By Neil Greenberg, Editor

Digital Pharma East, held October 21-24, 2014 in Philadelphia, was the biggest, most complex and complicated event of its kind ever. Of course. Why wouldn’t it be? digital has eaten the world.

But it takes an event like this one to give everyone in this far-ranging, fractured field an opportunity to seek their level. Are you more interested in Purpose-Obsessed Design or in Leveraging Big Data? More fascinated by messaging to physicians or to patients? More focused on the latest apps or how to bring your company up to speed on digital generally? Whatever: it was all here.

DPE kicked off with one day devoted exclusively to mobile, an indication of just how rich each sub-sector is. Bob Cannan, President and CEO of Eagle Productivity Solutions and UTeng Cheang, Mobile Marketing Manager for AstraZeneca chaired the day, bringing their international, multi-brand experience to the fore to help explain mobile marketing as it is today (or was last October – today it’s probably different).


Joe Shields, Global Director of Digital Strategy for AstraZeneca, came from an Emmy-winning career to pharma, and chaired the main conference. It featured heavy hitters from across the spectrum. Robin Kamen, senior director of Global Digital Marketing for Pfizer, explained that mobile isn’t a strategy – it’s a holistic realm.

There was a lively discussion on customer-centricity moderated by Joe Shields and featuring Craig DeLarge, former Global Leader of Multi-Channel Strategy & Innovation at Merck, closerlook CEO Dave Ormesher, Purdue Pharma eMarketing Director Peter Justason and Akash Pathak, AbbVie’s Director of Digital Strategy Marketing Communications.

Some relief from the charts, graphs and stats was provided in a session called “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” hosted by Phil Storer, VP, Digital Strategy of The Navicor Group and Bruce Rooke, GSW’s Chief Creativity Officer, but livened up by the appearance of Red Riding Hood and the aforementioned wolf illustrating the fear of user-generated content and how to overcome it.


In the same spirit, the in-demand Pete Dannenfelser, Jannsen’s Director of Marketing, Digital Center of Excellence, along with Zoe Dunn of Hale Advisors, entertained us with “Digital Folklore” to tell the tale of how we got lost in the labyrinth of process, protocol and policy, and now have to be led into the light and not be chewed up by regulations, felled by inefficiency, or come under the fearsome power of multiple channels. Avengers assemble!

It’s hard to summarize the mountain of wisdom available at DPE. Suffice to say that you could immerse yourself in numerous sessions about engaging HCPs, what devices they have, how they want you to communicate with them and how to enhance their conversations with patients; or you could dine at the healthcare consumer table, learning how to differentiate your brand, understand the “lifeflow” of your consumers, help empower them, and assist them with negotiating payors and providers. Real wonks dove into the MCM, Analytics and ROI Measurements track, hearing about digital excellence, gathering and analyzing info, programmatic buying and predictive data. For C-suite advice, there was a Regulatory Town Hall, a talk on acceleration, innovation and transformation, and an overview of managing global teams.

To top it off, the final day of DPE had two simultaneous sessions. One was Social Innovation Day, which narrowed in on reaching docs through LinkedIn, connecting with diverse consumer populations, and more about the legal and creative challenges of places like Facebook, Google, YouTube and other broadbased platforms that present significant hurdles. The other was Partnering With Agencies Day, smoothing over the issues of communicating with agencies, finding the right one, and collaborating on major events like launches.

It was an appropriately multifaceted cornucopia of delights for all of us who have any questions, concerns and confusions about the new digital world. And who doesn’t? Kudos to the organizers for bringing in fresh perspectives from out-of-pharma keynote speakers like Scott Monty, former Global Digital & Multimedia Communications Manager for Ford Motor Company, Steve Brown, Futurist for Intel, and Jay Mandel, Global Digital Marketing VP for MasterCard. As we often say in the pages of HS&M, we can learn more by drawing from the experiences and wisdom of other industries than by thinking healthcare is an island unto itself. Congratulations to all on a well-attended and spectacularly informative conference. •

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