Experiential digital: welcome to augmented reality pharma

Experiential digital technology, including immersive and interactive techniques like augmented reality, heralds significant potential for the pharma industry in offering new ways to interact with physicians and patients, so Dominic Marchant speaks to pharmaphorum to explain how this space is shaping up.

In our everyday lives digital is getting increasingly interactive, not just in a sense of how much time we spend online but also how we are engaging with the virtual world. Devices such as the Nintendo Wii started a trend away from using simple controllers and keyboards towards more intelligent control, whilst the recent resurgence of 3-dimensional movies highlights our desire to be more immersed in the media experience.

Such ‘experiential’ technologies herald the start of a new age where the way in which we consume media, learn and share digital experiences is set to irrevocably change. But these technologies are now moving beyond games and movies into the business world, with augmented reality techniques playing a key role in modern advertising.

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“But is there a place for experiential digital in the world of pharma?”

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But is there a place for experiential digital in the world of pharma? Although their application here is relatively new, early indications suggest these approaches could become an important way in which healthcare providers, patients and the industry interact, provided they are applied in the right way. So pharmaphorum caught up with Dominic Marchant, from digital agency DJM Digital, to find out more about how experiential digital is being used by pharma.

Interview summary

PT: What does the term experiential digital mean?

DM: Experiential digital is a term used to define an ever-growing number of tools that are used, predominantly in an offline environment, where technology is used to deliver an engaging user experience. I guess the main area of differentiation from other areas of digital is that experiential digital involves the environment around it and the users’ participation in that environment: projection mapping, augmented reality, virtual reality, holograms, and touch-less and touchscreen interfaces are all relevant examples. The main area of interest for me is the emotive response users have to many of these tactics and the level of brand/message recall after the experience.

PT: How much is pharma currently using experiential digital techniques to engage with doctors and patients?

DM: In an industry where product differentiation is often marginal and the general noise in most disease areas is so high, it is important that drug companies look to new ways to engage with customers and patients. It is of no surprise then that many of the above techniques are used particularly in face-to-face events to communicate clinical and sales messages to HCPs.

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“…it is important that drug companies look to new ways to engage with customers and patients.”

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However, there are a few notable examples in disease awareness campaigns too, including:

•&nbsp,&nbsp,Augmented reflection to highlight generalised anxiety disorder (GAD).

•&nbsp, The anti-smoking AR lungs website, demonstrating the harmful effects of smoking via augmented reality.

•&nbsp,&nbsp,Questival.com, a site for teenage haemophiliacs that uses augmented reality to educate them about living with the condition.

• &nbsp,Use of Kinect in rehabilitation, such as the example last year where the device was used to help a stroke patient.

PT: What about compliance issues and regulations – how do we factor these in?

DM: This issue is no different in experiential than in other areas of the marketing mix. The only minor problem here is logistical in getting approval on final execution which, such as with a hologram, prove a challenge with systems like Zinc. But most agencies working in this space are familiar with the process of getting medical, legal and regulatory sign-off for these projects.

PT: Surely, it is more expensive to do experiential digital so what is the return on investment?

DM: Actually, it can be much more cost-effective. For example, utilising hologram technology can allow you to have virtual key opinion leaders at numerous face-to-events throughout the year and even have the same speakers at two different events at the same time. The cost for producing hologram speakers with an interactive touchscreen to direct the questions to the KOLs can be as little as £15,000 including filming, honorarium, hiring all the equipment and setup. The cost compared to trying to achieve something similar without digital is therefore significantly less.

Return on investment is always hard to answer, but I was involved in a road show project a few years ago that used experiential digital experiences with HCPs to teach them about specific disease conditions and the use of particular drugs within them. When the impact was assessed sales of the product in those areas where this work was done showed a 26% increase in sales, corresponding to a market share increase of over 3%.

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“The feedback element is fundamental to a rewarding interactive experience…”

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The key aspect, as with a lot of digital work, is making sure that the production work can be repurposed for other platforms, such as more traditional edetails and websites. The mantra of ‘write once, publish many’ is critical for efficiency when it comes to return on investment.

PT: Is there overlap between experiential digital initiatives and gamification?

DM: Absolutely. I read a great article some time ago with Gabe Zichermann, author and chairman of GSummit, who said that at the core of gamification were the ‘three Fs’ – Feedback, Friends and Fun. It struck me that these principles are very similar to those in digital experiences. The feedback element is fundamental to a rewarding interactive experience and many digital initiatives work best when the experience can be shared with others. I have seen this demonstrated in practice with what we call ‘group hallucination’, which relies on a specific group of people on an exhibition being able to see something via augmented reality glasses which other delegates cannot! Such immersive and intuitive user engagement and interactivity provides the fun.

PT: What cool experiential digital work is being done beyond pharma that you think the industry could learn from?

DM: Projection mapping is a great way of communicating to a wide audience. Not only is the event itself something to behold but the resulting footage gets seen by many, many more people on YouTube and other social channels. Many consumer brands have been using projection mapping for several years, such as this great example from Bacardi. These techniques could be used to raise awareness en masse of specific diseases.

PT: What is the future of this space and what new technologies are coming through that will change experiential digital techniques within pharma?

DM: The pace of change is rapid in this space. The technology is, broadly speaking, evolving but there have not been any game-changers in the last 12 months. However, some of the new kit is looking extremely interesting, such as the LEAP motion technology which is a touch-less interface making how we interact with technology more interesting and, most importantly, more fun!

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Digital-on-Drugs

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About the interviewee:

Dominic Marchant is Managing Director of DJM Digital and co-founder /co-presenter of the DigitalonDrugs series of videos providing updates on the digital space for pharma.

DJM is a full service digital agency working predominantly in the healthcare/pharmaceutical industries. We are based in South West London and are part of Creston plc. We provide consultancy, strategy and creative solutions to clients at local, European and Global levels. We have over 28 awards to our name, including 4 Interactive Media Awards, a Geoff Brook Innovation Award and several PM Digital accolades.

For more information visit www.digitalondrugs.tv and http://www.djmdigital.com/, or follow @DigitalonDrugs and @DJMSolutions on Twitter.

How will experiential digital techniques change pharma engagement?