Does TV DTC advertising work?

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: DTC ads raise awareness of health problems and new medications, but they are not cost effective in driving prescribing behavior.  To succeed, DTC marketers need to focus more on an integrated approach with allocates more to digital marketing.

I have the preliminary results from a preliminary study of over 3300 people via quantitative research whose objective was to determine if DTC ads are effective.  The preliminary topline findings are:

1ne: [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]Majority of consumers, across all age groups, don’t like DTC TV ads and find them intrusive, boring and mistrustful.[/inlinetweet]

2wo: [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]The number one action of viewers whose interest was sparked as a result of a DTC TV spot was “to go online and get more information”.[/inlinetweet]

3hree: Online activities included the use of social media and third party websites.  However, [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]websites or social media sponsored by pharma were found to be “distrustful”.[/inlinetweet]


4our: Less than 25% of respondents said that drug company websites “met all their information needs to ask their doctor for an Rx”.

5ive: “Do you think drug companies advertise prescription drugs on TV too much” was answered yes by 82% of respondents.

6ix: [inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]The number one reason to try a new prescription drug was “recommended by my doctor”[/inlinetweet]. The number one reason not to request and advertised prescription drug was “side effects 68%” followed by “cost 52%”.

7even: On fair balance the question “do you pay attention to drug side effects in prescription drug TV ads?” most said “no”.  However, they said that certain key words, like “death”, “heart problems”, and “cancer” could be remembered and keep them away from learning more about the product.


8ight: We asked about online digital ads for prescription drugs and respondents could only recall ads via online health portals or of they searched for a product/health condition.

It was interesting to read the comments after the questions, which was optional. Some people wrote that they “hate” drug company commercials while others said that drug companies should use the money to provide lower costs of Rx drugs.  More than a few people said that the “repetition” of the commercials was “annoying” and couldn’t understand why they were running so much/long.

My Insight…

[inlinetweet prefix=”null” tweeter=”null” suffix=”null”]Consumer packaged goods marketers are switching more money to digital while scaling back on TV, but pharma hasn’t yet learned this lesson[/inlinetweet].  TV is still, by far, the biggest slice of the pie when allocating media and DTC marketers are failing to think about how to bring people into the “brand experience” as they feel too many factors are beyond their control. Sales people, for pharma, should be trained to detail HCP’s on the current rationale behind DTC and how to “engage” patients in a meaningful discussion on certain health care conditions.


Agencies also need to bear a big part of the responsibility for the continued reliance on TV. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=”null”]Effective reach and frequency are seldom discussed and this is a failure in the basic marketing process.[/inlinetweet]