Doctors' orders

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Often forgotten in all the commotion surrounding pharmaceutical advertising is the marketing whose goal is to win the approval of physicians and pharmacists. Though it's a vital part of the pharma marketing machine, the professional side is perhaps most interesting for what it doesn't do: namely, churn out big, emotive campaigns designed to beat down a stigma or turn a remedy into a lifestyle choice.

Instead, professional marketing, by design, is just the facts.

"Advertising is really the wrong word for what we do," says Al Nickel, chairman-CEO of Omnicom Group's Lyons Lavey Nickel Swift, which works on Pfizer's oncology drugs as well as Zoloft, Zyrtec and Aricept. "It's all about information."

The creative that comes out of Mr. Nickel's New York agency is more likely to involve, say, a reprint of an article about groundbreaking research in a peer-reviewed journal or a product monograph than a slick ad. The reasoning is that such simple information is what will help the sales force make its case to physicians who require facts and figures before they prescribe a new drug.

"They don't want glitzy sales pieces," says Lyons Lavey President Steven Wice. "They want the stuff that will get doctors up to speed. Doctors don't like to admit it, but they rely on the pharmaceutical companies to get their information on the drugs because they don't have the time to get it themselves."

Accuracy is key, down to every comma and decimal place on dosage information. Lyons Lavey staffers by and large possess either pharma backgrounds or medical education. For instance, Mr. Wice has a master's degree in genetics and cell biology, while Mr. Nickel worked for Pfizer before going to the agency side.

Pfizer encourages Lyons Lavey staffers to communicate as much as possible with the sales force to find what's working with doctors; physicians are typically looking for information about drugs as well as practice management and patient education materials.

Lyons Lavey also works closely with Pfizer's consumer ad agencies, getting copies of direct-to-consumer ads or storyboards in front of physicians before the advertising breaks so there are no surprises.

"It all works synergistically," says Dorothy Wetzel, VP-consumer marketing group at Pfizer. "If we are successful in getting [consumers] to go into the doctor's office and ask about, say, Lipitor, and the doctor isn't convinced that the research is out there, then they're not going to get Lipitor."

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