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"There was a Web site, but it wasn't a two-way communication," said John Bellina, creative director for Tequila. "You could go there and read a lot of information, but there wasn't a way to enter into a dialogue."
Last week, the relaunched aricept.com made its debut by providing information to multiple audiences -- patients who think they might have Alzheimer's, physicians and caregivers, to whom the burden of the disease also falls.
The online component of pharmaceutical marketing is becoming as important as the direct-to-consumer TV and print ads, and savvy and demanding consumers more and more are using the Internet as an informational tool.
Earlier this year, Dr. Donald L. Sullivan, Ohio Northern University's associate professor of pharmacy practice, released the results of a survey to determine how customers preferred to see DTC advertising. While most were aware of the TV component of DTC advertising, 74% preferred a consumer-friendly question-and-answer format with limited medical technology. That is, they wanted information they could understand in either a print format or, better yet, on a Web site with its boundless space and interactive potential.
"There is an ever-increasing amount of precision in this communication," said Craig Douglass, partner in Cadient Group, a Conshohocken, Pa.-based online pharmaceutical-marketing firm. "Maybe online isn't as rich, media-wise, as TV or print. But there's a directness. People call it the 'lean forward' medium, because people are leaning forward in their chair, looking at the computer and digesting all the information."
Primary target: caregiver
TBWA/Chiat/Day and Tequila found that with Aricept. "We spent a lot of time in focus groups and, in all honesty, found that the primary target [of the Web site] was the caregiver," said Rachel Olderman, account director at Tequila. "You have to be aggressive and inspire them to take action without scaring them."
It's part of the same message that Aricept delivers in its TV and print campaigns.
Creating a 'dialogue'
Said Victor Imbimbo, TBWA/Chiat/Day's executive group director for health care: "When you deal with TV, you have a tremendous reach and can convey an emotional message. Print goes one step in a different direction, allowing you the time to absorb all the elements in the ad. When you take it a step further, you have a Web site. Aricept is a 24/7 tool because Alzheimer's is a very complex disease. The key to the online element is to help consumers get through the process to make the best decision for their care, but also to create a dialogue."
Creating the site is one step; the next is driving people there. Fair balance in DTC advertising calls for providing a vehicle to further information, including a Web address, toll-free number, where the print ads are commonly appearing and the advice to talk to your doctor.
On the Web, banner ads on other sites can often drive consumers to a specific company or drug site.
"You want that proximity," said Mike Guarini, managing director of WPP Group's Ogilvy & Mather Healthcare Practice, which handles such accounts as Merck's Zocor and Schering-Plough's Claritin. "Your target audience can be on a sports site or iVillage or webMD, but you want to be placed in proximity to people who are seeking health-care information."