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A gap in the market

A gap in the market


According to research by market analyst, Datamonitor, pharmaceutical companies drug promotion spends are on an upward spiral.
Last Updated: 27-Aug-2010

According to research by market analyst, Datamonitor, pharmaceutical companies drug promotion spends are on an upward spiral. This is an important part of the marketing mix and should not be overlooked, however, new research suggests that companies’ spends on promotion are increasing faster than the proportionate rate of sales, and this is bad news for their return on investment (ROI). In an increasingly competitive market place, clearly, those companies with superior promotion skills will achieve a greater share of the market.


To enhance their promotional “reach” and reduce in house costs, pharmaceutical companies will often also use a communications agency. These agencies are on hand to provide expertise over a range of therapeutic areas as well as working across different media.


But here’s the rub, with pharmaceutical companies leaning on the abilities and resources of the marketing communications agencies like never before, some PR and marketing communications agencies are experiencing a shortage in experienced personnel, particularly in middle to senior level management.


There are a number of factors causing this shortfall. Firstly as the pharmaceutical companies reduce in-house capacity and rely on outsourcing work as it arises to the communications agencies, they are increasingly appointing “Communications Managers” to act as the interface and co-ordinator for communications programmes. These individuals inevitably come from agencies. Their agency background provides multi-therapeutic area expertise, coupled with some management experience. As pharmaceutical company pipelines are becoming more and more diverse, those who have the skills to promote a variety of therapy areas are highly prized.


Secondly, the vast majority of business conducted is reliant on the relationships built between the Client and their agency. Pitching for business is a hectic time for any agency, and it demands serious time and resources. At this stage, it’s important for the agency to be able to demonstrate their expertise in a given therapy area. Of course, tried and tested agencies will be invited to pitch again and again, and as relationships develop, the clients will tend to trust certain individuals or teams with deep product knowledge and flair.


Solid agency-client relationships account for the successful arrival of smaller firms on the healthcare communications scene, offering more ‘bespoke’ services, and a boutique-style approach. These new firms are generally borne from professionals who have already established working relationships with their clients whilst working for an agency, before leaving to set up their own business. These new agency heads will obviously leave a gap in their previous employer’s ‘armoury’ further depleting the management pool.



You might think that the marketeers coming from the Client side would be ideal to plug the gap, but in most cases they are a differently shaped plug.

To maintain a sound knowledge base, communication agencies may find that some ex-product or brand managers can offer vast experience in specific treatments, and they are familiar with the internal marketing team mechanisms. However, moving from Client to agency side can be a huge change, as both jobs require a very different skill set.


In-house marketeers and PR personnel will focus on one company’s products with in-depth knowledge, whereas the agency environment demands attention to a number of clients and products, as well as being expected to develop and sell the business, something an in-house marketeer will not be used to.


So what’s to do? This is where recruitment agencies come into their own. Finding individuals offering deep scientific understanding, market awareness and truly creative flair along with managerial know-how is becoming a harder prospect and that’s where a recruitment agency can help. They have the time and resources to source the next generation of Account Directors.