Flawed Healthline study


  • According to a study on Healthline, “consumers will then search the brand name and visit consumer brand pages to find unbiased information about the product they saw on TV.
  • In fact, 42% will request the brand from their medical professional after seeing an online ad in conjunction with a TV ad, while only 22% will after seeing a TV ad alone.
  • The study fails to take into account website visits in relation to frequency and reach.
  • Drugs that have been advertised for long periods of time have a negative correlation between TV ads and the search for online health information.

When a new drug is advertised on TV you can expect people to go online and do searches for/about that drug. However, when DTC TV ads have a high frequency there is a negative. correlation between searching for/about that drug unless there is a new indication that’s being advertised.

The Healthline study goes on to say ” for pharma advertisers, this means that your TV spends will continue to drive active searchers to your brand pages“. Gee ya think? Again this is out of context. For new products, this would be true but for products that continue to spend money even though their target audience is aware of their brand and its message.

What DTC marketers can learn from this study is that digital plays an important role in completing the path from awareness to asking for an Rx. However, a lot of online information is beyond their control. Social media is ripe with people talking about drug side effects and costs. Pharma marketers need to be aware of what people are saying about their brand and dedicate content that addresses their concerns rather than ignoring it.

Agencies should provide a digital search dashboard that includes a radar map of what people are saying on social media. Content should then be written to address the biggest targets on the screen.

DTC marketers who use the Healthline study to justify more TV are playing a game an should be sacked. One day pharma will realize the importance of digital but until then they will continue to lose digital marketing executives to companies like Marriott.