In a recent issue of JAMA Network Open, Aaron Kesselheim and colleagues published the results of a study showing that some of the most heavily advertised drugs are essentially no better at treating disease than other options. Almost two dozen complaints submitted to the FCC focused on the number of pharma ads on TV, with consumers arguing that there were “simply too many.”
“There are too many pharmaceutical and medical ads on tv,” wrote a San Diego resident in August 2021. “They start with things like if you have had a heart attack … before I can change the channel or silence the TV. Makes me feel like I am having a heart attack.”
What Is Consumer Fatigue?
Consumer fatigue is exactly what it sounds like: It’s the consumer becoming overwhelmed with something and tiring of it. Aside from the number of ads, many people are also dissatisfied with repeating the same ads.
A great example of consumer fatigue can be seen in television pharma ads which seem to repeat repeatedly with no measurement of reach and frequency. With social media increasing the number of ads people visit daily, Saba speculates that it may not “take something closer to 20 to 30 times to get a patient to take action” about a specific drug.
Specific TV programs get the same ads because pharma companies believe their “target patient” is likely to be in the audience of a particular show but with fragmented audiences, that may be untrue.
There is also a mentality among DTC marketers that they need to spend their budgets or face cuts. Rather than develop new commercials, they repeat the same ones repeatedly. It’s also a belief that people will run to their doctor to ask for an advertised drug when that model is no longer viable.
Does this mean that all DTV TV ads should stop? Of course not. But here are somethings that should be considered.
1ne: Is your audience big enough for national or spot TV?
2wo: Do you measure reach and frequency with your target audience weekly?
3hree: Do you have the budget to create different spots?
4our: Are HCPs aligned with your product message, or will they recommend a different product?
5ive: Will insurers recommend patients try a different therapy first?
However, the giant elephant in the room is DTC managers manipulating data to show a correlation between their ads and new Rxs. Give me data, and I can show a correlation between almost anything.
DTC ads’ marketing fatigue is real and leads to action against the drug industry.