Pharma’s move to digital Part 2 DTC Marketing

OPENING: DTC marketers have relied too much on TV advertising. Despite data that shows that people are watching more TV than usual during the pandemic, there has been an overall and steady decline in traditional TV viewing in the past few years. Just 59% of US consumers watched traditional TV on a weekly basis in 2020, compared to 83% who did so in 2017. New ways to reach consumers need to be explored.

DTC marketers have relied too heavily on TV, and now new data shows that TV glory days are quickly fading and that people feel that commercials are repeated too frequently and are irrelevant to them.

Both Google and DRG Research report that the number of people searching for health information has increased. While some within the industry have turned to programmatic advertising, it’s not the answer because of high levels of fraud and poor ad placement. DTC marketers need to start thinking outside the box for new ways to engage (there that word again) consumers rather than try to sell them.

I have suggested that pharma websites need to a lot better job on areas like content strategy and design. Still, beyond that, we should understand that nobody is going to make a treatment decision based on a visit to one website.

There is no doubt that telehealth will sustain certain levels of use after the pandemic, and it could be a valuable channel to reach patients. For example, could a diabetes drug sponsor a telehealth session on fighting diabetes and the importance of eating right and losing weight? Could physicians be recruited to talk to patients about new advances in cancer treatments and why screening is important if the session was sponsored any a pharma company?

Some will throw their hands up and say “we can’t do that” but I would push back and say “why not?”.

Online search is another area that needs to be reexamined by DTC marketers. Online health seekers prefer organic search results who it comes to health information. It’s therefore essential that your website content ranks your site high on Goggle’s search results.

One area that pharma marketers seem to ignore because of privacy and complexity issues is email. Patients would gladly opt-in and read an email from a pharma company IF it had value to them. Pharma companies will spend millions to get the right look to a TV spot but too often give up too easily because of poor email metrics even though for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect an average return of $42 (DMA, 2019).

When it comes to pharma websites, most DTC marketers don’t even know if people are coming to them as a first step in exploring treatment options or as the last stop. This is unacceptable as it affects the key messages to online health seekers.

There is so much opportunity to enhance websites and improve metrics like time on site and bounce rate, but TV gets the money and has the glory. DTC marketers need a better and stronger digital team and need to try new paths to conversion now. Again, expect to fail but learn along the way to become stronger and better at reaching patients who are overwhelmed with online health information that’s not in their best interests.