Last week I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at the Fleming eMarketing conference in Barcelona.  It turned out to be a very interesting and fun conference – great insights, great presenters, fabulous location and social focus!

Two of the fabulous presenters - the John Mack and Emma Darcy

Two of the fabulous presenters – the John Mack and Emma Darcy

First let’s start with a disclaimer – given my somewhat dodgy memory I will be writing this up based largely on my tweets (a further demonstration of the value of Twitter) so there may be some bias towards speakers who spoke while I still had battery!

The conference included the normal rhetoric around the need for the industry to change, get on board the social media train (which has now left the station) and start taking digital far more seriously.  This was nicely balanced with some great insights and case studies – showing that some companies are already very comfortably onboard the said social media train and other have already implemented the organisational changes needed to be truly effective in digital.

Shona Davies, from Merck, gave a very insightful presentation around Univadis, showing how a non-promotional digital, global presence can bring value to a pharma company.  Univadis is also a great example of a global service / tool that is localised and adapted by local markets – providing value at local value whilst following a strict global branding guideline.  There is also flexibility at local level to try out new offerings or to ignore new global offerings based around what works in the local market.  Univadis’s global klout also helps with partnerships, bringing access to global publications to local markets – as well as helping well known local publications, such as the Lancet, gain global klout and audiences.  Another important factor that came out during this presentation was that “Univadis is well placed to engage at a time when face-to-face engagement is getting harder.”

Haider Alleg from Gedeon Richter, shared some great information around global / local process and implementation and co-operation.  What I found particularly exciting was when he talked about how he had got HR involved in the digital process to look at changing the reward and recognition system to accommodate the changes needed for successful digital implementation, for example long term goals and co-operation.

There was also some emotive talks about patients and participatory medicine.  The delightful Emma Darcy gave a fascinating presentation about the changes we are seeing as a result of behavioural and technological changes.  She talked about how we have gone from information overload to engagement overload – however as an industry we are doing nothing to help physicians and patients to deal with this.    She also made a fantastic point – namely that the pharma industry is now facing new competitive pressures, not from within the industry but from outside the industry, in the shape of companies innovating to get a part of the healthcare “pie”.  As Emma said this must be a wake up call for pharma.   Another great quote from Emma was around multi-channel: “it’s not about multichannel – it’s about me!” – flagging that the essence of multichannel is about individual channel preferences.

Xavier Olba from Sanofi made a very good point when he said that at Sanofi digital is part of the value proposition – it is no longer just about the drugs.  Sanofi has been demonstrating this through some of their innovative use of digital – offering new technology products to support patient in their key therapeutic areas, such as diabetes. Cancer survivor, Andrew Schorr, gave a very powerful presentation around the power of the internet and social media for patients, highlighted by the fact that he felt he would not be alive today had it not been for the internet, and the experts he was introduced to via digital connections.  This was such a fantastic point that pharma really could learn from and should be listening to – and as John Mack said “you can’t really argue with a cancer survivor”!

Nicolas Pokorny did a great job of following this emotive presentation by giving a fascinating perspective on the impact of behaviour on the industry.  He pointed out that it is all about emotions and behaviour.  He quite rightly pointed out that everything is “based on behaviour and personal decisions, Pharma often underestimates feelings and emotions”.  I think this is so true!  Personally I often see a huge emphasis on analytics and numbers – with decisions being based purely on this highly impersonal, quantative approach, and not taking into account that we are human beings and we are very emotional beings.  There is plenty of research showing that humans often do not make rational decisions – i.e. they    do not follow the decision the numbers predict.  To be truly effective we really need to start bringing in far more of this human, emotional element to our decision making – especially in multi-channel decisions.

One final comment made by Nicolas was that smart companies invest profit into innovation.  I love this point and I think this sums up the feeling coming across from many of the presenters, myself included.  We need to start investing in the future, and not the present.  We need to start changing the way we work as an industry to be ready for the future – because before we know it the future will be now and as we stand as an industry now – we are not ready for that “today” – we are in fact not even ready for the present today – still too focused on old business practices and process.  It is time pharma leapfrogged to meet the future head on – here and now.

And finally the highlight of the event for me?  Well I think the photo says it all!

Wine at lunchtime - love it!

Wine at lunchtime – love it!

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