by Andy Levitt

HealthTalker CEO Andy Levitt continues his trek across the US, hitting a slew of pharma meetings and speaking at a handful of them. Here’s his wrap up of the DTC Perspectives conference in Livingston, New Jersey.

The pharma Fall conference season is in full swing, and today I am happy to be in New Jersey to attend Bob Ehrlich’s semi-annual DTC program with about 200 other pharma-focused colleagues over the next two days. This year’s theme is “DTC in the Era of Consumer Choice.”

On many levels, I was excited to hear what presenters had to say this afternoon. There was wide consensus from each speaker that consumers are in control of how they choose to consume media. Health-focused consumers, much like the general population, have an endless amount of media distractions and choices, making the job of marketers that much more challenging to capture their precious and limited attention. This harsh reality calls into question the value of traditional reach and frequency media buys, and places greater emphasis on engagement and impact.

Mike Bloxham of Ball State University gave a compelling review of media usage trends. His academic analysis pointed to the way “my media,” as defined by a consumer, has shifted from passive to active over the past few years, pointing to the rise of e-mail, increased use of DVRs, infiltration of mobile phones, and the pervasiveness of social networks.

Of all that was discussed this afternoon, I found Mike’s themes most actionable for pharma marketers, and thus bear repeating here in summary form:

  1. People are talking about you and your brand.
  2. You, the marketer, has “next to no control.” Best to embrace this fact and feed on it so you can learn over time and enhance relationships with consumers who want them with you and your brand.
  3. Conventional push methods of advertising will have limited success. Wise marketers will consider what they would do without traditional advertising as a viable tactic.
  4. The right to a sustained presence with consumers has to be earned. It is no longer about your brand or the condition it treats; it is about the individual and what matters to them.
  5. Consumers know you have an agenda with your marketing efforts. Best to acknowledge it, and offer something more, of greater value, to keep them engaged.

Fans of Seth Godin will recognize the themes of Permission Marketing in what Mike said today. The advice is spot-on, and has key implications for how marketing needs to evolve in this new era of consumer choice.

We’ve heard this before, right? But wait!

According to an eMarketer report presented by Stu Klein of Lowe, over 50 percent of executives report having zero personal experience with a social network. Perhaps this is the route of the problem? It’s hard to drive innovation within a company if you aren’t aware of the options that your brand managers recommend.

So, if you fall into that category, too, then today is a great day to change that. Dive in and begin to learn what’s out there. You might look at or to help you begin to see new marketing avenues that can create true value for your brand.