Med Ad News
November 1, 2008
November, 2008 - For the second year, Med Ad News has chosen four Pharmaceutical Marketing Ventures to Watch from a variety of young, creative venture companies that could change the way pharmaceutical products are marketed and sold.
This past August, Med Ad News began the now-annual search for the future of pharmaceutical marketing. We sought out young companies to profile that are providing the most innovative and interesting products, services, or marketing opportunities to pharmaceutical companies and the healthcare community. After reviewing dozens of nominations, many of which were provided by our own readers, we were able to narrow down the list to just four.
Each of the four companies chosen by Med Ad News is very different in business model and products and services offered. All of the companies do share one singular characteristic: that spark of creativity that makes frustrated entrepreneurs say, "Why didn’t I think of that?" Here are Med Ad News’ four Pharmaceutical Marketing Ventures to Watch for 2008.
3FX is a three-dimensional animation facility that focuses entirely on the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry. The company has been around since 1995, but its most innovative offering, the 3FX Immersive Theater Experience, launched just a year ago. The Immersive Experience is the delivery of 3-D animated content in a 360-degree portable enclosed environment – a collapsible, transportable dome with a wrap-around screen on the inside. When played, the content visually and audibly surrounds the audience, creating the impression of actually being inside a part of the human body.
The idea behind such an unusual offering had its roots in a more traditional form of immersive theater – the planetarium. But only in the last two years could the company actually find someone to manufacture a portable planetarium, presenting 3FX with the opportunity to create an offering that pharmaceutical companies could take to trade shows or other off-site locations.
"When portable domes became available, 3FX saw an opportunity to marry the portable planetarium concept to our 3D medical content, merge the two together, and then create the brand – thus the 3FX Immersive Theater Experience," says Rich Kushner, VP, sales and marketing, 3FX (3FX.com).
Moving from more traditional flatscreen animation to an immersive environment was a challenge. But after surviving the learning curve and producing their first dome content for AstraZeneca (astrazeneca.com) in November 2007, 3FX’s leaders are confident that they have the jump on the rest of the marketplace.
Creating dome content is an involved process, even more so than the traditional flat animations that many pharma companies have produced for trade shows and other presentation opportunities. Mr. Kushner estimates that animating 3FX’s portable immersive environment adds another 20% to 30% to the usual one-minute-per-month time line of a typical medical-animation project.
3FX is a full-service 3D animation facility that can do full script-to-screen content creation. The company works closely with clients in the development of a script, during that time developing all the characters and environments that are going to be in the show. Once a script is approved, all of the 3-D elements are ready to be storyboarded and animated. Professional narration, custom music, and sound effects will be designed and developed. The production process typically goes through about three work-in-progress reviews to reach a finished product stage.
3FX covers the same territory as many medical animators, but in a radically different presentation style. 3FX specializes in unbranded and branded 3D visualizations of disease states, mechanism of action, medical devices, broadcast spots, and healthcare-related imagery.
"A great benefit to our clients is that a single project can be cost-effectively incorporated into many display formats, including plasma screens, interactive applications, Websites, large group projection, PowerPoint presentations, and anywhere a digital display can be presented," says Cory Resh, partner and creative director, 3FX.
The idea of the dome presentation is to give the viewer the feeling of being inside of and surrounded by the animation. The work 3FX develops for all of is clients is medically accurate. Highly detailed characters and environments are presented with dynamic camera movement and visual effects.
"Our goal is to create visuals that viewers will want to watch again and again, enhancing the retention of the information presented," Mr. Resh told Med Ad News.
Each of the 15 members of 3FX’s staff are highly skilled at their craft, with at least 10 years of medical animation experience. Some of the animators even have medical degrees – one has a master’s degree in cellular biology. Others are degreed medical illustrators.
Already, the dome-animation concept has generated considerable interest. One client is touring one of 3FX’s domes around Latin America, showing different 3FX-generated content for different brands at a variety of medical shows.
The idea behind every dome animation is to take advantage of the special opportunities that a surround, immersive environment can offer to give the audience an educational experience that differs fundamentally from the traditional flatscreen animation.
"You have so much more space surrounding, and you want to use that space in an effective and designed fashion," Mr. Resh says. "There are little tricks that we like to use to surprise the viewer and draw them in to the full experience. It’s not like sitting in a movie theater and looking straight ahead and watching the visuals. You must use the space to your advantage and force viewers to look completely around. That’s what an Immersive Experience is all about."
Aptilon enables biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical-device companies to reach and interact with physicians via the Internet through its AxcelRx Live video detailing platform. Launched in 1999, the company started out in e-detailing and later transitioned to doing live video detailing for Merck & Co. (merck.com). In 2007, Aptilon began commercializing its video detailing offering with other companies. Company leaders claim that seven top pharmaceutical companies have already adopted the service in its first year of general availability.
"We have spent years developing this with Merck, who has made a commitment to building alternative channels for marketing and sales efficiency and effectiveness," says Mark Gleason, senior VP, corporate development, Aptilon (aptilon.com). "About two years ago we were ready for ‘prime time’ and took it out publicly to other major pharmas. Very quickly, we’ve added six of the most effective pharma sales forces. In every case we’re helping drive coverage and access for multiple brands. With virtually everyone, we’ve renewed contracts and are in the process of working with their teams to look at a more expansive new commercial model for a sales force of the future that is providing new strategic options."
One of the fundamental principles behind Aptilon’s video detailing platform is convenience for physicians. Rather than having to make time for sales reps whenever they happen to appear at a practice, the physician can schedule a video detail with a rep at any time that is convenient. If schedules do not match up, the physician can make an appointment to speak with a rep in one of Aptilon’s call centers, who are on call during evenings and weekends in addition to regular business hours.
Aptilon’s platform goes well beyond the traditional detail in other ways. The company wants physicians to look at its service as a complete information resource, for everything from a quick question to an in-depth clinical review.
Doing live detailing online also opens up the opportunity to offer additional services and have them at the physician’s fingertips.
"Physicians can get ‘concierge-level’ services," Mr Gleason says. "If you need patient-ed materials, samples, access to some of the key opinion leader reviews of clinical data, off-label discussions with medical-science liaisons, we’ve basically made it one-stop shopping. High-value physicians can get anything that the pharma company can make available, all hubbed around that live rep, including high-quality educational presentations at their convenience, not just when a rep drops in to the practice uninvited."
Aptilon executives believe that anything and everything that can be made available online can be wrapped around the sales rep who uses AxcelRx, who can then open up Webpages while talking to physicians and teach them how to register for sample ordering, guide them to information about the formulary in their state, or access any number of other online educational opportunities.
The idea for Aptilon was born out of a series of circumstances that have made getting in to see doctors increasingly difficult in the last several years. Physicians are overwhelmed by the number of patients they see in their practice each day, as declining reimbursement requires them to see more patients to meet the financial needs of the practice. At the same time, younger physicians have been trained to believe that reps are not an effective source of education, but these physicians are technology-savvy and are quickly replacing the retiring baby-boomer physician population.
"We’re seeing an evolution in the physician population, both in the circumstances of reimbursement and the patient obligations as well as the profile of the typical physician," Mr. Gleason says. "The time-pressured physician with patients waiting in examining rooms and waiting rooms is unlikely to have time for drug reps – the rep is becoming the odd person out in the practice setting."
To find a way around these challenges, Aptilon placed the scheduling power in the hands of the physician. Perhaps not surprisingly, the company has found that many physicians prefer to talk with reps outside of office hours. Most interactions are happening during nights and weekends.
Physician interest in live video detail from sales reps is growing, according to Manhattan Research’s ePharma Physician v8.0 physician market study. About 45,000 U.S. physicians meet via online video with their sales reps, and more than 300,000 more have shown interest in interacting with sales or other company representatives online.
Physicians already engaged in video detailing with sales reps are, for the most part, highly satisfied with their experience, according to the study. This sentiment may explain why these physicians are consistent users – physicians already participating in live video detailing sessions do so with an average of seven reps per month.
"Incorporating live video details in the physician-sales rep relationship can be a win-win for both groups," says Meredith Abreu Ressi, VP of research, Manhattan Research (manhattanresearch.com). "Depending on the company, it can be a cost-effective strategy for sales forces looking to reach physicians spread out over a wide territory, and physicians enjoy the flexibility and interactive features the sessions offer. Pharma companies should pay close attention to rep call centers that give healthcare professionals access to company representatives via telephone or Web chat at any time, as many physicians express interest in this type of service."
Not only are more doctors going online for details, but the doctors that do are staying on for longer interactions. According to Aptilon executives, the company’s live video details average more than eight minutes in length among primary-care physicians, and about 15 minutes for specialty physicians.
Return to In the News