Category Archives: Nitro


Pharma Social Media Conference June 2017

The Pharma Social Media Conference returns to London next week, 28th June, and our commercial director, Andy Stafford, will be presenting at this one-day event.

Attendees will learn how to create engaging and compliant social media strategies for the Life Sciences and Pharma sectors.

Andy will speak on the topic Digital Outcomes Through Social.

When: 28th June 2017, 12:30-12:45
Where: One America Square, London, EC3N 2LS

We’ll be exhibiting at the conference, stop by and say hi if you’re attending. We’d love to speak with you!

Giving Our All at Nitro Digital

We normally post about market developments, our latest projects or to offer a point of view. I’d like to depart from that slightly to share some thoughts on an organisation we feel passionate about, not in an earth-shattering, “this is so innovative” sort of way, but more as an expression of our company culture and a set of attributes that I believe are important in forming a well rounded organisation.

We operate in the digital marketing services industry and, let’s face it, it’s an industry—advertising, in particular—that has come under scrutiny in recent months for its lack of transparency. That said, marketing agencies can still make ethically based choices whilst striving to build a profitable, long term and sustainable business.

We choose to work in healthcare because it allows us to contribute  to the improvement of human and animal well being. I’m not for a moment saying that we are the be-all and end-all in this sector and I’d happily prostrate myself in honour of the many healthcare and life sciences professionals who I have met over the years doing much more worthy work in clinical care, research and product development and education. I hold a strong belief that technology and marketing skills can make a huge difference to making health care delivery more efficient. I like refer to our small role in this as “marketing with meaning”,  i.e. we choose to work in the healthcare sector rather than consumer goods, like, for example, Coke.

That leads me to talking our approach to “giving” at Nitro. I believe giving is an important part of an organisation’s culture, both internally—in terms of sharing knowledge and effort selflessly—and also externally, in terms of “small acts of kindness” to those less fortunate. Obviously, that has to be pre-dedicated by being profitable since we are not externally funded but, where we can, I believe strongly that we should give something back. We are also a relatively small organisation that has to manage growth, service and investment demands so let’s just call this a direction of travel as opposed to a “wow, look at all this, have a pat on the back” moment. I believe we’ve been making a contribution that is scaling, and I’d like to share some examples of that. I hope that one of our most significant efforts will be the placing of 1% of our equity aside for the creation of a charity fund (in the event that some liquidity is achieved for it in the future)—an idea we are unashamed to have stolen from the likes of Google and Salesforce.

On a business level, over the years, in terms of product development, through our ULTRA (Unleash the Right Advocates) suite of products/services we’ve collaborated with hundreds of health care professionals (HCPs) to help them tell the story of their endeavours. And we continue to refine our products to best serve the needs of HCPs and patients alike: watch this space.

As a company, we participate in different fundraising days throughout the year. In the UK office, at Christmas we donned Christmas jumpers for Save the Children’s annual Christmas Jumper Day. In March, we wore red for Red Nose Day; the company matches the original amount we raise.



Corin and Vassia wear red for Red Nose Day


On an individual level, many of our team personally perform charity challenges, and Nitro supports them in various ways. Earlier in the year, several people participated in Run for Your Mind in support of the charity Mind. Our commercial director, Andy Stafford, recently ran an Ultra Marathon to fundraise for Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s CharityYou can support him here.


Andy’s charity race

Which brings me to the organisation I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Over the past years—and on the back of amazing leadership by friends Rob Hamilton and John Readman—Nitro has been participating in an effort to raise funds for the wonderful charity 1moreChild by attempting to ride to Australia one 4-500 mile leg at a time. Other colleagues have contributed by travelling to Jinga, Uganda, where the charity is based and setting up computers, broadband and teaching basic computer and internet skills. I’ve recently returned from a trip there with Bonamy Grimes, Katie Hollier and Jamie Waller—all strong supporters of the charity—whose amazing efforts along with other corporate and private sponsors make the existence of the charity possible.

I’d like to tell you a bit about the incredible work the charity does.


Paper dart toy — all they have

1moreChild provides food, accommodation, mentoring, tuition, support and safety to 280 children in Jinga who are either living in the street or in difficult family circumstances. For context, Uganda is a country with a very highold-shoes birth rate and a strong tribal culture, and Jinga is a town with many social issues, as well as being one of the sources of the river Nile.

It’s also a town where around 3-4,000 children are homeless, literally sleeping beneath verandas, and with few, if any possessions. Even where children have achieved a place at 1moreChild (or one of the other charities active in the area), the only items available might be clothing similar to these used boots, or toys, like these two dirty darts or the very old bicycles being ridden below. It’s not a place where basic subsistence includes a daily trip to Starbucks.


Children on old bicycles

boscoWithin this context 1moreChild does an incredible job. Led locally by Bosco and his team and from the UK by founders Harry and Hen Ferdinando what they achieve is the definition of compassionate, culturally sensitive direct action. More mentoring and enablement than charity, this is a lean operation that makes the most of scarce resources.

To give some examples of both the challenges and the opportunities to improve not just survivability via food and shelter but life skills and confidence the charity organises football games. Football is a huge part of life for the childrenchildren-playing-footballand 1moreChild organises community games for the children both in the homes and those outside of them. Football matches provide an opportunity to feed many children (up to 400 at a time) who would not otherwise get any protein at all. In Uganda the logistics around this are no small challenge; for example, the older children transport food by wheelbarrow from one house’s kitchen to the feeding station 1 km away.


Children transporting food

Education—specifically, getting those children into school who been unable to attend—and establishing a sense of pride and confidence in their work is a huge part of 1MoreChild’s modus operandi. Nitro has been supporting some of the older children by providing computer equipment, onsite network support and tuition, and covering the cost of the charity’s broadband. This in itself, though important and achieving results (see the photo of one of the senior boys Geoffry using his computer skills) is a second order problem compared to the provision of safety, food and accommodation. I cannot stress enough how far a small amount of money can go: just US$50 a month can support a child’s education, mentoring, accommodation, food and clothing.

geoffrey-sitting-at-computerMy recent trip proved to be heart-warming and heart-rending all at once. Heart-warming, because I got to see how vibrant, happy and hopeful children can be in challenging circumstances and without so many of the things we take for granted. Heart-rending, because these children are desperately poor and have had lives that, even having met them, I can only imagine. One child I met was scarred across his neck where his father had tried to slit his throat after having murdered his mother and sister … apparently they were possessed. Against that backdrop I can still barely imagine the work and decisions that the team at 1moreChild has to do and make on a daily basis.3-children-green-faces2-children-yellow-faces The trade-offs they have to make: do they fix that window in the house, or create a place to store computers in the girls’ houses, or take another child off the street? It’s easy to say ALL, but that’s not possible with the resources available so it’s an either-or situation. Which would you choose? This is why fundraising is so critically important. So my commitment is as an organisation that we’ll continue to give. My request for anyone who reads this is to please visit 1moreChild and consider giving too. It really is money well spent, as I hope the pictures I’ve shared in this post show.



Nitro Digital expands across EMEA

Nitro Digital, the leading independent, tech-enabled digital marketing agency has further expanded its global offering, opening three new offices worldwide. New office locations in Ireland, Italy and Pakistan will support the increasing global demand from clients and assist in utilising the global talent pool in the digital arena.

Peter-Mortimore-headshotPeter Mortimore, the global head of client services, has moved from Nitro’s London headquarters to Ireland to open the new office in the tech hub of Grand Canal Dock, central Dublin.
Ireland has an extremely strong reputation as a home for several European pharmaceutical and medical device companies combined with being a hub of digital development talent, which makes it an exciting base for Nitro to continue its offering to many pan-European focussed organisations.

Part of Nitro Digital’s Executive Management team, Mortimore will continue to drive business growth and thought leadership in the digital healthcare sector and also be looking to expand the team across multidisciplinary digital expertise.

Ashgar Khan is a leader of Nitro’s newly formed Engineering Centre of Excellence team in Islamabad, Pakistan, heading up an experienced team of technical architects and software engineering experts. Working across multiple Ashgar-Khan-headshottechnologies, this team greatly expands Nitro’s offering to its global client portfolio, and facilitates greater coverage of the Asian markets.

Pete Davis, Nitro Digital’s COO comments, ‘I am thrilled to have Khan and the team working with Nitro. The experience and skills they bring have allowed us to push on to the next level with both client deliveries and our own technical innovation.’

Luca-Melis-headshotLuca Melis oversees the company’s Italian office, which has also recently opened. His remit is management of key global accounts and international business development. With a strong background in digital marketing strategy, Luca can help clients in Italy and Europe in planning their digital presence and visibility campaigns.

Jules Pancholi, managing director, Nitro Digital states: ‘I’m very excited about these new developments. They will help expand our business footprint in order to serve clients better across multiple time zones whilst increasing our multilingual resources and overall skill sets. Look to 2017 to be a year of ongoing leadership and support of  growth and achievement for our clients and Nitro Digital itself.’

To learn more about how we can help you grow your business, don’t hesitate to contact us.


Cancer Research UK Gets Social with HCPs

Cancer Research UK aim to bring forward the day when all cancers are cured. More people than ever before are being diagnosed with cancer in the UK, and in particular, rates of oral cancer have risen dramatically in the last 10 years. Cancer Research UK, supported by the British Dental Association and accredited by the Royal College of General Practitioners, developed an Oral Cancer Recognition Toolkit to promote and support the early diagnosis of oral cancer by dentists and GPs. The toolkit includes a video, recognition and referral aids, case studies and other resources to help support best practice in the prevention and early detection of oral cancer.

Nitro Digital was chosen for the project based on its in-depth knowledge of the healthcare space and its methodical, multidimensional approach to strategising and executing successful online marketing campaigns and its knowledge of how to connect and engage with HCPs online. Taking the lead from Nitro, a tactical digital strategy and plan were developed to harness social media channels to drive awareness and targeted visitors to the appropriate toolkit. The campaign was timed to run for two weeks during Mouth Cancer Action Month (November 2016), and the toolkits were placed on two key healthcare websites, chosen specifically for their relevant readership. Nitro launched  a two-pronged social media planning and buying campaign, selecting two channels (Facebook and LinkedIn) to direct traffic to the landing pages. Ad creative and messaging was tailored to each audience. Chosen KPIs included clicks, impressions, CTR, CPC and using GA.

As this was an experiment for the client, learnings were key. Cancer Research UK had not used social media to reach HCPs before, so there was great interest in seeing how well the campaign would perform. Overall, it delivered strong results and as the CPC was not significantly different from what the client was used to seeing when targeting the general public, they were pleasantly surprised. Nitro, too, was pleased with the initial results, as they demonstrate the opportunity for improvement in the future, with learnings from this pilot effort informing new HCP-centric campaigns going forward. Most important, however, the campaign proved that digital marketing could achieve results and provide insight into audience behaviour that could be used to refine future, similar online activity.

Both medical professionals and patients are becoming increasingly digitally savvy. Social media, in particular, is likely to have a major impact in the way that pharma communicates in the coming years. 52% of physicians surveyed by Deloitte expressed interest in communicating with pharma companies via social media.* Massive opportunities await for those brands that embrace this new digital engagement.

*, published Jan 2016

Digital Pharma Advances Conference Recap

We recently participated in the annual Digital Pharma Advances Conference in London, 2017. As a sponsor, we had both an exhibition stand and speaking slot; and when we weren’t engaged in our sponsorship duties, we had time to enjoy the speaking programme and the wonderful networking opportunities. Here are a few of our takeaways.

The conference programme consisted of a full day of presentations by high level executives from companies such as GSK, Bayer, Pfizer and AstraZeneca, to name a few, as well as sponsors such ourselves.

The key takeaway undoubtedly was:


Where, when and how to engage best with our customers have changed dramatically, so it’s imperative to provide the right information to the right customer through the right channel at the right time.

img_0691Berfin Demirbilek, Integrated Multi channel Marketing Manager, Region EMEA, Bayer spoke on the topic of “Integrated Multichannel Marketing Strategy and Do’s for Digital Transformation”.

She emphasised that the “reality is to be in micro-moments: moments that truly matter” and that only a clear strategy and defined steps can make digital transformation successful.

Tim Cave, VP, Head Medical Affairs Strategic Planning & Digital Practice, GSK spoke on ”Leveraging & Optimising New Technologies & Trends To Deliver Influential, Targeted Engagement”. He, too, stressed that the world is changing, and there are many opportunities to improve trust and communication. He then discussed how GSK is changing their model to make interactions more convenient for HCPs and provided example of virtual meetings and the company’s learnings.

Marketing Manager at Bayer HealthCare, Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Pelin Icil’s mantra was: Reach-Engage-Interest-Convert.

For Kasia Hein-Peters, Vaxelis Marketing Head, Sanofi Pasteur, the localisation of global integrated communications was the topic of the day.


And, of course, the presentation from our own commercial director Andy Stafford “Let’s not do the same old, same old in digital” touched on these very points—and more.

From the current state of play in the industry to the idea that we now live in an “always on” world to the opportunity to leverage both the greater efficiencies and education that digital can provide, Andy emphasised the need to constantly adapt and learn, to change the mindset from delivering merely outputs to embracing illuminating outcomes in order to provide the best value for customers—HCPS and patients alike—and, ultimately, success for your business goals.

If you’d like a copy, please email us at We look forward to hearing from you!


2017-Nitro Digital-vision-graphic

2017: The life sciences marketplace and the imperative for change

Let me start the year not with a retrospective, but with a call out to what we want to build at Nitro.

First off, it’s worth stating what we believe, or rather hypothesise:

  • That a fundamental shift must occur in the way the life sciences industry approaches marketing.
  • That this is necessary in order to make healthcare sustainable. Life sciences companies are major contributors to R&D, and their participation in society is not only necessary, but vital.
  • That the companies that are best placed to contribute will not be just those with the right drug at the right price, but those which, having got that mix right, are then able to combine it with collaborative HCPs and a layer of digital and communication services that support either real work outcomes, professional collaboration or patient care.
  • That the way to achieve this goal is not simply using sales reps as glorified delivery men and women. I’d go further, and say that few doctors want to see reps anymore for product information alone.
  • That creating a new promotional and educational distribution model for the pharma industry is not easy, nor is there a single silver bullet. Healthcare is, so far, reluctant to see the rise of an Alibaba or Uber in its sector; perhaps it will come, but perhaps the system is too fragmented, complex and non-commoditised for that. (although, if you continue the Alibaba analogy, that would make it ideal for a bit of disruption. . .which brings me to my next point nearly).
  • That everyone wins if a more efficient, digitally enabled, two-sided market emerges in healthcare.
  • That technology is essentially borderless and has the power to effect global change in our industry as much as it has in others.

We started Nitro 15 years ago based on these beliefs. We believe them now. Achieving a solution to the issues created by the challenges above has proved elusive, but I genuinely believe we have developed the scale and expertise in what is an ever moving tech and process stack that means we can take major steps forward in 2017 towards helping our clients find more efficient, tech-enabled ways of engaging with HCPS, patients and other stakeholders for better healthcare overall.

Of course, the journey will not be competed this year, or the next, or perhaps ever. But maybe that’s part of the fun of it.

So, all that being said, we think we have—through some deep and testing experience—a clearer idea of what the makings of a two-sided marketplace for life sciences looks like and what this means for the sales and marketing model for the sector. We refer to this as life sciences social closed loop marketing (CLM), and at the heart of it is a powerful combination of a BuzzFeed-esque content marketing model, a tech stack configured to cope with the regulatory and global nuances of our industry, and a data-driven understanding of customer experience and the means and modes of acquisition and retention. Ultimately, to us it’s about helping life sciences companies build up their own proprietary distribution channels.

Here’s what it could look like:


In our opinion, life sciences companies need to work iteratively (emphasis on iterative collaborative working) to build the following business processes and tech stack to compete effectively in the world that awaits us.

  • A Content Engine that contains the people, processes and tools to deliver high quality, targeted, relevant (to the audience’s needs) and consistent content in a variety of media types. It should produce creative and ethical content backed by science, and conforming to modern internet content marketing techniques: think Buzz Feed meets the BMJ! Notably, the resulting items should be incredibly timely and published more frequently. There should be a mix of interactive, service-based and information communication, most of which will be curated and created by KOLs. This content engine is not just about production, but also technologies that facilitate the creation, curation and publishing of content, like Nitro’s own proprietary ULTRA Buzz system, the Veeva Vault or web services like Grammarly.
  • A Multichannel Publishing System, whether it’s an owned media one using a CMS-like Drupal or Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or using earned platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • An Acquisition Strategy, since we know from having built thousands of sites that ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work in the life sciences sector. Marketers, therefore, must (in our humble opinion) have an effective user acquisition strategy in place using a mix of media tailored specifically to their target audience’s needs, to be able to reach them where and when they want to be reached. Nitro’s media effectiveness database assembled using over a decade of data-driven experience allows for easy budget optimisation across a range of disparate media channels and across a full range of therapy areas.

All of the above creates visibility for your online assets, but as the cost of media in our industry is relatively high, it’s critical to provide an engaging interaction and to extend the ROI beyond the first visit. To encourage this ‘stickiness’  you’ll need:

  • A Measurement/Analytics plan, as well as a Customer Experience and Data Management strategy, whether it’s gathering feedback through net promoter score usage or other surveys; data from interactive services,; creating cookie-dropped user tag lists; email capture or sign up; or analytic services such as Google or Adobe using their respective tag managers. This activity is primarily to ensure you deliver and can measure the value you are providing but also about allowing you to segment and augment data so that you can:
  • Pull data back into and sync with your CRM (Veeva, Agnito, Salesforce) (data extension strategy) and enable your KAMs and other colleagues to leverage it, and;
  • Critically—and so far largely absent in our industry—a retargeting strategy utilising not just valuable and relevant high frequency content (see 1 above!) and email, but also cookie and data-driven and programmatic retargeting marketplaces. Talk to me any day about the relative ROI of buying media in this way compared to the cost of initial acquisition. This is the realisation of a core internet economy principle, the development by brands of their own proprietary distribution channel.
  • Finally, the output of all these efforts can’t be directly about shifting ‘drug product’ through share of voice (through that last point plays an import role in acquisition). It’s about (again, in our opinion) building genuine advocacy through listening, responding and partnering. This builds trust and will at scale be reflected in content creation which if you follow the logic through will create a virtuous circle fuelling the company’s content engine (see the diagram above!). Beautiful!

So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a simple vision, way more complex than just content and communications but, if successful, way more valuable for all concerned. It would be amazing to build a company that delivered on this.

That’s our plan. 2017 and beyond.