DTC: less effective than we thought?

  • Follow up research with patients who were on therapy found that less than 2% of patients said that DTC ads were the primary factor in asking for a specific therapy.
  • The number one driver was recommended from HCP followed by online research and feedback from social media.
  • Patients said they “don’t pay attention to drug ads” because they are too repetitive and don’t address their needs.
  • Pharma websites continue to rank low on “meeting my needs” from online health seekers.

Earlier this year I recommended, to a client, that we set aside some money to determine how our customers chose our product.  We wanted to know what worked and what didn’t work.  It was a new drug for psoriasis and the sample size was 2887 via an online survey.

The results were, to say the least, a bit of a surprise.  Here are the topline findings:

1ne: We asked our customers if they had seen the DTC ads on TV and what effect that had on their decision to ask their doctor about the product. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]While most said they had seen the DTC spots an overwhelming majority said that it had “no influence” in their decision to ask for/about the product.[/inlinetweet]

2wo: [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]The primary driver of getting patients on board was the recommendation from an HCP.  [/inlinetweet] We were also surprised to learn that the message communicated to patients about the product was the same message that was developed by the HCP team.

3hree:[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] Over 80% of patients who received the product had gone online to learn more, but even though the product website was a stop on the journey it was rated as “not significant” in choosing the product.[/inlinetweet]

4our: DTC TV ads were rated very low in helping patients choose the product.  In fact, over 70% of people said that “there are too many drug ads on TV” and they tend to tune out.


Keep in mind that this is for one drug category, but the findings are consistent with what we have been hearing all year.   This is a key reason why DTC marketers need to think as digital as a strategy and less of a tactic.  I also highly recommend that all DTC marketers conduct research with existing customers to learn the deciding factor that made them customers.