DTC ads: We live in a post-truth world

SUMMARY: Dave Trott, a legendary ad-world guru and the author of Predatory Thinking, estimates that just 4 percent of the average ad is remembered positively. Another 7 percent is remembered negatively, and a whopping 89 percent is forgotten entirely.  Yet DTC TV is still regarded as the primary driver of market share.

 We live in an age of “infosmog.” From the moment we wake up to the last time we check our phones or turn off the TV before bed, thousands of ads, social media posts and news stories, both fake and real, compete for our attention.  This is the attention economy – a fiercely competitive market in which brands attempt to outshout their rivals in a bid to get us to notice their messages. The result? A chaotic jumble of data that most consumers just can’t cope with, and the increasing popularity of ad blockers designed to silence this cacophony.

A 2014 report by data analytics firm Nielsen found that 83 percent of all consumers in 60 different countries believe their friends and families over advertising. Management consultancy firm McKinsey, meanwhile, estimates that a full 50 percent of consumption is driven by word-of-mouth recommendations from trusted peers. 

Today, consumers regard ads as a bothersome distraction at best and a hostile act of information warfare at worst. No wonder, then, that the marketing sector is delivering low single-digit growth, despite investing around $800 billion per year!

We live in a post-truth world. The institutions that were once trusted sources of truths are now regarded with deep skepticism by consumers. This is especially true for pharma. This is changing the face of DTC advertising.

Pharma websites continue to be sales brochures, DTC TV ads are ignored and the media continues to paint pharma as a major threat to healthcare. Yet, even with all this, DTC ads and websites remain stagnant. Agencies will do whatever a client wants even when they know it’s wrong.

Will it ever change?