SUMMARY: There is a huge issue that’s challenging DTC marketers: online health misinformation. While we’re still trying to research the changes it has led to for DTC marketers, there are some observable behaviors taking place that we have examined through Google analytics. They paint a picture of people who are spending more time online looking to answer their questions and relying on HCPs to help sort out treatment choices.


  • TV continues to be the dominant channel for DTC advertising.
  • Some of the TV spots for drugs are horrible, and some products should even be on TV because of terrible fair balance.
  • TV ads only drive awareness as the first step for online health seekers. More conversations are happening on social media, and pharma seems to be immune to the conversations.
  • One of the reasons for such bad TV is the lack of talent within DTC marketing.
  • Agencies are equally responsible for bad DTC TV.


  • According to a GAO Report “Medicare Parts B and D and beneficiaries spent $560 billion on drugs from 2016 through 2018, $324 billion of which was spent on advertised drug”.
  • GAO’s review of four advertised drugs found that drug manufacturers changed their DTCA spending during key events, such as increasing spending when a drug was approved to treat additional conditions or decreasing spending following the approval of generic versions.
  • The report fails to acknowledge the role of HCPs in prescribing medications and empowered patients who may have been educated by DTC ads.
  • This report is going to lead to more calls to limit DTC advertising.

SUMMARY: Television remains the most important medium for healthcare advertising, accounting for 54.7% of all spend in 2018, far higher than television’s 30.8% share of the advertising market as a whole. However, recent trends indicate that healthcare marketers are shifting more dollars to digital ads. The shift to digital advertising doesn’t make sense when pharma product websites don’t meet consumers’ needs.