DTC is not working anymore

WHAT”S GOING ON: DTC TV ads aren’t working. There are too many barriers to get people to ask for or switch to new treatments. Even with improved benefits, most patients are willing to stay with the status quo. As healthcare comes under intense pressure to reduce costs DTC budgets could get whacked.

I have spent 20 years in DTC marketing and have seen the full cycle. From empowering patients to becoming another budget item, DTC has run its course. DTC marketers have always been great at showing a correlation between TV ads and new Rx’s, but given a chance to manipulate the data, I could show a correlation between new Rx’s and commercials for soda.


The healthcare marketplace has become too complicated and it’s too much of a hassle for people to visit their doctor. While there is talk of “virtual doctor visits,” Americans prefer to have their medical care in person. They are 16% more likely to prefer in-person care than virtual 15% more likely to trust in-person care than virtual, according to Qual Metrics.
Switching medications is not just based on benefits, it’s based on the change to patient behaviors. What changes? Changes in co-pay, changes in side effects, changes in perception of efficacy. DTC can’t, alone, tackle al these issues.


While social media has become a sounding board, more and more people are turning to social media to ask others about their experiences with different medications. Right now, pharma has very little interaction in the social media conversation, and it’s hurting them.
The national evening news broadcasts are almost 100% sponsored by pharma with DTC ads, but that’s just DTC marketers attempting to show they are doing something which becomes a bullet point on their resumes. The risk-takers and talented people have either left the industry or have been replaced by industry insiders whose only goal is to climb the corporate ladder.


It’s not although this train hasn’t been coming down the track quietly. Pharma has pretty much ignored all the changes that are sure to transform the industry. Too many me-too drugs, too many high priced drugs, and organizations that are bloated with people and processes.


Trade magazines falsely prop up DTC marketers with their sham DTC awards while online health seekers’ view of pharma continues to decline.


The disruptive people within pharma are tamed with a schedule of endless meetings and processes that drains their will to contribute to the change we need. When the changes to healthcare finally do hit, there are going to be massive layoffs. DTC agencies are also on track for a very rude future even as they expand their offices.


DTC could have endured and reached out to help people, but selling got in the way.

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