All posts by Jules Pancholi

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.


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.

Meet the Nitro Digital Team

Welcome to the first in a series of interviews with the Nitro Digital team! Here we meet Piotr Sikora (Lead Front End Developer) who talks about cutting edge IT, increasing services for clients, his new book, and connections between breakdancing and developing!


Hello and thank you for being interviewed for the Nitro Digital blog!

Firstly, please tell us about your role is at Nitro, and where you fit in the team? How long have you worked here?
Hi all! I’m glad that I can give you an interview. I’m a lead front end developer at Nitro Digital. I started working here 3 years ago (in 2013) when the Polish department was about 7 people in a small office.

Could you say more about your role and the sorts of projects you’re involved in?
Currently my role is related mainly with Front End logic and web technologies/languages like HTML CSS and JavaScript including frameworks like Foundation, Angular, Phonegap etc. I’m a lead developer so I’m looking for new technologies we can use as a team, and I’m supporting all developers in the team. I’m working on the parts of projects which the client can see in a browser – so for example this can be interactive websites, and also mobile apps and email templates.

So looking for ways to improve interactivity and user experience has led you to write a book on Professional CSS3 – tell us about this! Is it very related to your work aims?
Yes exactly it is strictly related to my work aims. I started working on the book about nine months ago. The funniest thing about working on book is the main question of each good developer: “who has time to write a book?” So I had a time to do that because I wanted to share my knowledge with other developers.

This book is for people who want to get more knowledge about CSS. If you are a beginner you can read this book as I’ve tried to explain all aspects of CSS as simply as I could. If you are a pro developer you can find some tricks which I use, and rebuild them for your needs. Hopefully this book will be helpful for all people who wants to know more about CSS.

It’s great to produce something technical that will be useful to all levels. I see you’re a b-boy (break dancer) in you spare time – please say more?
I’ve been a b-boy for about 17 years. I started dancing when I was teenager with a friend from my neighborhood. It was easy for me to start dancing because I trained in Karate for about 10 years and my body was ready for it. Break dance showed me how to use the foundation of dance with my own creativity to create my own style. It made me more aware who I want to be and how can I make myself better in other areas.

I’m still dancing and try to teach kids and teenagers. It gives me big satisfaction that some of my students are now dancing like pro b-boys. I’m a judge too. After a years of passion, it’s great to see how this culture is still evolving and how young people are creative.

So it takes a lot of discipline?
Yes for sure but I’m not so radical right now. When you are a contender you need to keep your training routine. Now I’m making it only for my enjoyment. I’m happy that when I’m dancing in home my daughter is trying to do it too. And she is so happy when she is doing it!

Sounds like you’re someone who’s interested in developing – dance, sport, technology. Is there anything front end you’d like to see in the future, or think will develop? Anything we should look out for?
The technology is still moving forward. Back in the day I was a Flash Developer and I’ve been involved in projects which were based on augmented reality. I hope it will be possible to make it in JavaScript in near future. I’m still trying to be on time and one of things which I like right now is Internet Of Things (IOT). I bought Raspberry Pi about 3 months ago and made a simple application in Node.JS. So maybe it can be a project related with IOT. It’s rather hard to make an application for dancers but maybe some day I will find a way to do it.

Is IOT being used in the healthcare/media sector?
Yes – there are a lot of ideas and products related to IOT and healthcare. This is a rising branch in IT and hopefully it will go a little bit out from IT sector.  I recently heard about projects related with diabetes which helps to dose drugs. As I mentioned this is still a rising branch and I hope it will revolutionise IT. We as developers just need to find the niche and create some extra products in this sector.

The Poland team has expanded a lot over recent times! Are you able to provide different services or projects now?
When I started working in Nitro Digital Poland there were 7 developers on board. All of us were working on our current workflow which was evolving to work on maximising our efficiency. We are still scaling and we are working on culture of work inside our company which is very important to keep the team motivation.

I think that the main difference is that we learned a lot on previous projects. We’re able to provide new products with new technologies and with better efficiency than ever. We have more time for research. We have a great QA team! The team has developed and is the best QA team which I could dream of. They are supporting developers in their work and for sure are the very important support of the development process. I hope that this evolution (almost revolution) will be kept and we will still be working on better projects which will satisfy our clients.

What would you say is your biggest success so far?
The biggest success is that we build so big team is such a short time. In last 12 months we made the Front End team from 3 to 16 developers. It was possible because of great people with whom I work everyday (thanks Marcin, Katarzyna, and all FEDevelopers @ Nitro Digital, Pete and Jules for all of possibilities). I think that this is the one of biggest successes. And I believe that this is just a warm up before something bigger!

Nitro Digital 2016

2016 – Our Busiest Year Yet?

Hello! It’s been a while since we last wrote but only because we’ve been very busy with some exciting new developments. We are brighter and busier than ever with the opening of a new office in Canada, the hiring of even more A-players to our global team and a successful launch of a great new product for our client. We thought now was a good time to tell you all about it and explain why we think that 2016 might just be our biggest year yet…
Continue reading

Media Buying Pharmaceutical Industry

Media Buying

I often have discussions with pharmaceutical brand managers about digital media and how it fits into their overall digital strategy and through those discussions I’ve come to some conclusions that I’d like to share.

First off, the media market to reach healthcare professionals is structurally different from almost any other market. This is for several already well discussed reasons, most important of which are the regulated environment and the ethical, technical and frankly more important nature of the content that the audience is consuming ie. a content marketeers viral piece on ‘top 10 hottest millionaires under 30’ might make ROI (and an intriguing read!) but it’s not really in the same league as ‘novel small cell lung cancer trial results in patients ….’ although I did enjoy seeing ‘top 10 drugs of 2015 ( as a content marketeer’s attempt to go pharma!

Currently the media opportunities to reach healthcare professionals online are relatively fragmented and the targeting and delivery opportunities relatively unsophisticated compared to our peers in consumer media and ad tech. There is no google Adwords, Facebook Atlas or DSP ( specifically for this audience. While there are a lot of reasons why not, equally there are a lot of reasons why there should be, the technology and targeting opportunities do exist, they are just not being utilised.

I’ve posted previously that the rise of custom audience technologies in social networks presents a significant disruptive opportunity to healthcare brand marketeers with the heavy caveat that the regulations, that are currently largely couched in the 00’s language of contextual placement not the personalised real time language of this decades DSP’s, need to catch up.

Given all of that I think there are some very compelling reasons for the organisation of media buying and planning at a global or regional level. Given the trans-border nature of digital the global role should, IMHO, not just be about strategy and toolkit delivery but be about tactical execution where it makes sense to do so.

If you don’t mind I’d like to try and set these out. There is some bias in here as it’s an area that I believe we at Nitro Digital are particularly good at.

They all pertain in one way or the other to economies of scale.

1. Economies of approval. The model we have established over the years has established a fairly clear path and process to getting materials approved at the global level and while this can still be a little discursive it is relatively friction-less compared to a scenario where you have to approve at each of 15 different local levels.

2. Economies of audience. When you break it down most publishers do not have that big an audience in any given specialty in any one country so even if you do a placement the results you get will be somewhat ‘so what’ i.e. one country may yield 200 clicks but together they all yield 2000 which is more interesting and more likely to lead to sustained activity or time spent getting meaningful learning points gathered.

3. Economies of learning. Given the data sets will be quite small at individual local levels looking at data locally is unlikely to lead to solid organisational learning that you as a center of excellence can leverage. ie. you’ll have trouble keeping the formats or timings consistent or indeed getting a holistic view. By aggregating performance data across media types and therapy areas, we’ve built a powerful media effectiveness database, which shows a clear picture of which channels work for which therapy areas at which price.

4. Economies of buying. There are extra internal costs of buying 20 times separately but there are also implicit external negotiation costs in that by using the centralized data we have in the media effectiveness database we can quite literally say what price point is appropriate to buy which channel at. It will take years for individual countries to build up that data set due to the economies of audience.

5. Economies of expertise. Media planning and buying is a centre of excellence in that I have seen many times that local decision makers who have not been exposed to the bought media market place before will buy media on the basis of perceived audience affinity not performance and this almost always leads them to over pay on a placement or CPM basis. It’s vital to measure relative performance by channel but to do so within the media market context of our industry i.e. it would be brilliant if the whole market was programmatic like every other market but it isn’t and unfortunately there is no one channel that will give us the volume and reach we need in a given specialty. So a range of channels is appropriate to use.

Reading this you might be forgiven for thinking I am in someway ‘anti’ medical media, I’m not, far from it in fact. Journals, medical networks and HCP bloggers play an incredibly important role in stimulating debate, surfacing ideas, curing disease and making a fundamentally positive impact on the health of society and in fact I want to unleash the power of HCP’s to get their content out there and ideas discussed to improve patient outcomes.

Sadly I’m not skilled enough to be a doctor but I do know a bit about digital marketing, while it’s nowhere close to being as useful as developing a cure I can make a contribution in helping people understand the impact of medical or organisational changes or making sure information about drug improvements are discoverable in an efficient way.

There are, however, fundamental shifts in the ability to reach people with messaging as individuals not as amorphous members of a sites visitors’. That is a fundamental challenge to the traditional tactics used by pharmaceutical brand managers and also by the medical publishers and it requires a responses by all parties concerned. I hope the tips above serve as pointers for how at least the media buying aspect of this can be tackled.

Thanks for reading!

Nitro Digital Heads to Uganda to Share Its Digital Know-how With the Kids

Three colleagues from Nitro Digital are heading out to Uganda today, ready to share their digital knowledge with the senior kids who are supported by charity, 1MoreChild.

Nitro Account Managers, Ruta Salaseviciute and Duygu Ucan and Developer, Gilberto Tomasone, will be spending time with students aged 16yrs-18rs to teach them practical IT skills as well as leaving them with some offline materials so they can continue their learning after our three colleagues return to London. The aim is to share some of the knowledge that we use at Nitro in our everyday work and help these young adults to find jobs in the future by using their IT skills.

1MoreChild provides school fees, three meals a day, school uniforms, clothes, medical care, tutoring, mentoring, and football training to Ugandan children who live in the slum village of Masese.

Set up by Harry and his wife Hen, the charity began by providing support to just one child who wanted to go to school and now they help over 150 children, some of whom have nothing other than their friends within the charity. They currently rent six houses in Jinja, four boys’ homes and two for girls and these homes accommodate some of the children in the slum village of Masese that don’t have families. The children who still live with their families come to the house every day and it has become a place that they all call ‘home’.

As well as support through Nitro, our Managing director, Jules raises money each year on a sponsored cycle from Geneva to Milan with cycling tour company, Ride25, who, with their dedicated 1MoreChild cycling team have raised huge amounts for the charity. We are also extending our digital support for the children by funding their broadband connection and donating some laptops so that they can put what they learn from Ruta, Duygu and Gilberto into practice and have access to a wealth of information via the web.

We are very excited to hear how our Nitro colleagues get on! Please support this great charity too by donating here.