What’s Pharma?

So, I hoped to come across an internship opportunity this school year and land one for the Spring semester. Internships are a STRESSFUL thought – getting the right one, finding one you like, one that would really make you stand out, and one you would actually gain valuable experience from. They say things never go as planned, as did my interning plans for the year. I came across an opportunity posted by the ad listerv emails, which seemed too good to pass up. It was a listing for Evoke Health, a healthcare advertising agency right in center city who was looking for an intern candidate to work in their three-part rotational cycle of account management, regulatory operations, as well as project management. Two out of the 3 sounded familiar, except what the heck is regulatory operations? Just like that, I was on a telephone interview and heard back later that day that I was the chosen one. The fall intern.

While this sounds like an honor (and I still do think it is) this is also a ton of pressure because little did I know I would be the ONLY intern at the office in the midst of about 85 employees. This means ordering inventory for a full office (K-cups on k-cups on k-cups), taking working lunch orders, coordinating “bagel Fridays” as well as some employee expenses, and the dreaded dishwasher duty. This all is still worth it for the experience I am getting. Although I am only there 20 hours a week, I try to absorb this crazy agency life to the best of my abilities.

Things are still going straight over my head, because this agency is different; it’s a “pharma” agency. What’s pharma you may ask? Pharma is short for pharmaceutical and these big billion-dollar companies are the clients. It’s almost like they speak in a different language sometimes with all the terminology and things they have to know off hand. In a traditional agency, creativity has no bounds and it’s easy to kind of get past the rules in a way. Here, everything is structured like crazy. Every single thing that is written or may be interpreted a certain way is regulated by a higher power, the MLR (medical legal review) or OPDP (office for prescription drug promotion), closely related to the FDA. These two places can cross out every line written by us if it does not meet a certain healthcare standard. This makes the process VERY long and tedious.

To my advantage, I am currently in the regulatory operations department and this is a pharma specific department. That’s why many have never even heard of it before, including me. They are also referred to as “submissions” and they handle submitting work to these higher legal review team, and prepping a submission is something that takes time. I am helping with the process of a huge submission, and I can’t believe how much time goes into each little thing. This is something I would not learn at any other agency and I am intrigued by the job these few people take on in contribution to the agency flow. The submissions team may be one of the most important parts of the agency in order to execute the advertising we do.

The submissions team is putting me to work for sure -with only 3 of them total in the department, they can definitely use all the help they can get. Next I will be working with the project management team and I am anxious to see how much this department differs from the account management side. When I worked with the account side in the beginning of my time here, I was mainly given tasks that were used to present to the client, and competitive analysis related things. I am really glad the internship program is structured the way it is, because I think it is important that we as advertising students are given the chance to learn the roles of more than just one side of an agency (like account management) because we are following that track. Advertising is a diverse area to work in, and I am glad that I’ve now been able to delve into pharmaceutical advertising because I can tell I would like to be in a place like this later on. It’s a challenge you must be up for!


  1. This was really interesting because I’ve always wondered just how different Pharma is from typical agency life. Sounds hectic!

  2. This sounds like a great place to intern, especially since they have a set structure. Advertising is very diverse, and it’s awesome that you got to experience something so different, like the pharma side. I hope someday I can get an internship/job like this!

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