At our Digital Velocity ‘22: The Ultimate Healthcare Event, we went  in depth with Drew Isaacs, the Vice President for Marketing Operations at Novartis about how they are using the Tealium Customer Data Platform to create real-time, personalized experiences in Pharma. Novartis is a pharmaceuticals company developing breakthrough treatments and finding new ways to deliver them to as many people as possible. 

Exploring how companies can define use cases to orchestrate real time, personalized experiences in pharma and become more customer centered, Drew Isaacs shares how Novartis is navigating it all. Everything from new initiatives, establishing a CDP, compliance and real-time were discussed as part of our Digital Velocity ‘22: The Ultimate Healthcare Event. Watch the segment linked here and read along with the session transcript below!

Key Takeaways 

  • Creating customer journeys can be time consuming and a lot of work but will make your company more successful. 
  • Embracing the loss of third party cookies to focus on the data your company owns will shift this loss into a win.
  • Centralizing your data will create more meaningful insights into your consumer journey.

Tealium for Pharma Promo Image

Big Pharma NextGen Engagement With Omnichannel Personalization

Featuring Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

Lauren: All right,  next up we have our friend from Novartis in the house. Drew good morning it’s so nice to see you

Drew: Good morning. 

Lauren: Drew, we are excited to talk about big pharma and next generation engagement with omnichannel personalization today. That’s a lot of big words. Drew, I’d love to just first start with inviting you to tell everybody in the audience a little bit about your role at Novartis.

Drew: Sure, and thank you for the invite and welcome all. I’m the Vice President for our Marketing Operations at Novartis.

Lauren: Drew, I’d love for you to paint a picture of Novartis for our audience today. Talk a little bit about the scale of your systems, how many websites are in the portfolio, all the different customer, patient, doctor data touch points that the team is working with.

Drew:  Novartis is headquartered in Basel, Switzerland and the main headquarters in the US is in New Jersey. We’re probably number one or two in most of the markets around the world, and we’re probably in the top 10 in the U.S. We have medications in both pharma as well as oncology, so we serve hundreds of thousands of patients. Our physician basis and our target audiences are in the hundreds of thousands. 

Lauren: Absolutely, it’s a vast audience for sure. When we were speaking last week we talked a little bit about some of the differences in the way that Novartis is challenged to communicate in a personalized way with some of those various audience segments. Whether they be a healthcare provider, a patient, a caretaker, a physician specifically.  Talk to us a little bit about that.

Drew: Those are great questions and I really like the way that Heidi teed us all up in terms of her three main things of being informed, personalizing the experience, as well as how we leverage machine learning and AI. At Novartis we’re going through it as well. We embarked last year on a fairly large initiative called the Next Generation Engagement, which really meant how are we going to change? How are we going to market the model in terms of making things very personalized? In the past we have been going very static communication by channel. Now we really need to change how we do all that to create personalization. 

That involves a whole host of things because for what happens in the world of pharma for each therapeutic area you may have a target, you may segment your physicians in four segments, and they have then additional micro segments and use cases, and also the patients have their journeys and the physicians have their journey. 

The most important thing is what we call four C’s. We have the Customer, the Content, the Cadence, and the Channel. So you want to make sure that when you’re sending a communication and a message to a healthcare provider you want to send the right message at the right time. You don’t necessarily want to create an awareness message when they’re already an advocate. And this is similar stuff to the patient, so it’s a real challenge. 


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

We had to look internally about how to really transform from static assets to how we go about creating module assets. Then, what are the technologies, tools, and processes that we have to create? In the Pharma world we don’t sell products, there’s nothing on the shelf to go by; it’s really the conversation that you as an individual have with family members and then with your physicians who then writes the prescription. We’re really in the business to help people make the most informed decision. There are a lot of statistics out there that only a third of the patients who need medicines are on medicines. When someone gets a prescription maybe only 30% doesn’t fill it, then maybe people on about half of them drop off after six months. You would think that in a world where we have so much information flow, it’s a real challenge to get the right information to the right person at the right time. I could personalize that, if that would be helpful.

Lauren: Tell us a bit about Novartis before a CDP, and what was it that prompted the team to say I think we need to explore an option to help us with this. 

Drew:  Similarly to other organizations, since we’re very highly regulated, pharma is typically not on the cutting edge or leading edge of activities. Coming in we noticed we had a significant gap. We might have hundreds if not thousands of website properties out there but they were being tagged and managed by literally hundreds of different types of agencies. You can only imagine the complexities associated with that, and the lack of uniformity on how you’re even doing your daily leaders and your containers and your tagging. What data are you actually capturing? And what does that mean? How do you create consistency? 

We had a big gap because we didn’t have a CDP. Some of us who have had experience in the past with technology got together and formed a team to help the organization understand the value proposition and the gap. Then we went about creating an RFI and RFP for that. 

Lauren: What weighed into that decision in the creation of the RFPs? What were some of the key criteria that you knew you had to check those boxes?

Drew: I think it’s really important that you have relevant use cases for your particular industry or your company. We started with an initial approved concept, to see if and what would work. From there we were successful and initiated two proof of values to validate what we believed we could achieve. We chose a couple US brands to do the proof of value, and it worked well in terms of the impact and level of increase in activities that we saw using the proof of value. I won’t go into the details, but it’s really important to establish what you want to accomplish for a proof of concept. While it may technically work, go beyond that and see what value it’ll bring to the organization. Establish those criteria, then ensure that people are aligned, then move forward, and then we have the appropriate metrics and it was actually quite successful.

Lauren: Going through that implementation process after selecting your CDP, what is some of the success that Novartis has experienced? 

Drew: Internally we had multiple meetings to gather individual use cases from all of the various stakeholders throughout the organization from our data, our decision engine. We have brand people, we have market access, it goes around and around all the different brand people.

We wound up collecting 153 individual use cases. It’s quite amazing. We went through a really interesting mapping process right from the functional areas, and then where in the journeys those potential use cases could be applicable. 


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

Then we went back to the team. We had those review sessions and then we took another step to create what we call journeys. We then prioritized the top 10 journeys, and a journey would be a combination of multiple use cases that we can then say, ‘Hey, these would be applicable across multiple brands to address sort of in-market issues.’ Whether it’s awareness, whether it’s access, whatever it is. Then we created those prioritizations. 

Further to that, we then, creatively thinking out of the box, what else could we do with these things? And in the pharma world you know that we do a lot of paid media and there are some restrictions on the data flowing through. We were also able to come up with some unique ways to actually use our databases to look up tables when people came to our sites. Not only be able to pass through those unique physician ID numbers, as well as click-through rates, but we also established internal tagging for our content and our campaign metadata and now we’re able to check and see how our actual content in the marketplace is causing that action.  What action are they taking on our own properties? 

We then take that and now we can say okay, we’re sort of using the CDP now as an aggregate. It’s another tool in our martech armament that we can use to better inform and enrich our profile.


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

As I mentioned before, we have our own market research where we take all our docs and we put them into four different segments but then there are microsegments, are they in the right segment? Are they in the right micro segment? What content did they respond to in the marketplace? We could then take that and feed our own master data database, to adjust, and enrich those profiles. 

Secondly, because in the world of pharma there is a lag in getting data from prescriptions, but the CDP also enables us to do things in real time. That can then inform our other downstream activation chats. 

Lauren: 153 use cases is quite the accomplishment, definitely. Supposed to be celebrated by many at the company I would imagine.

Drew Isaac’s Personal Connection

If I can just take two minutes to tell them why this is relevant to people. It’s about getting informed. Many years ago my dad was diagnosed with and almost died one night from what’s called Blast Phase of his white blood cells. The next day he was getting a diagnosis of the disease and at that time there was no cure, so the doctors gave him a year and a half to live. So my wife and I went to the medical libraries and did the hard research and opening, this before the internet. After four days I found this publication about some doctor in Texas, MD Anderson doing some experimental research on interferon. I called him up, got my dad down there, it turns out that that was helpful for him and in taking daily injections. This doctor turned out to be the godfather of the pill that cured my father’s disease. So here’s an example where you know as a patient or helping a patient right, where do I get the information? How do I get the information?


Now years later my dad winds up moving to Florida and he’s seeing a hematology oncologist that changed his dosing of that medication and it went below a dosing that was even efficacious or worked, so my dad got really sick. It’s just one example where getting the right information to the right person at the right time could have helped me, as the patient consumer, as well as having an educated physician who didn’t even understand the dosing for the medication. I’m sure everybody has a similar story about someone in their family because that’s happened to me on multiple occasions. 


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

Lauren: It’s a powerful story and I love that connection that you can bring that passion from your personal experiences to work, the passion that you and the team have for helping people with information at the right time. It’s really powerful. Thank you for sharing that. 

Drew: Thanks, well that’s why we are in the business, right? We’re in the healthcare business to help improve the quality of people’s lives. That’s what drives us into this business and that’s our entire intent.

Lauren: Love that Drew. I know cookieless is a huge factor affecting everybody on the call today. Third party cookies are going away, and just in general the loss of data signals is a factor that’s impacting so many businesses today, whether they be healthcare or outside of healthcare. Talk to us about how the team is approaching some of these huge shifts in the way that you’ve connected with your audiences.

Drew: Yeah that’s a great question and we do have people in our organization that are really experts in that area and we have you know frequent conversations with them all the time.

There are some other technologies out there that try to help solve [third party cookie loss], but at the end of the day, as I mentioned before, the more we can move away from you know paid media, just things that we own and serve is best, that’s what we’re trying to do in some areas. We’re working with our media partners to be able to connect where people are coming from, and how we look it up on our side when they come to our own properties and then connect the dots, we use Tealium for that now. 


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

There’s other ways that we could use Tealium. There are organizations that will say you know we’ve got a target audience of, I’m just making this up, 250,000 docs. Only 10% are registered with us. When in our field, and like most regulated fields, you need to have someone registered give you permission in order to reach out to them. Some organizations have said we want to achieve a certain number of target physicians that we want to get registered on our properties, so we no longer have to rely upon whether paid media or other data sources have the right to connect with them on that personal basis. That’s a big challenge because there are so many different sources of data. On clinical data, where is the real truth? And that’s a big challenge in the marketplace. 

Lauren: Another big challenge in the marketplace is the rapid expansion of privacy regulation. In a highly regulated industry like healthcare, alongside government and other financial services.  Talk about how Novartis is working to position itself to stay flexible with privacy regulation and staying in compliance with that. Also, how Novartis continues to evolve globally. 

Drew: Yeah, so we do have an entire global team that is focused on compliance. It is extremely important to us from an audit regulatory and compliance ethics perspective. That could probably take an entire day to have that conversation about. But I would say that you know Tealium can be a component of that, just like all the other sorts of policies, procedures, and applications that we are going to employ.

Lauren: I believe we have a couple of questions coming in through the chat for you. The first question is how did you restructure or build a team around this new CDP ecosystem to support it not only systems wise but also with processes, governance, et cetera?

Drew: I was fortunate that I had experience in it before, and led a large team of commercial operations in the service side.  The first step we did was once you’ve made a decision for the selection of your CDP,  let’s say in this case Tealium, is to partner with them. What we did is we had a different vendor, vendor A let’s say, who was providing some tag services for all the different agencies and it was decentralized. The first thing you want to do is think about how you plan to centralize that. What I would suggest you do is work with your Tealium partner.  We did that here, they have a whole service team. Then what we did is have them do the first, identify who your server’s potential partners were. We did the RFPs right to many companies and we had them come in a pitch and we selected who we thought was the best. At the same time, we partnered with Tealium to ensure that we were going about and they were going about our partner the right way with support from Tealium. We want to do the Tealium first, have our partners sort of shadow. Then the second one, our partners would do it, Tealium would be the shadow and then we can go with our partner.

Lauren: I love hearing that approach. One final question for you. This attendee says, ‘Drew, thank you for sharing your knowledge. How is Novartis creating a single customer view with first party data and third party data, like social media etcetera?’

Drew: Well that’s a really good question.

Let me just share with you this, what we are moving toward, we started to implement is modular content. We’ve created our own tagging taxonomy approach. We have created our own internal decision engines leveraging machine languaging and AI.


– Drew Isaacs,  Vice President for Marketing Operations,  Novartis 

We do source a whole host of various data providers that we aggregate in, cleanse, and then align with our segmentation. Then we leverage the information that we acquire back in the marketplace, using things like Tealium and other stuff. Our decision engine then learns more about our target audience and then orchestrates the communications across our channels leveraging our modular assets.

Drew Isaacs has given us so much to think about as well as a lot of excitement for the future and innovation of Healthcare.

For more amazing insights into how a CDP can help create personalized experiences in pharma check out our new product release, Tealium for Pharma, the first ever pharmaceutical specific Customer Data Platform!


Post Author

Sophie Saddik
Sophie Saddik Is the Content Marketing Intern at Tealium. She is currently studying at NYU with a concentration in English Literature and International Relations.

Sign Up for Our Blog

By submitting this form, you agree to Tealium's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.
Back to Blog

Want a CDP that works with your tech stack?

Talk to a CDP expert and see if Tealium is the right fit to help drive ROI for your business.

Get a Demo