DTC ads: Patients do pay attention but they don’t lead to desired action

unknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Target audiences are paying attention to DTC TV ads, but the results are not what DTC marketers want.  DTC TV ads increase awareness of new products and lead to visit to pharma product websites, but patients “comparison shop” treatments and even when they ask about/for a product it’s still up to their doctor to determine which one is right for them.

Yesterday I was invited to a media company to view the results of their DTC advertising study, which will be released later this week.  It was conducted among 4365 patients over three months this year and the results indicate that DTC ads are not driving new Rx’s but they are driving patients online to search for health information.  I can’t show charts because the report is embargoed, but here is what I learned:


1ne: Targeted audiences are aware of DTC TV ads, but “do their homework” before asking about/for a product.

2wo: Gathering information, usually involves a visit to the pharma website, but pharma websites do not provide all the information they need to “drive behavior” (i.e. ask for Rx).

3hree: Social media is playing a bigger part in patient research.  Patients are most interested in drug side effects and comparison to other treatments.


4our:  The biggest complaint of pharma product websites, is that they tend to be “too complicated” in their language and usage.

5ive: Getting a patient to switch medications is very difficult unless you have a compelling, clear advantage over their existing medication.

6ix: Yes patients don’t like high drug prices, but they still trust pharma to develop better medications.

7even: Patients say that among all sources their highest level of trust is with their doctor.  If she, he, recommends a treatment they trust that it’s right for them.

8ight: When asked, should drug companies be allowed to advertise drugs on TV, the majority said yes because “it’s still our choice”.


9ine: When it came to social media the vast majority said they would “not follow” a pharma company or “health condition”  on Facebook because of privacy issues.

So what do I read in all this?  DTC marketers are failing to connect awareness to action and need to think multi channel.  Measure awareness and when it hits a targeted number shift from awareness to generating an Rx.  However, there is no magic formula to drive an Rx.  It depends on the health condition and the number of competitors in the market.