SXSW POV: What Pharma Can Learn from Web3: The Creator Economy

Maya Avrasin, Engagement Director, FCB Health 

Creativity abounds at SXSW 2022, and most of the sessions were focused on how content creators can capitalize in a Web3 world. The same principles still apply (content will always be king), but now we’re becoming much more sophisticated in how we control the assets we create (and consume as users).  

Web 1.0 was all about information sharing and created an attention deficit for its users, which was further exacerbated by Web 2.0’s social media platforms that turned us all into attention-seeking dopamine addicts. Web3 might solve these two issues simultaneously, allowing users greater control over the content we consume, how we experience that content in order not to become addicted and who gets paid for it. Celene Tricart, who co-produced and directed the VR documentary, Sun Ladies—a story about Yazidi women fighting ISIS in Iraq—refers to Web3 as the creator economy because content creators now have much more control over their creations, no matter how often they are shared, sold or consumed. She also spoke about the future of content. Immersive experiences like her VR documentary have a 75-90% knowledge retention rate, compared to a 20% retention rate for static information sharing, such as audio and visual.  

Other brands who presented at SXSW echoed similar engagement metrics when they used 3D technology. e.l.f Cosmetics saw an opportunity to sell more beauty products by allowing its customers to “virtually” try on its cosmetics using an augmented reality filter on YouTube. Customers were then directed to the brand’s website to purchase that exact product. The result? e.l.f. had a 200% higher conversion rate. 

What these two examples have in common is the end user—both scenarios give the user control over their experience, and it yields exponential results. Web3 allows you to “choose your own adventure” where you develop a deeper connection to the experience you’ve chosen. And if you’re the brand delivering that experience, you’ve established a trusted relationship with your customer—more than any social influencer can provide. 

So, what role does pharma have in the creator economy? There was much discussion about using non-fungible tokens (NFTs) to sell more sneakers and makeup or unlock premium content from Snoop Dogg, so it was hard to see the value of using NFTs for something more serious like treating diseases. But the answer lies in the problems we are trying to solve. 

For example, what if we develop an NFT copay card for a common diabetes drug? That patient would only have to add the copay card to their wallet once and the blockchain takes care of the rest—the tracking, refilling and ordering of that drug happens instantly once that NFT transaction occurs with a connected pharmacy like Amazon or CVS; the smart contract behind the NFT takes care of all the details. And the performance of that copay card is tracked with transparency—validated by the blockchain—where a pharmaceutical company will know all matter of details about the copay card’s usage in real time. 

Because NFTs are unique, they can never be duplicated or corrupted, and they can be used for all types of transactions that need to be validated, such as prescriptions, starter kits or sample programs.  

NFTs are just one element of Web3. There has been a lot of talk about the Metaverse, and it’s still debatable whether pharma has a role in a 3D utopian world. Do we really want to be virtually sick? 

But take a step back and evaluate what the Metaverse can do for certain disease states. Imagine if a patient just took a drug for the first time and there is a mandatory 90-minute monitoring period, which can be done at home. Instead of a costly nurse service deployed to the patient’s home, the patient can connect with a nurse in a virtual setting using wearables that monitor the patient’s vitals. The patient can connect with others experiencing the same situation who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away or join a virtual concert by their favorite artist during the 90-minute period.  

When you start to break down the elements of the technology running Web3, you start to see the opportunities behind the hype. There was a positive vibe throughout all the sessions at SXSW 2022. The biggest takeaway from this year’s topics is there are so many possibilities Web3 technology can offer anyone, and pharmaceutical brands can become participants sooner than they think.