workshops and discussions with the PMCPA.
Examples of the sorts of things the new group will look at include online sponsorship. “Right now, pharma companies find it incredibly difficult to go near any website,” says Gray.
Discussions will range from “the use of social media through to what’s the right way to get e-mail permissions”, he adds.
Across the global pharma industry the popularity of sites such as Facebook and Twitter, with corporate entities as well as individuals, has given rise to new challenges.
Nevertheless there are international examples of companies engaging with new media, such as Sanofi-Aventis’ online TV channel and Boehringer Ingelheim’s use of micro-blogging site Twitter, but little has come from the UK.
“The digital environment is progressing at a rapid rate of knots,” says Gray. “Even two years ago, people didn’t understand the power of social media.”
The PM Society believes that many people in the UK seem to be unclear as to what is allowed in digital advertising and communication.
It is anticipated that the group will discuss a number of topics including:
* Proactive and reactive communication
* Utilising blogs or Twitter
* Email permissions – how to secure and store them
* On-line logistics management sites (e.g. meetings)
* RSS & news feeds – provision and sponsorship
* Patient adherence/support programmes
The PM Society, which already hosts the sector’s Advertising Awards, recently launched a new event to acknowledge pharma’s increasing engagement with new media forms.
The inaugural Digital Media Awards will take place at a black-tie event on 1st October 2009 at The Brewery, London.
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