Pharmaceutical Content: How To Promote Your Products Within The Regulatory Box

The advertisement of medical or pharmacological offerings in South Africa is strictly regulated by a multitude of different laws and industry codes and regulations that could restrict pharmaceutical companies from promoting their products creatively. This ranges from the Medicines and Related Substances Act 101 of 1965 (the Medicines Act), to the Marketing Code Authority (MCA) SA Code of Marketing Practice. We share some insights gained from our work for one of South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical manufacturers, that is listed on the JSE exchange.

 

Ensure You Can Substantiate What You State

A lesson that we quickly had to learn, is that there are myriad of complex regulations that pharmacos have to comply with that basically comes down to one core principle: never make any claims or state any facts, unless you are able to substantiate it via a recognised and credible source.

Also, for the sake of compliance, you have to note and record a bibliography of your content sources in a comprehensive and acceptable format, that must be available for review by the relevant authorities, at all times.

In short, your content must be 100% factually correct with proof of it, and it must be vetted, authenticated – and finally approved by the pharmaco’s compliance division.

 

Consider The Stigmas Attached To Medical Conditions

Even though this is slowly but surely changing in these modern times, one cannot get away from the reality that medical issues are often still stigmatised, or they form sensitive topics that consumers are not comfortable to discuss openly. It is therefore of the utmost importance to take this into cognisance in the way you deliver your content to the market.

We find that the best way to counteract this issue, is by providing useful content that informs and educates your target audiences on what and why this is happening to them, that highlights that they are not alone in this and by offering specialist tips and solutions for treatment or management of the condition in an authentically caring manner. This video by Dr Lonnie Herman is a good example of expert advice delivered after treating a person in his early 30s, with debilitating vertigo, who has gone through unsuccessful treatment, after unsuccessful treatment

Simply put, become a go-to source of genuinely helpful content to educate, inform and demystify potentially embarrassing medial conditions – and provide assurance to your audiences.

 

Showcase That Your Work Is Meaningful

Too many consumers still regard pharmacos as money-driven corporates who are out to exploit patients for their personal and financial gain only. Take your target audience on the journey with you, by publishing thought leadership articles from time-to-time, that explains the resources and time required for medicine to be legally approved and patented. Make sure they understand the importance of the extensive clinical trials that need to be conducted and the thorough research that has to be executed.

Also use every opportunity to showcase how you engage with your world and how your business makes a positive impact at every touchpoint; including your staff, stakeholders, communities and the environment. The following article by Aspen Pharmacare is a great example of that:  https://www.aspenpharma.com/2018/02/12/business-education-community-its-in-our-dna/.

In a nutshell, be transparent that medicinal products do come at a cost to ensure consumers receive the best possible treatment, but that it is that very possibility of changing lives and alleviating suffering – that drives your business and everything you do.

 

Do Not Hesitate To Discuss Those Taboo Topics

Consumers are becoming more educated and are utilising the internet to become more educated about those typically taboo topics and to take control of their issues and lifestyles. It can only be to a pharmacos benefit to be brave enough to tackle those topics directly and openly, even though tastefully.

Pfizer Pharmaceuticals recently aired the first TV ad on Viagra on a UK TV channel. By doing so, they conveyed the message that it is okay for men to have erectile dysfunctions as no less than 4.3 million other men in the UK experience the same issue. The ad also demonstrates how Viagra could solve real life problems and reconnect married couples. Take a look at the ad here: https://www.iol.co.za/news/world/watch-first-viagra-ad-aired-on-uk-tv-15173537

Locally, Stayfree’s Facebook page demonstrates how one can tastefully address another generally off-limits topic, which is female hygiene issues, engage your audience, promote your product and showcase the good work of your company. Follow this link to see how they do it: https://web.facebook.com/stayfreeafrica/

Essentially, straight-shooting about those medical conditions no one else wants to talk about, can help pharmacos catch the attention of their target audiences and gain a competitive edge.

 

Engage The Medical Healthcare Professionals Consistently

The secret of top pharmacos is that they never lose sight of the critical role that healthcare professionals (HCPs) play in the promotion of their products. Consumers more often than not, solely rely on the recommendations of their pharmacist, GP, or HCP. Whilst you do want to eventually get consumers to specifically ask for your product, it is the healthcare professionals you need to court the hardest.  

It is therefore imperative to equip your sales force with the necessary sales tools and material to distribute strategically and to do so frequently and consistently, to keep your products top-of-mind amongst the HCPs.

The most crucial takeaway from this is that your marketing budget needs to planned sensibly, to ensure that a relevant portion of it is allocated where it will yield the quickest wins and the greatest ROI – which could very likely be among HCPs.

 

Ultimately, The X-factor, Is The Human Factor

Truth is, with the league of restrictions that affect the advertising of schedule medicines in South Africa, pharmacos cannot truly diagnose, offer treatment solutions or punt their products directly.

But what you can do, is focus on the human aspect of the condition. Be sure to design your campaigns to speak to people’s emotions, touch on the aspects of their daily lives that are affected by their condition and show your understanding and empathy of it.

Remember, as a pharmaco, you are not selling a product, you are selling a solution to a human condition. So be sure to switch that clinical speak and tone, to a real and personal tone to engage your audiences effectively.

 

For more information or assistance with designing campaigns or creating content for the pharmaceutical space, feel free to contact BWD Advertising on +27 (11) 321 0193 or email bongani@bwdadvertising.co.za.