Start your Q1 deliverables now!

You are still in that Summer mode. Everything is a bit slower. You might even have a few more vacation days that you want to squeeze in before Summer is gone. That’s fine, but be sure to go full speed ahead with your planning for your Q1 marketing deliverables as soon as possible.

I know what you’re thinking; It’s still early, so I must be exaggerating, right? Nope!

When I used to manage a marketing team, I encouraged my team members to give themselves about 5-6 months for planning, execution and delivery, and even then, sometimes certain projects would get stalled and risk not getting delivered on time. Every company has a unique approval process and whether you like it not, some red tape that you have to work through. My team dealt with the co-promotion products of the company, therefore this meant a little extra timing was required in order to get input and approvals from all required parties on both sides. And let’s face it, some projects are way more complex than others. If you need to get approval from a 3rd party such as the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) or Ads Standards Canada (ASC), be aware of how many days they require to do a first review and then subsequent reviews. Simpler projects may only require 1 or 2 reviews, but complex projects may require many subsequent reviews.

Steps to take into account

Here are the steps that you need to account for when determining how much time you need to produce a tool to produce a tool from start to finish. The timing for each step will differ based on the company and the project in mind, and some of the steps will differ as well;

  1. Concept planning
    • Depending on the type of company that you work for, this might be done in a very small group (sometimes it might be just the marketer, although this is not the ideal situation). This is usually done in a cross functional meeting, where team members from various departments will gather to come up with a concept that meets a particular strategic objective. Departments that might be included in this beginning meeting are regulatory, medical, market access, sales, market research and any other who may provide insights and expertise on the strategy being tackled or who will be involved in implementing the project at some point. Sometimes, an agency may be involved at this point if there is an agency of record already established for the brand.
  2. The agency develops the concept in writing.
  3. The internal cross-functional team reviews the agency’s copy internally to ensure that the essence of the project has been met.
  4. Once the concept is approved, the agency produces a visual layout.
  5. The cross functional team does an internal review of the agency’s layout.
  6. The project gets certification in English via the final sign off by a senior manager who is ultimately responsible for the project.
  7. Translation if required.
  8. Certification of the project in French.

The Project Type Matters

The entire process timeline from conceptualization to delivery for a marketing project truly depends on the type of project. The following examples all assume that either PAAB or ASC review and approval are required;

  • a simple dosing slimjim might take 3 months
  • a detail aid might take 4-5 months
  • a website might require 6-10 months
  • anything that is innovative from a technology perspective, such as a podcast or an augmented reality project, may require 6-12 months

A medical marketing consultant could be your solution

Medical marketing consultants can help you at various stages of your marketing project process. so that you can focus on your priorities and still manage to meet your delivery timelines. You may need some strategic input, a medical writer or somebody to manage your internal and external (PAAB, ASC) approvals. Contact Marketing 4 Health Inc. for your medical marketing solutions.

Searching for Presenters for November PAAB Workshops

Update: The submission deadline has been extended to September 2nd. There will be no further extensions.

The Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) is doing something new this year; they are inviting clients to submit for an opportunity to present at the November 2019 PAAB workshops. Here are the details, criteria and caveat regarding the submission and acceptance of a proposed PAAB presenter, as per the PAAB workshop website:

For more information on how to become a speaker at the PAAB workshops, visit the PAAB workshop website.

Save-the-date: Become a Leader in Compliant Marketing and Communications

  • Montreal: November 26, 2019 (Crowne Plaza, 6600 Côte de Liesse, Saint-Laurent)
  • Toronto: November 28, 2019 (Delta Hotels by Marriott, 655 Dixon Road, Toronto)

For more information on the agenda and speakers of the PAAB workshops, visit the PAAB workshop website.

Marketing 4 Health Inc. is proud to be supporting the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) again by helping to promote their upcoming PAAB workshops. I will be at the PAAB workshop in Toronto. I hope to see you there!

Contact Nat at Marketing 4 Health Inc. for help with your PAAB-related project:

Contact information for Nat at Marketing 4 Health Inc:

  • Email:
  • Call/text: 647-871-4NAT(4628)

PAAB Social Features on their Website: What to Expect

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to be one of several volunteers on the PAAB Website Social Functionality Committee, which was chaired by Jennifer Carroll (Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board – PAAB). Members of this PAAB Social committee consisted of both agency and client stakeholders;

PAAB Website Social Functionality Committee, 2019

What prompted the need for PAAB social features?

One of the PAAB’s business objectives is to increase client engagement in a more timely and regular basis.  What better way to do this than to allow ones’ stakeholders to reach out to the PAAB as well as to directly engage with other PAAB stakeholders online, whenever the need arises.  To help with this objective, the PAAB decided to form a Website Social Functionality Committee consisting of multiple stakeholders to provide guidance and practical feedback on social features for the PAAB website.

The PAAB Website Social Functionality Committee was initiated as a result of these issues. The objective of the committee was to determine how to configure social features on the PAAB website with the following considerations in mind;

  • How to promote client use of the social feature
  • How to effectively manage risks associated with the social feature
  • How to generate useful data and powerful insights contributing to PAAB’s mandate of continuous improvement

Juliana and I presented the final plan to the PAAB Board of Directors, which got approved. Yeah!! The PAAB has given me approval to publicly share insights about some of their website changes to come.

Proposed revisions to the PAAB website’s social features:

A PAAB staff member will be assigned to identify all similar documents throughout the PAAB website and group them in the same location to create sub-categories so that they can all be found more readily by the user. Whoever will be responsible for this assignment is going to be very busy!

New social features will be added to the existing website. Below are some of the key details:

  • PAAB website users will be able to like, share and comment per document OR per sub-category
    • Each document will have its own comments feed
    • People can comment at a concept level or at a specific document level. So when you see the comment, you will know what it is connected to.
    • Document comments won’t show up in categories, but if you’re on the category page, you’ll be able to see the amount of activity on each document, but it won’t assimilate all the comments.  That could get too messy.
    • You can also ‘like’ documents so users can filter a view based on popularity if they wish.
    • There will be the option to share documents which will contain static and social content. This will prove to be a great coaching tool for marketers who need to know the PAAB code well. It will also be a useful tool for agencies who need to inform their client as to what can and cannot be done in their marketing tools, and why or why not.

Here’s a made-up example of what all this could look like for a single document and a sub-category of multiple documents.

NOTE: This is only a mock-up for descriptive purposes.  The designs have not been finalized but we wanted you to have an idea of how it could look like : 

The PAAB website; Example of what social functionality on a document

The PAAB website; Example of what social functionality on a sub-category

Who can view, like, comment and share?

Anybody! There will be no limitation in the audience. In general, we anticipate that the audience will mostly consist of Canadian medical marketers or Canadian medical marketing agencies, but healthcare professionals, consumers and patients can also participate.

There will be no requirement that participants use their real names although this is highly encouraged.

Benefits for medical clients and medical marketing consultants and agencies:

The implications of adding social features to the PAAB website go beyond PAAB’s intent of increasing engagement with their clients in a more timely and regular fashion. And the

  • There will be an opportunity to participate at your convenience, 24/7
  • There will be an opportunity to learn (and coach) from the content generated by or in response to your peers’ comments
  • You will have access to an efficient avenue to ask questions which are focused on specific PAAB documents or sub-categories
  • You will have a streamlined mechanism to locate PAAB resources.
  • You will have increased access to training and resource documents.

The PAAB will benefit from this as well:

  • The PAAB will receive client insights on documents and sub-categories
  • The PAAB will see open and transparent communication between users which will provide insight into additional learning needs
  • The PAAB will be able to provide feedback as required which may answer questions from several people all at once, or for those who will come to see the document at a future time.

How does the PAAB plan to manage all of these comments?

You cannot have a social marketing plan without having a risk mitigation plan. Here are some of the high level risk mitigation plans that the PAAB is setting up as we speak;

  • There will be an assigned PAAB staff member who will be responsible for continuous comment monitoring
  • The PAAB will not be responding or commenting on all discussion threads. They will jump in if they need to respond to a question or if there is a comment that is perceived as being high-risk.
  • Responses to frequently-asked-questions are already developed and will be used to respond to these typical questions which may now appear in comments.
  • Comments which are considered to be high risk will be managed individually based on the PAAB escalation process.

When does the PAAB plan to launch the social features on their website?

At the moment, I am unsure. If we get an answer to this, we will update this blog post accordingly.

What do you think of the changes to come?

It’s only after you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone that you begin to change, grow, and transform.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

Thank you to the PAAB for allowing me to give you a sneak peek about the upcoming social changes to their website. Furthermore, I am grateful for the confidence that the PAAB has shown me by including me on both the committee and on the presentation team.

I would love to know what you think of all this. Are you looking forward to these changes? Are you a bit weary, and if so, why? Please leave me a comment below.

Wishing Ray from PAAB a happy retirement

Natalie et Ray Chepsiuk - PAAB Commissionner - retraiteCongratulations to Ray Chepesiuk on his retirement from the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB)

Over the past 20+ years, he has saved me from getting into regulatory trouble on multiple occasions during my brand management days, and once I went off on my own, he still took the time to discuss topics for my blog and even connected me with various people who might lead to business opportunities. In fact, Ray brought me in for my very first pharma social media training session to train the PAAB reviewers. That was when social media was still in its infancy. One of the highlights of my career was back in 2009 when Ray invited me to sit with him and others on a speaker panel focused on social media & pharma. I felt so intimidated but Ray always showed his confidence in me.

I, as well as many other Canadian pharmaceutical marketers, learned a lot from Ray, both from a regulatory and a leadership perspective. Thank you, Ray, for your kindness, generosity and support throughout all these years. Best wishes on your well-deserved retirement.

Is PAAB review required for chatbots?

88341455_sMarketers in every single industry have been hearing about the importance of artificial intelligence (AI), including pharmaceutical marketers.  The major difference between the pharmaceutical industry and the others is that pharma is highly regulated in what it can say and do.  So, is PAAB review required for chatbots?  The answer is, of course, yes!

Whether a communication from a pharmaceutical company comes from an employee or a chatbot, the regulatory requirements must be treated the same;

For chatbots, the initial submission must include a detailed description of the model determining which scripts are used in which contexts (such that the underlying logic and model assumptions can be reviewed). Again, if applicable, A detailed description of how machine learning will take place must also be included.

-Patrick Massad, Deputy Commissioner, PAAB.

For more on how PAAB reviews chatbots, download the PAAB training document Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Canadian: Pharma: Opportunity or risk?

Want to learn even more than what’s in the training document, then join us at the upcoming PAAB workshop: Download the agenda and register now!

Workshop dates:

November 20, Montreal

November 22, Toronto

Early Bird Special:
Book by September 28, 2018 and save $50


Marketing 4 Health Inc. is pleased to help raise awareness for the PAAB workshop.  We hope to see you there!

280 Twitter Characters and Canadian Pharma


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Twitter recently announced that it is testing 280 characters per tweet. That is double what they currently allow. What does this increase in tweeting space mean for the Canadian pharmaceutical industry?




Direct to consumer advertising of prescription products in Canada
In Canada, prescription drugs can only be promoted to healthcare professionals. Direct to consumer (DTC) advertising can only mention a product’s name, quantity and price. The product name cannot be linked to a disease state or promotional messages as this would then be considered advertising, and that would be a problem because it goes against the Pharmaceutical Advertising Advisory Board (PAAB) guidelines.

Ray Chepesiuk, the Commissioner of PAAB, had this to say about the new 280 characters:

“If you don’t have the ability to close off the audience so that only healthcare professionals see your tweets, then it’s still a problem because you cannot control your target audience. It’s the same problem with Facebook which has always allowed a lot more characters. You must ensure that only certain groups have access to your promotional information. Once you can isolate an audience, then you must follow section 6 of the PAAB code.”

Just remember that even though the maximum characters in a tweet may be changing, the drug advertising rules are not.

Institutional messages and PR by Canadian pharmaceutical companies

However, if a Canadian pharmaceutical company wants to send information about their organization (ie. charitable donations, community programs, relief missions to send drugs to other countries, a patient drug program, etc…) and still include the product name, it can be done within the guidelines. As long as you do not link therapeutic use and brand, as that would exceed name, price and quantity, you should be OK.

Hashtags make it easier to find your tweet

Another benefit is that having space for additional hashtags could help make your post easier to find. But make sure that post is not considered advertising, and you cannot be sneaky and include promotional hashtags because then you’ll be crossing the line.

Things will be a bit different for the US pharmaceutical industry

The new 280 characters could be a little more exciting for US pharmaceutical advertisers. There, online DTC advertising can reference their brief fair balance summary to somewhere else (ie. in an ad that they published in a magazine or elsewhere). In the US, they can probably use the extra characters to get more message in about their drug and meet their fair balance and legal obligations. This is not an option in Canada.

For a greater analysis of the impact of a longer tweet in the American pharmaceutical industry, please check out Andy Grojean’s article from 2016 “Beyond 140: How Twitter’s 10K Character Limit Could Change the Game for Pharma”.

OTC brands in Canada will benefit

As for DTC advertising of over-the-counter (OTC) products in Canada, there is certainly much greater latitude in the way that they can be promoted. Therefore, the OTC companies are probably pleased about the extra character allocation, because they will be able to be more creative in their use of their extra space.

Overall, the increase in Twitter characters will be slightly beneficial to the Canadian pharmaceutical industry but presents greater opportunities for OTC brands and corporate messages.

What are your thoughts on this?  And are you one of the lucky people who already has access to the 280 characters on Twitter?  I don’t, not yet anyway.  I love reading your comments, so please share what is on your mind.