#ChalkChat: 4 Key Insights to Conducting Social Listening Research

In this week’s #ChalkChat, Krystina Smith, research analyst at Palio, shares 4 key insights to conducting social listening research for pharmaceutical and healthcare products.

#ChalkChat is a weekly video series that brings you insights on branding, marketing and multichannel integration within the pharmaceutical industry. Follow us at #ChalkChat. Follow up with Krystina at Krystina.Smith@palio.com.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Managed Markets Monday: How the Oakland A’s Can Help Healthcare

By Krystina Smith, Research Analyst, Palio

The commonalities between Major League Baseball and healthcare economic modeling may not seem obvious, but let me explain! For anyone who hasn’t read Moneyball by Michael Lewis (or seen the 2011 Academy Award nominated movie starring Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill, both receiving Oscar nominations for best actor and best supporting actor, respectively), it is the story of how the 2002 Oakland Athletics baseball team reevaluated how they were scouting players. Because of the team’s limited budget for salaries, they had to find value in players who were undervalued by the market. Moneyball describes how the Oakland A’s used sabermetrics reporting, which is an analysis of baseball through statistics, to evaluate players purely on data. Other teams were using traditional data points to evaluate players – batting average, RBIs, and stolen bases. The Oakland A’s found that on-base percentage was more reflective of a players’ value and were able to advance to the postseason with a payroll of $41 million (the Yankees payroll that same year was $125 million!).

So what does this have to do with healthcare economic modeling? Well, similar to baseball, the healthcare industry has a lot of access to data, and yet it’s often not being analyzed in a way that identifies true value. The healthcare system is evolving every day in the United States, yet the analysis of the data isn’t evolving at the same pace. The consequence is that it becomes almost impossible for a payer to tease through all of the data available and come to an accurate assessment of the value of a product.  Sabermetrics reporting is an economic model that the Oakland A’s used to evaluate players’ value, and healthcare economic models can be used to help a payer evaluate a product’s value. A good healthcare economic model can take a very complex medical treatment, create a simplified representation, and help answer the question of “What is this product’s value?”

Although complex to develop and create, a healthcare economic model should actually be clear and straightforward to the end user. Ideally, a model should be looking to answer a very specific question. It could be that the model requires the user to consider 55 different variables – but all of the variables should be driving to answering the one question. Just like the Oakland A’s were able to do, use the data that are relevant to finding value, and don’t get too caught up in evaluating erroneous data. If the data aren’t relevant to answering the question, don’t complicate the matter by evaluating the data!

But as valuable as healthcare economic models are, they are not the answer to all of the healthcare industry’s problems of how to evaluate value. However, they can be a valuable tool in supporting a product’s value proposition because they can simply answer the question to a complex problem. And part of a model’s power is the ability to see it for yourself, using your own data. It is one thing to talk about national averages or general trends, but to actually allow a payer to see how the data are modeled out within their own plan can be really convincing!

And just for the record, I’m a lifelong Red Sox fan. They adopted the sabermetrics model in 2002 and won the World Series 2 years later.

Managed Markets Monday is a weekly series that provides insight into what we think it takes to meaningfully and effectively communicate in the managed markets space. Follow up with Krystina Smith at Krystina.smith@palio.com

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Welcome to #ChalkChat

Welcome to #ChalkChat! In our debut episode, Mike Smith, Palio’s Senior Brand Strategist, shares 6 key factors to telling a compelling brand story across channels.

#ChalkChat is a weekly video series that brings you insights on branding, marketing and multichannel integration within the pharmaceutical industry. Follow us at #ChalkChat. Follow up with Mike @mikesmith55.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

iPads for All


By Saul Morse, VP, Multichannel Integration, Palio

There is no doubt that the iPad has made a profound impact on the technological landscape in the last two years. While the concept of a tablet had been discussed and tried by various companies, no one really captivated the market until Apple hit one out of the park. Rewind to 30 months ago and the craze seemed to be the netbook…as soon as the iPad hit the shelves the netbook industry disappeared almost overnight. Between the iPhone and the iPad the entire way we look at consuming digital information has dramatically changed.

So when we announced we were purchasing iPads for the entire staff of Palio it was received with a giant chorus of “cool.” While iPads were already proliferating throughout the halls, we wanted to formalize its presence and embrace this revolutionary piece of technology with open arms. In doing so we not only better position our teams to become thought leaders but give them a tool to help them do their job better, work more efficiently, and discover cool new things.

Now many companies are quick to point out why they shouldn’t embrace iPads in the organization. They’re a security risk, they cost too much to add onto the cost of an employee’s existing computer, how do you refresh when a new model comes out each year, how do you manage them, etc. We knew we had to think about this, but the bottom line is our clients are using them and our clients customers are also. So rather than focusing on the reasons we shouldn’t do it, we focused on the reasons we should. By making Palio an iPad culture we can help identify the unique opportunities afforded by these devices, and in general have it become integral to our company DNA.

We’ve encouraged our teams to sign up for the app store using their own AppleID so it becomes a blend of personal and professional and given new iPad users an iTunes gift card to go and experiment with various apps. We’re bringing in specialists from Apple to train on the basics and then building a series of roundtables led by champions across the organization on function specific topics. For instance an upcoming roundtable will highlight some of the creative apps available in the marketplace and how to use them for sketching, sharing, wireframing, app design, etc. Other roundtables will focus on video, notes, presentations and many more as time goes on.

Our clients are constantly asking about iOS devices and how they can be used in this highly regulated industry and by building an army of highly motivated, smart, creative people we will position ourselves to be at the forefront of the discussion. It’s already happening that there will be group of people will be in a strategy meeting together and when an idea comes up someone will say “I saw something similar…check it out” and within seconds it is being shared on one of the AppleTV equipped conference room monitors.

So will having an iPad alone make you a better thinker? Absolutely not. But by creating a culture open to sharing, discovering, and thinking in a technological way you can bet that this simple pane of glass will be a big contributor to our daily lives.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

Should Pharma Go Culture Casting?


by Carl Turner, SVP, Director of Insight and Brand Strategy, Palio

If 2011 showed us anything, it’s that the people have the power.

Marketing messages and buying digital advertising is still important, but companies today are using advertising less to promote their products and more to direct consumers to their Facebook or Twitter pages. With conversations taking center stage for extending brand messages, it’s time for pharmaceutical companies to go culture casting and find brand influencers to support them in communicating key messages.

Pharmaceutical companies have long relied on other people to pitch their products and tell their story. Key opinion leaders such as physicians who hold academic titles at medical schools often partner with pharmaceutical companies to speak at industry events or participate in detailing prescription drugs to doctors. Physicians have also long been the conduit of information for patients. But, with more individuals going online for health information, their role is changing.

Physicians will continue to play an active role in influencing decisions, but having a doctor endorse a drug or treatment is similar to a mother giving advice to a teenager. While parents are often right, it’s the peer group that holds the most influence. The same is true for communicating with patients; other people may be the most influential opinion leaders. Going culture casting and finding the most active patient participants can help influence public opinion in an authentic manner.

Pharmaceutical advertising has incorporated the stories of real patients to connect with customers. Smoking-cessation drug Chantrix has people sharing their experiences quitting smoking. Long Island Jewish Medical Center uses a narrator to tell the tale of real patient encounters. New York Columbia Presbyterian hospital features actual patients who are undergoing treatment or have overcome an illness thanks to physician expertise and state-of-the-art facilities.

Market research supports the power of peer influence. Tapping into the power of empowered patients can play a meaningful role in other’s health care decisions.

Why should pharma cultivate more brand ambassadors?

*There will be negative stories. Transparency is a must, and that means patients will be posting about procedures that went wrong or drugs that weren’t effective. Encouraging patients who had a more positive experience to post and share their stories can provide balance and perpetuate positive messages.

*Buzz builds buzz. An expert word-of-mouth network can support the launch of a new drug, foster discussion around new health guidelines, or raise awareness of a clinical trial. Getting people talking – whether that’s posting comments on your blog, retweeting messages or interacting with their followers and sharing opinions and views – can provide the support patients need to help them make informed decisions. And, the more influential and vocal an individual becomes, the more their network listens to them and turns to them for advice.

*People remember stories. People tuned into your culture tell the most compelling stories – which are much more memorable than marketing messages. That’s because people remember stories that elicit an emotion and it’s sometimes hard to differentiate marketing messages. Plus, as people develop a following, they build trust and their opinions tend to be valued.

The current pharma landscape still doesn’t offer guidelines for social media participation, but it’s not stopping patients from talking and influencing their networks. Going culture casting and enlisting the help of the most influential patients can help companies establish an online presence, inform people of an unknown disease or treatment, elicit hope or provide support to patients and improve disease care.

What are you doing to engage patients and get people talking?

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.


(Image credit: biojobblog.com)

Why Rotating Team Members is a Good Thing


by Paul Johnson, SVP, Managing Director of client Services, Palio

If you work in an agency environment, one of the big bits of conventional wisdom you learn, early on, is that clients don’t generally like change. And if you work on the client side, there’s a corollary that changes in your agency team are almost never a good thing.

Conventional wisdom is easy to rattle off because… well, it’s conventional. But is it wisdom? There’s plenty of evidence that rotating team members is a good thing.

It brings a fresh perspective. Just like clients, sometimes members of an agency team can get too close to the product or service being promoted. This is especially true on large accounts, where writers, publicists and other mid-level personnel may be working for a single client on a full-time basis. Yes, swapping in new personnel means spinning new people up on the account’s worldview, challenges and opportunities – but it also means new ideas – and many more chances for the sort of “Aha!” moments that can move a marketing program forward by leaps and bounds

It prevents rock-star syndrome. There’s always a delicate balance in agency-client relationships. On the agency side, we want to deliver great, remarkable results – the kind that demonstrate, every day, that no one can serve our client better than we can. On the other hand, all that service cannot rely on a single rock star employee – whether it’s someone who knows the industry better than his or her peers or someone who simply “gets” the client’s concerns at a deep level.

Everyone likes rock stars – but what happens when they have a falling out with the client? Or want to continue their career elsewhere? Or just come to you one day wanting a change of pace? Rotating fresh talent into client teams – from the beginning and as part of the mutually understood dynamic of the agency/client relationship – largely inoculates you from the rock-star conundrum. Clients win because their projects and ongoing results become robust and resilient, less dependent on a single individual. And agencies win because staffing disruptions, which happen in even the best and most stable organizations, don’t hurt client results.

It helps build a farm team. Today’s account executive, fresh to the industry and persistently busy putting together tactical plans in the back room, is potentially tomorrow’s vice president, responsible for millions of dollars in billings and game-changing results for clients. It’s in everyone’s interest – client and agency alike — for him or her to get out of the back room and get some experience.

Granted, some clients are wary of having new, inexperienced personnel on their account – note the phrasing there: New and inexperienced. Savvy agency managers are also great coaches, constantly building up their staff’s skills with gradual, managed increases in responsibility. Showing your client that this type of ongoing training and growth are part of your culture – and part of what helps you deliver results – goes a long way to alleviating concerns.

In the end, the advantages of a planned rotation of talent outweigh the potential downsides for all concerned. Clients need to consider the potential that new perspectives can bring, and agency managers need to think beyond a reflexive worry that all change is bad.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.


The Life and Death of Ideation


by Guy Mastrion, Chief Global Creative Officer, Palio

Some of the many things we tend to do with our global creative raves is to always try to bring fresh voices into the room, find fresh locations, tear down barriers and fail rapidly through hundreds of ideas until we succeed. And then, with a smaller portion of the group actively debating and editing the ideas, we push harder and deeper until we arrive at a set of discreet ideas. This is a lot of heavy lifting for the people involved, and one of the key aspects of making brainstorming work is to create a safe environment that encourages the rapid failure and spontaneity needed to spark fresh ideas.

But also there has to be a method to the madness.

Critical thinking is essential to success. An open critique that pressure tests the ideas through effective moderation of a strategic discussion is always needed. Effective critique is a lost art. Too often misunderstood and mislabeled as negative thinking, critique – when understood and harnessed as essential to the evaluation and elevation of ideas – plays a key role in all aspects of business, not just ideation. If the groups are a relatively small (10-15 people), then I think open critique can be effectively moderated. If your group is bigger than this, select a smaller, cross-sectional subgroup as your critical thinkers.

When brainstorming fails, when ideation fails, they can fail for countless reasons, many more reasons than those that exist to support why they succeed. There is a fine balance that is very difficult to maintain. Ideas are fragile things that are often doomed before they even begin to live due to the many, ultimately oppressive things an idea must overcome.

Some of the more common bailey wicks include briefs that are unclear, with too many objectives or key communication thoughts, making it near impossible to judge the success of any given idea. This problem is a sure sign the brief has become a parking lot for failure.

Ideas can also suffer from a lack of alignment across team members, where personal bias and opinion, no matter how worthy or potentially insightful, conflict with the tenets of the brief (assuming you have a solid brief).

Ideas also suffer from their own complexity, or I should say from becoming more complex. In a brainstorming session, it is easy to lose the big ideas.

Let me explain. Big ideas very often at first seem quite small and are easily overlooked. A word and a picture, one or the other, sitting alone on a big white sheet of paper can be the most fearsome of ideas. Other ideas, by comparison, can seem bigger at first because they have more going on they seem more dynamic, when in fact, they may simply be loaded down with what amounts to little more than window dressing. These are complexities and complex ideas most often have much less ability to be plastic. What do I mean by plastic? It’s the ability to be moldable, to move with your brand, and more important with how your consumer perceives, experiences, and ever more – communicates with your brand. So, the thought of big ideas being plastic is something to keep in mind – this is just one word to help describe a potentially big idea. It’s not the only word. The point is that a simple idea is an elegant solution. The simple idea – the big idea – is an idea that grows in meaning, depth, and definition the more it is used. When we work up a potentially big idea through our 360 worksheet, it is not limited by this exercise, but is expanded as a result of it. Lesser ideas reveal their vulnerabilities as a result of this exercise.

Ernest Hemingway said something about writing that I think applies to all creativity, “We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.”

Coming up with the big idea is not easy, nor is it any easier to recognize the big idea when you see it. This is one less obvious reason why time is such an important factor in creativity. The big idea might be the first idea you come up with, but it might also take days of ideation to see its true value.

If we approach our every day as a brainstorm, days lived without fear of being “wrong,” where failure is understood as part of a larger success – working together – we would more easily and consistently craft work of lasting value.

Highly functioning, idea-driven companies are built on this culture. They also have discipline and order and process and financial goals, but those things are all used to support the creation of a great product and not as rate limiting factors. When these instruments of any successful business become the business itself, then no manner of ideation will ever be truly and consistently successful.

In the end, culture trumps strategy, process, execution, and ideation. Even the most skillful and creative brainstorm session will fail to deliver success if the culture of the company (or teams involved) is not built on an open mind with complete alignment on the goal to be achieved.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.





Peter Hopper, Sr Dir, Integrated Client Services, Palio

Couldn’t sleep last night, so I ended up reading an article on my iPad that asked the question: mobile Web site or mobile app? I know. I had options, but it popped up in my RSS feed.

The article (published in RAIN, the Radio and Internet Newsletter) was a brief review of a column written by Jakob Nielsen, a Web usability expert, for AlertBox. Nielsen is predicting a strategic shift, based on his research on how end-users use their mobile devices. He claims that, hands down, the mobile app currently beats the mobile Web site from a user-performance perspective. But, in time, that will change.

The driving factor is the user-experience environment. It’s not news that the desktop and laptop real estate, computing power and user-interactivity (keystroking, mouse and track pad precision and functionality, etc) currently overwhelm the smart phone and tablet. And that is the point: the mobile device requires the smarter optimization gained by creating an app, while Web site optimization for the mobile device is currently limited. This smarter optimization makes the mobile app a better user experience. “An app can target the specific limitations and abilities of each individual device much better than a Web site can while running inside a browser,” states Nielsen.

But we are approaching a crossroads. The app benefit may indeed be short-lived. One factor: the expense of developing mobile apps will likely increase. Currently, the primary mobile app platforms are Android, iOS and Windows Phone. But these platforms are sub-dividing, iOS for iPhone and iPad, Android for smartphones and the Kindle Fire, for example: separate apps required for unique user experiences per mobile environment. Development technology, again, will likely step up to help alleviate some of this cost burden. But there are other factors, as well, including e-commerce and richer content that favor the mobile Web site, down the road.

What’s at risk? Letting your audience down.

Turning the corner, new Web technologies like HTML5 will drive better mobile site capabilities and user experiences. Add the benefit of a richer integration with the Web via a mobile site than within a mobile app.

When will this predicted strategic shift take place? Great question. No clear answer on the immediate horizon according to Nielsen. We know HTML5 and other Web technologies are advancing rapidly. However, the take-away from this discussion is recognizing the balance and the compromise when building your digital recommendations for your clients in the mobile environment, helping them understand that there is indeed a shift on the horizon, the unique implications of what and why you consider development options, and helping them evaluate the best road to take.

I hope this didn’t put you to sleep, but I did rest better last night after becoming a little more enlightened.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

FDA Releases Draft Guidance for Biosimilar Product Development

Figure 1


Figure: Structure of a typical chemical drug molecule (left) and a biologic molecule (right).

By Jim Mittler, PhD, Medical Director, Palio

The availability of generic drugs ensures free market competition and makes access to life-saving medications more affordable to millions of Americans. The Drug Price Competition and Patent Term Restoration Act (aka, the Hatch-Waxman Act) was signed into law in 1984 and set forth the process in which drug companies could seek FDA approval of Abbreviated New Drug Applications (ANDAs) for a generic counterpart of a reference product (ie, an already-approved branded drug). Under this statue, the approval of a generic drug is solely based on showing comparable bioavailability (blood levels) between the generic and reference product. As such, there is an assumption that establishing similar bioavailability means the efficacy and safety of the generic is the same as the reference product. The intent of the Hatch-Waxman Act is to decrease the amount of time to bring less-expensive generic drugs to market by not requiring the generic company to perform traditional clinical trials to prove efficacy and safety.

Scientific advances in the field of biotechnology have led to the development of biologic therapies that are very much different than traditional chemical drugs (see Figure above). Most biologics are protein molecules that are orders of magnitude larger and structurally more complex. As such, they are considerably more difficult to synthesize and scale-up for mass production. Similar to the Hatch-Waxman Act that paved the way for generic drugs, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009 (BCPI Act) was enacted by President Obama as part of the Affordable Care Act in March 2010 and creates an abbreviated licensure pathway for “generic” biologic therapies, termed biosimilars. Because biologic products are synthesized in living systems (eg, microorganisms or plant or animal cells), there is greater potential for differences in the quality of the protein structure and the type and amount of inactive components of the formulation between a reference product and a biosimilar. These differences can affect the stability of the manufactured product, the tolerability and safety, and/or the clinical effectiveness of the biosimilar.

Structure of a typical chemical drug molecule (left) and a biologic molecule (right).On February 9, 2012 the FDA released the first draft guidance to help the pharmaceutical industry navigate the statutory requirements added by the BPCI Act. Through the new approval pathway companies must demonstrate that their product is biosimilar to, or interchangeable with, a reference biologic product already approved by the FDA. There are 3 guidance documents that provide the FDA’s current thinking on important scientific and regulatory factors involved in biosimilar development. In order to set a higher standard for interchangeability compared to generic drugs that only require pharmacokinetic studies, the FDA advises that companies demonstrate biosimilarity based upon data derived from in vitro analytical studies, animal studies, and a clinical study or studies, unless FDA determines that certain studies are unnecessary. The FDA will use a “totality-of-the-evidence” approach to assess whether the biosimilar product can be expected to produce the same clinical result as the reference product in any given patient. This includes the risk in terms of safety or diminished efficacy of alternating or switching between the use of the biosimilar product and the reference product is not greater than the risk of using the reference product without such alternation or switch.

Cost is another story. Many biologic therapies are well over $10,000 a year and some are closer to $100,000 for a 3-month course (ie, Provenge [sipuleucil-T]). Given the higher burden of proof to show biosimilarity, the development costs will be much greater for companies that develop and manufacture biosimilar products compared to generic drugs. There are several therapeutic categories in which biologics are the standard of care and products are priced on the efficacy they bring. I think of Extavia (interferon beta-1b [Novartis]) that is used to treat relapse-remitting multiple sclerosis. Extavia is actually a branded bioequivalent (ie, same manufacturer) to Bayer’s Betaseron; however, it still commands near-premium pricing – it’s only discounted ~14% compared to Betaseron. It will be interesting to see how true biosimilars are priced when they come to market.

This new legislation will expedite biosimilar product development but there is a higher burden of proof required for the biosimilar companies to show interchangeability compared to generic drug companies, which is a good thing. As a former scientist, I know the complexities of recombinant DNA technology and protein engineering. The FDA guidance certainly makes me feel more comfortable should I ever need a biosimilar therapy.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

CDC’s first iPad App already a winner



Meleik Goodwill, PhD, Medical Director, Palio

The Federal Centers for Disease Control released its first iPad App, rated by iSnoops.com as “Hot,” with 4.5-stars.  This app specifically enabled for iPads was created with the recognition that more and more people are using mobile technology to search for health information. Industry experts rate the app so positively due to the breadth of information offered and the instaneous nature of the updates, a feature important during times of public health crisis, such as during a flu pandemic.

The CDC’s leap into mobile health gives iPad users touchpad access to the organization’s real-time health updates, blogs and podcasts, these tabs include:

  • Newsroom features the latest health news from the CDC Newsroom. From this tab you can access current and archived press releases, media advisories, and press briefing transcripts
  • Public Health Matters Blog: Here CDC bloggers share their passion for public health, its evolution, and the continual strides that are being made to protect and save lives through education, awareness, research, and promoting healthy lifestyles.
  • CDC podcasts: Listen to CDC podcasts on your iPad for reliable health and safety information when and where you want it. The tab links to CDC’s vast library of audio and video podcasts.

Over 50,000 pages of content can be accessed through tabs for general health-related information:

  • Health Articles  written by subject matter experts and health communicators from all CDC centers and programs.
  • Vital Signs offers recent data on important public health issues. Topics include: colorectal and breast cancer screening; obesity; alcohol and tobacco use; access to health care; HIV testing; seat belt use; cardiovascular disease and more.
  • Preventing Chronic Disease (PCD) Journal is a peer-reviewed electronic journal established to address the interface between applied public health research, practice, and policy.

Mindful of users desire to network, the app provides a conduit to share:

  • Stay Connected: Follow CDC by tapping on tabs for Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. By accessing CDC’s social media through the iPad, users can view important information on health topics and events throughout the year.

The CDC App is free for anyone to download. If you have an iPad, tap directly on the icon for the iTunes App store. At the top right of the page, type CDC iPad App in the search box. You will be taken to a page where you can download the CDC App. (Look for the app with the CDC logo.) You can read more about it at CDC Mobile iPad Application on CDC’s web site or on PharmApps.

This is not the CDC’s first venture in mobile technology. In addition to it’s own site being mobile-optimized for more than two years, the agency continues to offer cash awards for developers to create technology-enabled ways to augment its public health efforts by developing apps for flu and other conditions. Read more: CDC is looking for a few good flu apps.

Palio is an advertising agency revolutionizing pharmaceutical and healthcare marketing to create experiences that will Never Be Forgotten.

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