DTC marketing differs from consumer marketing

Fork-in-the-road-roadsign-division-diverge-two-ways-largeKEY TAKEAWAY: Across all demographic segments TV ads are ranked second in purchase decision influences, but that is not true when it comes to prescription drug ads.  DTC marketers need to ask “what action is my audience going to take as a result of becoming aware of my product” and focus on tactics that engage the audience and get them into their doctor. 

How much influence does DTC TV ads have on conversion?  There isn’t any one answer as it largely depends on the patient/caregiver audience.  For example, MS patients are highly engaged online via social media and you can often find them asking each other about new MS drugs, but for other health conditions patients may just go online to learn about the product, its cost and side effects.


I recently attended a meeting in Cambridge to take part in the initial strategy of a new product and it was very heavy on TV ads.  There was no mention of measuring awareness within the target audience (effective frequency) or a patient experience map.  In fact digital seemed only to take up a few bullet points, nothing more. This in my view is a huge mistake.

Consumers don’t need to go online to research a new frozen pizza or ice cream product, but that is not the case for products which can affect their quality of life.  I am hearing more and more from patients who want to know more about new Rx product side effects which can make or break their decision to seek treatment.  As one woman told me in research last week “side effects of some of these new drugs are dreadful. I wouldn’t even consider using them!”.

Are there some cases when TV ads are going to directly drive a new Rx? Of course, but only for a handful of patients.  Digital should be integrated like a finely tuned engine into all DTC marketing plans to both pull patients into the brand, but also to keep patients engaged with the brand as we just can’t afford non-compliance.

There is also the mistake that some DTC marketers are making in believing that their websites, alone, are driving new Rx’s.  Without a quantitative analysis that is farting against the wind.  If a biotech company believes that their website, alone, is really leading to Rx conversions I have a bridge in Panama to sell them.


The key is to consistently monitor all consumer channels to listen to what patients are saying to each other about your brand and to to quickly implement marketing initiatives to leverage that data.  We know that pharma tends to move like the tortoise when it comes to implementing new marketing programs but that’s not good enough.  We need to redefine processes around speed with quality to capture patients on their quest for healthcare treatment options.