Times are tough for pharma marketers.

Their websites are offering up a poor UX, and the American Medical Association has called for a ban on direct-to-consumer ads that pitch prescription drugs and medical devices.

Throw in public outrage over drug prices and it’s clear that pharmaceutical companies face an uphill battle in winning consumers over.

But the challenging environment could prove to be beneficial as it forces the industry to be more instrospective.

As Medical Marketing & Media’s Jaimy Lee detailed, officials and attendees at the upcoming Lions Health Festival are urging pharma to improve how it communicates with consumers.

“We neglect the origin story. Instead we run these dumb ads,” Alexandra von Plato, group president of North America for Publicis Healthcare Communications Group, told Lee.

While issues like drug pricing are complex and emotionally-charged, pharmaceutical companies can take cues from the growing number of brands that are becoming excellent storytellers.

Storytelling isn’t easy, and many brands simply don’t have Virgin Media-like stories.

Fortunately pharma brands aren’t relegated to “dumb ads”; they do have stories to tell. These stories are often compelling and filled with emotion.

After all, despite the fact that the industry finds itself increasingly panned by critics, drug companies are improving and saving lives.

But their television ads, often the butt of jokes, are far more widely discussed.

In other industries, companies are frequently adept at telling stories about how they’re helping to make the world a better place. 

Toms, a shoe and eyewear manufacturer that has incorporated philanthropy into its business model, is a good example of this.

So what’s holding pharma marketers back? According to Josh Prince, CMO of Omnicom Health Group, “We don’t push our clients enough.”

Coupled with underinvestment in key digital channels, pharma’s reluctance to tell its most compelling stories has created a void that could become more and more difficult to fill as the industry faces an increasingly challenging and even hostile environment.

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