Pharma DTC ads not working like before

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: Consumers are not paying much attention to advertising today and among advertisers and ads they mistrust the most are DTC ads.  Are marketers going to continue to waste money with ineffective ads or are they going to fight to get it right?

I spent yesterday watching focus groups via the Web talk about pharma DTC.  The objective was to try and learn how what consumers think of pharma DTC ads and what their actions would be if they saw an ad for a product/health condition they might be interested in.  Here are the key findings.

1ne: Even older consumers, 55+, are growing tired of pharma DTC ads.  When asked why the most consistent answer was “lack of trust”.  The moderator probed the panel(s) and those who said they might be interested in an advertised product said “they would go online for more information”.

2wo: Pharma websites are seen as as “providing very little help”.  Millennials and Boomers both said that pharma websites were too complicated to understand, and that “fair balance” too often scared them away from consideration.  Millennials are more likely to go online to get information while Boomers are more likely to check with family members and their HCP’s for advice.


3hree: Unbranded pharma websites should be more transparent that they are sponsored by a pharma product.  When they aren’t, the level of mistrust rises dramatically.

4our: The most important factors when receiving a new Rx for patients are efficacy in relation to potential side effects and cost.  For the first time I heard a majority say that they would learn about new products before filling an Rx.

5ive: Fair balance on most products is too long and too complicated.  Millennials especially believe it should be simplified with only the most common/serious side effects listed.

6ix: I suggested that the moderator ask two groups “what do you think of the pharma industry today?“. Wow! If you don’t think the media has turned the public against “big pharma” than you’re avoiding reality.  Everyone in the groups said that they though pharma was out to make money at the expense of people.  Millennials also though that pharma should be more “socially responsible” to the people it serves.

7even: People may visit a pharma website, but that doesn’t mean a lot as they are using the internet to fact check pharma.


8ight: When asked “what can pharma companies do to help you make better health care choices?” there were a lot of ideas thrown out, but the consistent theme was “show me that you are listening to me” and “talk to me as a person” not like a salesperson who is trying to sell me a new car.

9ine: The information that is wanted most, and is missing, is a comparison of Rx drugs in both efficacy and cost.  They are spending “too much time online comparing products”.

10en: It’s getting harder to make appointments with doctors, to talk with doctors about treatment options and it’s having an effect on healthcare. Some people said they were having problems finding a PCP who would take new patients others said that more and more they are seeing nurse practitioners instead of doctors.

These focus groups were held in the Denver area and lasted all day (9 groups) of 8 people each.

1 thought on “Pharma DTC ads not working like before

  1. Richard: These findings are consistent with all the groups we held in Sacramento, Austin, and Portland. Lack of trust is having an impact on marketing.

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