Drug Companies Need Reputation Rx

According to a recent Gallup poll, the public has "a dimmer view of the pharmaceutical industry than they do of the advertising / public relations sector, if you can imagine such a thing," writes Mark Dolliver. "When a top-selling pain reliever like Vioxx is pulled off the market for increasing patients' risk of heart attack or stroke, consumers take note." Loreen Babcock, who heads Omnicom Group's "relationship-marketing agency" Unit 7, says drug companies should use social media to improve their public image. She notes Johnson & Johnson's use of YouTube, and Novartis' contest for the best consumer-generated flu vaccine video, also on YouTube. "This effort leverages the fact that consumers trust other consumers more than company spokespersons," explains Babcock. In PR parlance, that's called the third party technique. Another trend is "an increasing emphasis on conveying [drug] information to the people who want it, as opposed to the public en masse." Marketer Lynn Day predicts that drug companies are "going to be providing much more targeted and educational approaches" than traditional direct-to-consumer advertising.