Top 10 Predictions for 2014

Each year, I use this column to publish my annual predictions for the New Year. To judge for yourself how I’ve done, review my predictions from last year at

Prediction #1: The Affordable Care Act (ACA) will change the face of pharma marketing. As the rollout of the ACA continues to unfold, the impact will be felt throughout every healthcare organization from the small practice to the large health system. The very nature of how healthcare services and medications are paid for and reimbursed is changing, but with those changes come far more patients who will have healthcare coverage.

Prediction #2: Focus on outcomes will be the key driver of change. While the ACA brings many changes, the main theme of a more intense focus on outcomes—and the shifts toward reimbursing for such—present both opportunities and threats. The industry has focused on “me too” brands for too long, and those brands that don’t offer a discernable difference or a more affordable outcome will suffer. But unique agents that can clearly demonstrate their results and cost advantages will thrive with a larger pool of covered patients.

Prediction #3: The empowered patient demands service. DTC marketing will shift from “tell them” to “serve them” as pharma develops a keener sense of the importance of deep customer service and true patient education and takes early steps towards becoming an on-demand information provider.

Prediction #4: As mobile utilization continues to thrive, it will become impossible to ignore. While pharma is unlikely to overcome its legacy issues regarding the display of fair balance within a much smaller screen, it will take early, but aggressive steps in experimenting with mobile.

Prediction #5: Total CRM integration of “all things marketing” rules the day as pharma attempts to gather its own set of “Big Data.” Companies such as Veeva and IMS’s Appature are empowering pharma to reposition itself from a sales-centric to a marketing-centric business. Personalization of media is a natural outgrowth of this Big Data set.

Prediction #6: Pharma will comply with the Sunshine Act as well as other calls for transparency. Transparency is more than just in vogue—it is a requirement in many aspects of pharma marketing today. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and some marketing practices will change because they are not worth the public relations risks that follow perception.

Prediction #7: Authenticating prescribers and retargeting based on digital contextual knowledge will become an increasing portion of the professional advertising and marketing spend.

Prediction #8: Programmatic bidding becomes more main stream as media becomes further divided between contextual targeting and audience targeting. This change both empowers clients to do more direct buying and also encourages them to do so as ad agency business models become conflicted through managing their own exchange platforms.

Prediction #9: Client relationships and dependence on ad agencies start to erode due to several ongoing trends including the emergence of CRM-based marketing data centers (which are viewed as an internal core competency), the realignment of pharma from a sales to a marketing focus, the relative ease of buying audiences and media online, and the expanding conflicts of interest that are emerging in agency business models as they fight to avoid disruption.

Prediction #10: While there is little doubt that big changes lie ahead as we shift towards outcomes-based medicine, pharma’s best days are ahead of it as we get back to our roots—helping patients manage their conditions and making a difference in patients’ lives.


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