DTC: More targeted ads?

KEY TAKEAWAY:Per STAT news “in 2016, the most recent year in which data are available, spending on drug ads reached an estimated $7.6 billion, counting both traditional and digital channels.  Most that money still goes to TV and print, the industry’s old stalwarts for reaching a mass audience”. Allergan pointed to the company’s historically large national TV advertising budget as an opportunity for cost-cutting.  Will others follow?

There are some categories, within DTC ads, that provide a good ROI because their target audiences are big, but with more and more specialty drugs appearing mass market DTC, i.e. TV may not be the best option.

Digital can provide excellent targeting, but right now digital ads are being questioned due to fraud.  Facebook is trying to woo pharma dollars, but their responsible response to Congress concerning fraud was shameful for a company that tries to collect as much information as possible on users.

Then there is point of care. But the recent fraud with Outcome Health also is leaving a lot of people questioning point-of-care interventions. So what’s left?

1ne: TV will still reign for most drugs, but when it comes to cost cutting DTC budgets are usually first in line to get whacked.

2wo: Although, overall, only 7% of patients are asking for advertised drugs some categories are much higher including Oncology.

3hree: EHR’s do offer a laser targeting opportunity, but the market for EHR’s is too fragmented right now.  If, however, a disruptive company like Amazon or Apple gets into EHR’s the possibilities for micro targeting is going to be enormous.

The problem with DTC is not building awareness, it’s connecting awareness to action (requesting a branded product). In the middle of course are insurers and HCP’s which may or may not like drugs patients ask for.  So it comes back to DTC marketing 101: it’s your product website dummy.

Over the time I have been in pharma marketing, over 17 years, I have only seen a very small handful of pharma websites that I consider to be excellent.  The others?  Their content is not user friendly and they never conducted usability studies to ensure a better online brand experience.

As for social media?  My guess is that we are going to see some drastic declines in the use of social media by people. Even former U.S. President Barack Obama said the way people communicate via social media risked splintering society and leaders had to ensure the Internet did not cocoon users within their own biases.  I have personally seen a decline in the use of social media and I expect it to continue.

Targeting can work, but let’s face it, it’s all about ROI and DTC people are great at manipulating data to show that TV works.  Digital?  Too many big agencies that don’t know digital and not enough eMarketing talent willing to rock the corporate boat.


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