Rewarding the best in digital innovation

With the PM Society’s annual Digital Awards set to take place next week, pharmaphorum talks to co-chair of the Society and chair of the awards, Rachel Farrow, to get the inside story on this year’s event and find out what makes a winner in this space.

The Digital Media Awards (DMAs) have been running since 2009. How have they evolved since then and why?

We are in our sixth year and every year since the start we’ve made changes based on feedback from our entrants and attendees. The judging process has evolved significantly, particularly the entry website, the make-up of the judging panels and the weighting of different judging criteria. We’ve also altered our categories every year, tweaking some and adding new ones.

The format is evolving with the addition of an interactive exhibition of short-listed work, a more ‘digital’ feel to the evening and an educational lecture to embed further the principles of sharing excellence on which the PM Society is founded.

Our two-stage judging process is one of the most rigorous of any awards ceremony and the value of a DMA gong is now well-established industry-wide as a mark of quality and success – and, in many cases, a driver for new business.

What hasn’t changed is the venue. We had looked for a venue that had a different atmosphere to the more traditional Park Lane award ceremonies and I think we found that with The Brewery; it has a completely unique feel.

What are the key trends in digital marketing in the pharma industry? Where do you see it heading?

One of the key trends has been the increasing and more effective engagement with patients through social media. This is still relatively tentative for some companies but there is really no choice but to move in this direction and many companies are doing this very effectively now.

Another trend is what some people would call truly multi-channel – using every channel and touch point in an appropriate manner to maximise the impact of a programme. It’s amazing how much expensive marketing collateral is created but its potential is not fully realised because it is not part of an effective applied content strategy across all the appropriate channels.

What do you see as the restrictions on digital marketing initiatives in healthcare?

Digital marketing faces many of the same restrictions that traditional forms of marketing have always faced. The ABPI code applies to healthcare communications regardless of channel.

What makes an award-winning campaign? What are the judges looking for?

I think all the judges agree that an award winner in our main categories needs to have SMART objectives that are met or exceeded. But it’s not all about results. Our craft awards are judged 60 per cent on ‘creativity and innovation’ and those winners need to show something new, have a great idea that is executed perfectly or use technology in a new way. Some of the best projects we’ve seen this year are just a simple idea done well or a new way of using existing technology.

What is new about the Awards this year and why have you made these changes?

We have one new category this year – Digital Pharmaceutical Company of the Year – which I think adds a new dimension. This has been judged using a robust system that considered pharma companies’ engagement with social media across a range of disease areas. This year we’ve also changed our dress code (no black tie!) based on feedback and added a pre-awards lecture to provide an educational element. This will be presented by LinkedIn’s Nicolas Cappiello, who will talk about the relevance and opportunities of current and future innovations at LinkedIn for the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

The most popular category this year appears to be the ‘Film and animation’ Craft Award where you have eight shortlisted entries. Is this where the future lies?

The number of shortlisted entries here is really a reflection of the quality of entries rather than the popularity of the category. There were so many fantastic entries that scored very highly at our first round judging. What’s interesting is that this is not a new technology category. It shows that live action films with real patient interviews or beautiful and clever animated sequences are still as effective as they ever were and are very much here to stay.

The finalists have been announced and can be viewed here.

The PM Society is a not-for-profit organisation, which was founded over 30 years ago as the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society. Today, it has 2120 active members from over 230 companies and drives marketing excellence and education across the life sciences sector through a variety of channels.

Tickets are on sale for the awards ceremony on Thursday 25 September. Attendance at the LinkedIn lecture is included in the ticket price, but pre-booking is required. Please contact Lorna Milner: for more information.

About the interviewee:

Rachel Farrow has been working in the healthcare communications industry for over 20 years. She is currently co-chair of the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society and chair of the Digital Media Awards. Previous positions include global vice president of medical communications at Quintiles and managing director of TVF Communications.

Have your say: What do you think are the key trends in digital?