Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Why More Advertising People Should Consider Going Into Pharma Or DTC

It is amazing how many advertising account people at all levels tell me that they are not interested in pharma. Their reasons are that the advertising is too dull, too restricted and it lacks creativity.  I think many of these people have merely heard this from others in the business, but have no idea what pharma advertising is or could be. It is one of those things that get passed from one person to another  with minimal basis in fact.

Among other positive things, pharma advertising is one area of the business which has shown consistent growth over the last several decades.  There is no indication that this growth will slow down.  This means that there is constant hiring.  My observation has been that the pharma agencies and the general agencies handling direct to consumer advertising are actually more stable than many other aspects of the business.  I believe that these accounts are less apt to go into review, meaning that there may be more job security. 
Beyond that, the DTC accounts and pharmaceutical companies are more apt to talk to and hire people with no category experience than other general advertising accounts. (This may not be true of direct to physician accounts which might require considerable technical knowledge.)

What should motivate advertising people, especially those in account management or planners is the strategic challenge on any account.  There are plenty of those challenges in pharma and DTC.  

In terms of creativity, well, as they say, “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder”.  While pharma advertising is highly regulated, there is room for creativity. It merely requires a willing client and an agency with an innovative creative team.  There are many examples of successful and excellent creative work.  And the truth is, when a product fulfills a true consumer need – treating heart disease, alleviating pain, etc. – the product doesn’t require a lot of clever executions to communicate its benefits.  As the great Ned Viseltear put it, “Cure for cancer found” does not require a large type face or a complicated headline. 

And, besides, what could be better than selling a product that fulfills a true consumer need and has a real benefit?

There is another great irony.  For the most part, people who join pharma agencies or work on DTC accounts mostly enjoy the work and the challenges their brands present. One of my favorite accomplishments while I was in advertising was winning an Effie for handling a product for head lice, Rid (at the time made by Pfizer).  It was not only a difficult marketing issue, but creating a commercial and executing it was actually fun.

I am not advocating that everyone go into pharma advertising, but I do think that people shouldn’t deny themselves an opportunity to find out what the challenges are if the opportunity it is presented to them.  Too many account people turn down the chance to talk to agencies about these kinds of accounts.  They are doing themselves a disservice.

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