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Digital maturity in pharmaceutical marketing – real life case study

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Some of the elements we discussed in my last blog about the digital maturity scale like corporate culture or resource allocation, are difficult for an agency or a single brand manager to change, but that just means you need to effect change where you can. To show you how this is possible, we’ll walk you through the transformation journey of one of our clients. Keep in mind, we’ve changed the brand name to respect client confidentiality.

Launch: Late Stage 1, Primed for Stage 2

Our client was a small pharmaceutical company with three or four brands on the market in Canada.

They were launching a new treatment for schizophrenia—let’s call it “Levomax”—and an e-Detail was part of the launch plan. They didn’t have a lot of faith in e-Detailing, but felt it was expected.

Their primary detailing tool was going to be a print detail aid with only a few pages translated to digital. I.T. was driving device selection and was the primary contact during the development phase. They did have a robust training program, but the trail guide was shared between the print and digital detail aids. There was also no plan for measurement.

Our assessment: this team was late stage 1 and primed for stage 2.

Late stage 1, primed for stage 2

We are expected to create an eDetail

Develop a print detail first and adapt to digital

IT key contact for development and driving device selection

Stand alone eDetail with little interactivity

Trail guide developed for print and eDetail


Our Solution

Our solution was to develop a small 8-page e-Detail with a screen per section. The detail aid was primarily case-­based, which, for a product launch is on-strategy because often one of the first things doctors want to know is: “who is it for”. It had a fairly simple data presentation, since the content was adapted from print and it had a small library of PDFs with the Product Monograph and the pivotal paper.Case-based presentation

Simple data presentation

Library with PM and clinical papers

Year 2: New Indication

Our client’s product is getting a new indication.

With a few years of e-Detailing under their belt, our client decided to forego a print detail aid and concentrate resources on an e-Detail. At this point, they had promoted digital to being a small but important part of their marketing mix.

There was still no internal digital strategist, so no other digital tools were being developed. The new indication was supported by a sales team launch, so a session was devoted to training on the new e-Detail. However, the team was still not tracking or measuring anything.

Our assessment: our client was now comfortably in stage 2, heading towards stage 3.

Comfortably in stage 2, heading for stage 3

Digital is a small but important part of our marketing mix

eDetail to be only detailing tool to push information to our customers

No dedicated digital team and little digital tools beyond eDetail

Merged eDetail with previous branding and added on new indication creative

In-person launch at new indication sales meeting


Our Solution

The upgraded e-Detail now had content designed for digital, which meant we were able to include some additional functionality, such as hidden hotspots to access supplementary information.

Not having a print detail meant that additional content and tools were added to the e-Detail.Use of hotspots

Content designed for digital

No print detail aid

Year 4: New Messaging

The following year, new messaging and branding was being introduced by global, necessitating an e-Detail update. By now, the team had fully embraced what digital could offer and were moving into the next stage of maturity. How did we know this?

They understood that digital could optimize detailing in a way that print never could. We were still working with a limited budget, so we needed to optimize the existing e-Detail with the new messaging. There was no digital strategist on their team, but we worked together to reimagine the e-Detail so that content could be displayed dynamically.

The e-Detail was a cornerstone of their launch sales meeting, but measurement was still not part of the execution. Our assessment of the Levomax team today is that they are at late Stage 3: Integrated.

Late stage 3

Digital allows us to optimize detailing in a new and exciting way

Repurpose existing eDetail to present information in a dynamic way

No dedicated digital team and little digital tools beyond eDetail

Customizable eDetail that dynamically draws content based on doctor input

In-person launch at sales meeting


Our Solution

The library had outgrown the e-Detail, so we decided to create a digital briefcase for Reps only that held all the PAAB-approved material in an easy-to-access interface. It included marketing tools, pivotal papers, videos, and slide kits, as well as serving as a launching point for the detail aid. The new creative demonstrated the balance between efficacy and tolerability that was a USP for Levomax, but in our view, the coolest part was that we were able to create a dynamic experience for the doctors in a case­based way. Doctors created a patient profile using either efficacy or tolerability elements. They chose a gender and an age as well as identified important symptoms for this imaginary patient. This drag-and-drop tool represented the complete list of symptoms that were measured in the pivotal study. Once a doctor had ordered them by priority, the content was re­drawn in the background to display the efficacy data from the study in that same order.Profile that re-ordered contentCreated a digital briefcase

New creativeThis dynamic content meant we had to send four iterations of the e-Detail through PAAB, but because all the content was similar (just presented in a different order), the approval process was pretty painless and the result re­energized the Reps’ sales strategy.

So, what’s next for Levomax? How can they progress to level 4 and a true digital-first approach? For one thing, they could find a dedicated champion of digital marketing strategies, allowing them to further optimize their investment in the resource library. And secondly, they could develop a measurement plan to ensure the e-Detail is meeting the needs of their audience and to guide future updates.


Assess the level of digital maturity and identify areas primed for change.

Be adventurous

Be a little adventurous. Creating a dynamic e-Detail may be have been a bold move for a company in the early stages of digital adoption, but fortune favours the bold.

Play IN the box

Don’t let internal regulatory or the possibility of PAAB refusals deter you. Work with them and they will work with you. After all, they are there to ADVISE you. In fact, it’s even in their name (PAAB=Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board).

Effect change

Effect change in those areas and provide business rationale for moving to the next level.

Remember: innovation ≠ invention

Innovation doesn’t need to be invention. Very little, if anything, was “invented” by CPC. We just found ways to make what existed work for our client’s objectives.Best of luck on your digital journey!

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