Almost two years ago now, I left the world of retail agencies to join up with a specialist: one of the leading healthcare marketing organizations in the world. It was a good opportunity to refocus on digital and innovation, but, I'll admit:
I was pretty nervous about it.
I had the same question almost every job candidate I talk to now asks: What's it like to work for pharma (often asked with a grimace)?
If there's an industry out there with a black hat, it's this one.
Pick your complaint: cost, claims, commercials that warn of anal leakage. (ew)
Working inside this industry, though - it's a completely different story. And, the gap, I think is what regulations can do to communications.
Here's what I like about it:
I've never been closer to my customer:
Close your eyes and think of a patient. Chances are that word brings to mind someone in a hospital gown shuffling down a hospital hallway. The truth is that most "patients" are people out living their lives who happen to also have a chornic or acute disease to deal with. Getting that context that keeps real people at the center of what we do requires a lot of listening. I've read blog posts to packed conference rooms like a preacher at a pulpit. Watched patient advocates paint (literally) pictures of what the experience is really like. LIstened to survivors talk about how being diagnosed changed how they and their families live their lives... it is incredibly powerful stuff that will completely change perspectives and create better, more advocacy-minded work.
Or more challenged to figure out how to make a big idea work:
If you've ever worked in a highly-regulated industry (finance, military, health), you know the easiest answer is no. The hurdles are high. The rewards in the distance (and the reprecussions close in).
Getting a big new idea through the system can seem daunting, if not impossible. Creating the business case, the compelling experience, the can't-miss storytelling around a new technology, a new tool, a new market is harder here than it is anywhere (and it's that much more rewarding when it pays off for the people we ultimately serve).
All in an industry that really is changing people's lives
90% of new treatments and drugs are created by private industry (plus/minus depending on whose numbers you look at - either way, most). Those new treatments extend and improve life: In the last two decades of the 20th century, new medicines accounted for 40% of the increase in life expectancy in more than 50 countries (Columbia University economist Frank Lichtenberg). In other words, for every year that life expectancy has increased, five months can be attributed to the availability of new medicines.
Believe it or not, marketing plays a significant role is making these new drugs available. Physicians are busier now than ever - longer days, more patients, more paperwork. The time they spend in the exam room is down to an average of 7 minutes/person. The treatments they rely on tend to be the ones they learned in residency. Bringing innovation to the practice, well, that's what we do here.
Is it perfect? No way. No business is. But I'll take this over selling you a holiday ham most any day.