Agencies partner to launch social media service for pharma companies

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Extrovertic and Virilion announced a joint venture on October 28, called EV Healthcare, to help healthcare companies implement digital and social media marketing campaigns. The service, based in New York, has just begun marketing to prospective clients, said Pfizer veteran Dorothy Wetzel, co-founder and executive marketer at Extrovertic.

“When there's a lot of change there's a lot of opportunity,” Wetzel said. ”Consumers are more often getting healthcare information from digital and social channels. Traditional direct-to-consumer campaigns are under fire, the most innocuous campaigns are attacked because consumers are more skeptical of pharma advertising. Healthcare companies need compelling creative strategy and true consumer dialogue.”

Wetzel and Mark Drossman founded Extrovertic in January. Four months ago, they began consulting unofficially with Virilion, Wetzel said. Dan Solomon, CEO of Virilion, said that the distinctiveness of the partnership is a result of Extrovertic's experience with consumer healthcare marketing and Virilion's experience with digital strategy.

"Social media enthusiasts are overly critical of the rate at which the healthcare sector is adopting the technique," Solomon said. "There is a perception that health is behind, but I don't think that's right; health is just different. Marketers are rightfully cautious, in direct proportion to the sensitivity of the issues they are dealing with."

Virilion has offices in New York, Boston, Austin, TX and Washington, DC.

Since 1997, the firm has worked for clients in categories ranging from food, agriculture and energy to media and entertainment. In the healthcare sector, Virilion has worked for Abbott, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and Easter Seals.

Drossman noted that healthcare marketers still face many challenges when planning digital and social media campaigns.

“Just knowing what the parameters are in how they can promote and where is a huge concern,” he said. “We're hoping to help people to do pilot campaigns and start preparing for when the regulations get more concrete.”

Sermo, a social network for doctors that claims more than 100,000 physicians as members, launched Sermo Panels, which are online focus groups that firms can use to conduct market research, last month.

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