Profile: Faruk Capan

AI in Pharma Marketing

Today, it’s obvious to see why a solid foundation in technology is vital in order to be successful in pharmaceutical marketing. But twenty years ago, when candy-coloured iMacs with 4GB of storage were cutting-edge and Netscape Navigator was the browser of choice, it was a different story. In 1999, while the sweet sound of a dial-up modem accompanied our forays into the World Wide Web, Faruk Capan was taking a risk in Kansas City. It wouldn’t be his first, or his last. Raised in Istanbul, Turkey, Faruk came to Missouri for graduate studies, and then took an internship at Marion Merrell Dow (now Sanofi). Here, he was able to combine his IT education with a new appreciation for its potential – specifically, its potential to help patients in desperate need of information and support. The launch of the digital age ushered in new ways for patients to connect with each other, and for pharmaceutical brands to reach patients. Faruk built the first-ever online patient support portal, MSWatch. It gave patients with multiple sclerosis a place to connect, and to ask questions of healthcare professionals and the pharmaceutical brand. It was a major innovation – as well as a major challenge, as the team learned how to create and then manage an entirely new way of communicating with patients. In that process, Faruk learned the invaluable ins and outs of dealing with medical, legal, and regulatory review – how to test boundaries while responsibly helping patients and healthcare professionals. And he badly wanted to keep innovating. Very badly. Until one day, his boss said seven fateful words: “Maybe you should start your own company.” With no detailed plan, a six-month-old baby, and a desire to focus on what was then a very niche approach to pharmaceutical marketing, it didn’t seem like the best idea. But he did it. And today, Intouch’s very first client from 1999, Teva, has remained with the agency, who is now their full-service agency of record. Faruk calls Intouch a 20-year-old startup, because of his drive to ensure that the company adapts, changes, and evolves every year. They don’t look much like a startup anymore, though. Intouch Solutions is part of Intouch Group, a full-service agency network, with annual growth between 20-30%, annual revenue approaching $200 million, close to 1,000 employees across six affiliates, and offices in Kansas City, Chicago, New York, London, Mumbai, Boston, San Francisco, and San Diego. Last year alone, Intouch launched nine products, across 35 active accounts. And while the company continues to expand its acumen professionally, with a growing oncology focus and increasing investments in next-generation technology and relationships to build its ability to help clients make the most of marketing automation – Faruk ensures that Intouch stays driven. That drive to stay ahead of the pack led Intouch to embark upon a cross-country campaign called #ALLin to learn about the needs of patients, caregivers, and physicians from the individuals themselves. It has been the spark behind countless “Innovation Lab” sessions to help clients get to the insights that matter. And it was the impetus behind Intouch’s comprehensive diversity and inclusion program, launched last year to promote an inclusive culture, diversity of people, and educate Intouchers on how to cultivate a sense of belonging. This consistency is visible: the agency’s unique penchant and capability for embracing and seeking change, its tenacity for taking on major challenges, and its commitment to true innovation all show in its award-winning work. The agency is, according to Advertising Health magazine, one of the top 20 most creatively awarded healthcare agencies, with more than 460 awards and nominations. These include the Agency of the Year accolades for five years – an honour that celebrates creativity, strategic thinking, management strength, financials, account wins, and the ability to attract top talent. They also include being honored as the first ever Diversity & Inclusion Champion at the Med Ad News Manny Awards. And the acknowledgement comes from industry peers individually, as well as collectively. Earlier this year, Intouch and Regeneron’s “A Beautiful Pair” campaign for Eyelea was named one of the top 10 DTC campaigns of the year by Ogilvy CommonHealth’s chief creative officer, Samantha Dolin. Since that first pharma-sponsored patient-community portal, Intouch has had many other “firsts” as the agency helped the pharma industry to evolve and progress. They won the first Webby Award offered in the Pharmaceuticals category, and launched the industry’s first large-scale consumer iPhone app. Today, we all carry more power in our pockets than we could have dreamed of back in 1999. But some things haven’t changed, and the power to innovate that drives Faruk, and Intouch, is one of them.