DTC Report

KEY TAKEAWAY: Investment in DTC promotion shows no signs of slowing; pharma has been steadily increasing expenditure since 2012, and data for the period October 2015 to September 2016 show a rise of 18% on the previous year With the total for this period reaching $6bn, 2016 looks likely to have been a record year.

In spite of this growing investment, or perhaps because of it, criticism of the medium is growing among many healthcare stakeholders, most notably the medical community and policy makers.

Physicians want to be left alone to do their job and feel that pharma is getting in their way.

Although 2016 is set to be the biggest year for DTC TV expenditure, the results show that fewer patients recalled seeing a DTC ad on television within the previous three months While 72% and 81% of respondents remembered seeing an TV ad in 1999 and 2002 respectively, this proportion dropped to 69% in 2016.

A stronger metric for the effectiveness of DTC is the number of people motivated to seek further information by a DTC advertisement Here, the results show this percentage remained unchanged between 2002 and 2016 at 43%.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]While patient use of print media collapsed, digital consumption grew tremendously[/inlinetweet], a trend that has been observed for some time (the use increased from 18% in 1999 to 38% in 2002).  The standout result from this section is the drop in patients motivated to seek additional information from a healthcare professional – a decline from 83% in 1999 to 47% in 2016.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Data suggests that patients are seeking more complex drug information[/inlinetweet]. Compared to 61% in 1999, 88% of respondents in 2016 sought information on side effects, with an even more marked increase in patients looking for information on interactions with other drugs, risk profiles and costs.

[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Although DTC remains effective, this has come at a price The number of respondents who reported enjoying DTC ads has plummeted from 52% in 1999 to 22% in 2016.[/inlinetweet]

An overwhelming majority of respondents (76%) reported feeling positive or neutral on the question of whether DTC was helpful to them Only 24% reported that they believed DTC to be harmful.

Insight/Opt Ed:

As a writer for trade magazines, industry websites and consultant to the industry this information is pretty well known by all and has little insights.  When it comes to DTC TV is still the biggest bucket.  The reasons for this vary, but it comes down to three key reasons:

1ne: DTC Directors want to show management that they are doing something.

2wo: Most big agencies still make more money from TV than digital.

3hree: Lack of digital marketing talent within pharma organizations.

It has also been our experience that the ROI trend line for TV is declining and declining at a fast rate.  For some reason pharma still believes that someone is going to see a DTC spot and run to their doctor to ask for an Rx.

Perhaps the biggest head scratcher is pharma’s reluctance to really invest in digital.  Sure, there are some pharma companies like Novartis who are experimenting with new digital tactics, but overall the industry lags way behind consumer packaged brands. Again, I have found that the industry is having a hard time recruiting talented online marketing people and those that are in the industry are often stymied by outdated processes and an unwillingness to take even small risks.

If ever an industry needed change its pharma, but remember the “focus” on patients is only a phrase to make employees feel good about what they are doing.