DTC: Addicted to TV

makes-no-sense-at-allKEY TAKEAWAY: According to FiercePharma, the pharma category is up 20% in TV spending so far, after increasing by 20% in 2015, according to the research note reported by Yahoo. Overall, TV ad spend increased by 6.4% and 5.3% in Q4 2015 and Q1 2016, respectively. Will pharma’s addiction to TV ever be broken?

OK. I get the importance of TV when it comes to marketing, but does anyone still believe that consumers are going to rush to their doctor to ask for an Rx of an advertised drug?  On top of that research, not too long ago, showed that DTC TV ads are only minimally effective (7%) in driving Rx’s.  So why the love affair with TV?

1ne: Digital is too hard to understand?  Digital marketing is a black hole to a lot of pharma marketers plus recent data shows that up to 38% of web traffic may not be human has them asking “why digital?”.

2wo: Marketers don’t understand and haven’t mapped the patient journey from awareness to Rx.

3hree: Management is willing to write checks for TV, but not for digital.


4our: The bad agencies outnumber the good agencies when it comes to DTC spending.

Now there are probably some pharma products which are an easy sell via TV such as Cialis and Brio, but others are not an easy sell.  Consumers often go online to “learn more” and although they do go to pharma websites that’s only one stop on a journey to learn more.

I have, over the last 6-8 months, seen a surge in clients asking about improving digital marketing, but trying to get dollars to do it right has been an exercise in futility.  It would be interesting to see how pharma marketers are manipulating data to show how TV is driving business, but then I could make the data look like swiss cheese with analysis.


One day pharma will face the reality that TV doesn’t work for a lot of products.  Instead of asking people about their health and research perhaps marketers should ask current patients what the triggers were that led them to ask for an Rx.