Driving experiential digital engagement within pharma

Hannah Blake interviews Dominic Marchant and Matt Lowe

Creston Health and DJM Digital Solutions

As we near the end of our digital month, we speak with Dominic Marchant and Matt Lowe around the subject of experiential digital engagement and how these types of new digital technology can shape the pharma industry.

In today’s competitive market, brands are constantly trying to find new ways to build awareness and customer engagement. Digital has been at the forefront of this engagement for the past decade or so, primarily since the splash of social media channels, such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and Youtube (and that’s to name a few). While it’s fair to say the pharmaceutical industry’s social networking uptake has been slow, mainly due to regulatory concerns, it’s not an industry to shy away from trying out different digital engagement platforms.

The emergence of experiential digital within pharma proves this. This powerful digital marketing tool is all about creating personal experiences, using the senses, which allows customers to experience the benefits of a brand, product or service through interaction and engagement.

One company using this digital strategy is DJM Digital Solutions, whose latest project, in conjunction with the Creston Health group of companies, is a holographic presentation with the CEO of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), Stephen Whitehead. This interactive setup enables users to ask Stephen frequently asked questions, such as, “What is innovation in medicine?” on a touchscreen and a holographic recording of Stephen appears in front of you to answer.

“It’s essential that the ABPI is seen as innovative and up to speed with technologies used across the digital spectrum, not only to align with the changes its members are implementing, but also to ensure it is using the most relevant and engaging channels to get its key messages across.”

Stephen Whitehead, CEO of the ABPI.

To take a look at an example of this holographic presentation, please press the play button below:

To find out more about how pharma can use experiential digital strategies, we spoke with Matt Lowe, Head of Digital, Creston Health, and Dominic Marchant, Managing Director, DJM Digital Solutions, who share their thoughts on how it can shape the industry.

Interview summary

HB: Hi Matt (ML) and Dominic (DM), it’s great to speak with you today. So how did the Stephen Whitehead, ABPI, hologram come about?

ML: The Creston Health group of companies had just joined the ABPI as an Associate Member, and as part of the discussions we had with them we found a common desire to embrace digital. We therefore suggested the idea of the hologram to Stephen and he agreed.

HB: How was the hologram used, and how well was it received?

ML: The hologram was used at the ABPI annual conference in April of this year. The virtual Stephen Whitehead was set up by the main doors to the main hall and was available throughout the day. Delegates could ask questions of the ABPI CEO via a touchscreen: once a question was selected, the hologram launched into life and the virtual Stephen would give his answer. Notably, one of the main questions on the touchscreen was locked until after Stephen has delivered his keynote speech. Many delegates therefore returned to the installation later in the day to view the recently unlocked question.

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“…as long as we do not trivialise the message, digital experiential tactics can add to much of the messaging within the pharma marketing mix.”

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DM: I think most people were a little shocked at first! Particularly when Stephen himself was standing nearby – the real and the virtual versions of the same man in the same room caused a few to scratch their heads. However, the main response was that it was great to see the ABPI doing something innovative, informative and, above all else, fun!

HB: What was the inspiration behind the project?

DM: DJM has produced several holographic experiences with key opinion leaders and mode of action videos for some years. In fact, we produced a hologram of a KOL for Matt Lowe, when he was client side, for use in meetings launching a new drug. We have been working closely with Creston Health companies over the past few years and, when the opportunity came up to do something at the Annual conference, Matt and I both thought that it was an ideal opportunity to deliver something with real standout. Holograms are not new but the technology has come on leaps and bounds in the past years.

ML: That’s right, in the music and arts world there have been some great examples where holograms have been used to add real theatre to live events, for the likes of Christian Louboutin and Mariah Carey. Why not use the same technology, albeit on a smaller scale, to provide an interactive element to the key date in the ABPI’s calendar.

HB: How do you think experiential digital can be used within the pharma industry?

DM: I believe that, as long as we do not trivialise the message, digital experiential tactics can add to much of the messaging within the pharma marketing mix. By allowing customers to engage with innovative technology to experience key messages in a fun and interactive manner, a story can be told with greater message / brand recall. There is also the halo effect: innovative technologies used in marketing communications often lend the customer to consider the brand being promoted as innovative by proxy. In all the exit polls we have run at some of our key installations, the overwhelming majority of customers want this kind of communication media.

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“The main issue is staying on top of the new technology and seeing where the opportunities are for pharma to harness the potential.”

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HB: What other technologies are emerging in experiential digital which could push the digital space further?

DM: Augmented reality, gesture recognition hardware, multi-touch giant video walls and, of course, 3D. The main issue is staying on top of the new technology and seeing where the opportunities are for pharma to harness the potential. Games, for example, are a great way of getting users to learn more about conditions and / or treatment options. However, the game itself has to be good, and by that, I mean be a great user experience! People have to want to play it and this is where the new technology can help. We have just produced a new installation called Augmented Reflection, which uses 2-way mirrors to allow projections to appear on what appears to the user as a normal mirror. The result is an immersive experience that customers have great fun playing with and want to discover more and more of the content by virtue of the enjoyment of just using the kit. Never underestimate the power of fun!

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About the interviewees:

Matt Lowe, Head of Digital, Creston Health

Winner of the inaugural Pharma Times Digital Innovator of the year award 2012, Matt Lowe brings over 11 years pharmaceutical experience to the Creston Health Group, with a superb understanding of the digital channels marketing teams are looking to exploit in order to maximise the exposure of their brands.

Matt has worked across several commercial sectors in pharmaceuticals including sales, learning, development and marketing and has a superb understanding of the ingredients needed to achieve success across complex organizations, emphasizing the effective integration of digital across these sectors.

Matt currently works across all four companies in Creston Health, which allows him to understand which digital solution is best suited for each client and their bespoke campaigns, whilst keeping up-to-speed with the latest digital innovations.

Dominic Marchant, Managing Director, DJM Digital Solutions

As Managing Director and founder of DJM Digital Solutions Ltd, he oversees a full service digital agency of 28 employees providing digital strategy and digital creative solutions to clients in the healthcare and FMCG sectors.

DJM’s clients range from UK to Global and include Coca-Cola, Panasonic, AstraZeneca, GSK, and Shire as well as those in the not-for-profit sector. Dom has been a member of the Interactive Media Council Inc. since 2007 and is frequently on the judging panel of digital and interactive awards. He is a regular speaker at international conferences on the subject of digital marketing and has written a number of reports and papers on digital strategy.

How can pharma harness the full potential of the digital space?