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The Media Is the Medicine

Take a guess at when the following words were penned:

“In the past, the effects of media were experienced more gradually, allowing the individual and society to absorb and cushion their impact to some degree. Today, in the electronic age of instantaneous communication, I believe that our survival, and at the very least our comfort and happiness, is predicated on understanding the nature of our new environment.”

The answer: 1969.

The author, Marshall McLuhan, also coined a phrase you’ve likely heard before: 

“The medium is the message.”

We could split hairs until 2069 on the exact meaning and implications of this aphorism, but instead let’s take another of McLuhan’s points seriously: we make the tools, then the tools make us. The strange and confusing world we live in today is to a great extent the product of the newest and most dominant form of communication: social media.

Pharma and social media are not new acquaintances. And in 2014, The Medicine Maker ran a feature on this same topic, looking at regulations, data mining, and the entry of an often-reluctant industry into the social media mire.

Since then, the world has turned on its head and new questions need to be asked. We’ve borne witness to the rise of fake news, and – in many countries – ever-widening socio-political polarization. How have these ruptures shifted pharma’s relationship with (dis/mis)information? And how did our anxious digital existences under lockdown affect media marketing strategies to command our attention in the “Eyeball Economy?”

In the wake of a global crisis with an unforgettably online dimension, we now return to the topic of pharma and social media. Has pharma become more comfortable with social media? Which companies are merely “getting it right,” and which are breaking new ground? Which medium carries pharma’s message best – 240 character tweets and micro-clips, or marathon Youtube uploads and podcast episodes?

In this November 2021 feature, we can’t claim to have found all the answers. But we can present more than a few insights (and highly quotable hot takes) from media sages working in the industry today. You may not agree with every single word, but it’s 2021 – who wants to be stuck in an echo chamber?

Check out the stories below, read voraciously, and make the ghost of Marshall McLuhan proud!

HyperReality Check

 “A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding.”
- Marshall McLuhan

Mike Rea of IDEA Pharma speaks frankly on the mud fights, echo chambers, and risks at play in the virtual forums of social media in 2021

A Four Dimensional Perspective

"The democratization of information enabled by the internet, and social media in particular, is a double-edged sword."
- Charlie Badham, 4D Pharma

On a scale of “mates in the pub” to “SEC regulatory filing,” where does your social media style sit? 4D Pharma tells us about their approach to social media.

Ad Men of the Round Table

“The content of any medium is always another medium.”
- Marshall McLuhan

Four courageous marketer-knights weigh in on what it takes to tilt against the social media windmills of pharma’s digital content kingdom

Countering the Counterfactuals

"Some pharma companies have judged that the cons of engagement with the public outweigh the pros. I take a different view."
- Ahmed Samy Moktar

Disinformation, misinformation... we all know it's out there, but how can pharma fight it?

Want to read the other great pieces that appeared in The Medicine Maker's November 2021 issue? Want to see how this feature looked in print? Check it all out HERE.

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About the Author
Angus Stewart

Associate Editor of The Medicine Maker

Between studying for my English undergrad and Publishing master's degrees I was out in Shanghai, teaching, learning, and getting extremely lost. Now I'm expanding my mind down a rather different rabbit hole: the pharmaceutical industry. Outside of this job I read mountains of fiction and philosophy, and I must say, it's very hard to tell who's sharper: the literati, or the medicine makers.

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