Product Web Sites: Are They Worth It? OpEd by John Mack

In the early days (before 1997 or 1998), not too many pharmaceutical products had their own Web sites. If you wanted to find product information, you had to go to the corporate Web site and find a link to a page about the product there. The information was more about what was in the pipeline – i.e., investor information, not marketing information.

Then, the FDA relaxed the rules about DTC advertising and even suggested that TV ads tell consumers to go to an Web site to get more information. The Web seemed to be competing with print for advertising and the Internet marketing budgets of pharmaceutical companies rose – somewhat. This was the heyday of the Web when URLs on the sides of buses and outdoor billboards were all the rage.

Then the Internet bubble burst and the pharmaceutical Internet marketing budget also deflated. According to some analysts, online promotion by top pharmaceutical companies decreased by 14% in 2001 compared with 2000 (PE, September 2002).

Even though spending on Internet promotion may be increasing now, it is still a miniscule portion of the overall promotional budget of a brand – about $14 million for online vs. over $600 million for TV and maybe $400 million or more for print. Some people contend, moreover, that brand managers are taking a more “ROI-based approach to online marketing.”

All of this is not making it any easier for pharmaceutical e-marketers these days!

In this issue of PMN, Mark Bard and Joe Farris of Manhattan Research argue that down-playing the role of the product Web site is a mistake for many product managers and e-marketing teams seeking to rationalize costs. Hopefully, better market research data can help define the proper Web strategy for product managers.

Speaking about ROI, you can learn more from the experts by attending a panel I am moderating in October, entitled “How Do You Prepare the ROI Case?” See this issue for more information about this. If you have any insights into the subject, I would be happy to receive your comments and/or put your questions to the panelists.

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Issue: Vol. 1, No. 7: February 2002
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