Research: DTC TV ads are ineffective

DTC TV ads don’t drive new Rxs. People today have become savvier about how they determine which drugs they’ll ask about. TV ads do drive awareness, but the path between awareness and asking for the product is a long one with many twists and turns.

I just wrapped up a five-month quantitative and qualitative research project for a biotech company preparing to launch its first drug. The critical question they wanted answered was, “should we invest in DTC TV ads?”. With my client’s permission, here are some of the research findings.

1ne: The correlation between TV ads (alone) and driving new Rx’s was essentially zero.

2wo: TV ads did raise awareness, but that awareness translated into several actions. The top one was researching the drug online.

3hree: It often takes weeks or even months to schedule an appointment with their healthcare provider to ask about new drugs. During this time, most patients either do more research or forget about the drug unless it shows substantial benefits related to patient needs.

4our: Even if they ask for/about a new drug, there is a good chance their doctor will recommend a generic or competitor.

5ive: There is a direct correlation between a patient’s research for a new drug and their education level.

6ix: The top websites mentioned for research on new RXs were WebMD, Mayo Clinic, and the Cleveland Clinic. Their search starts at Google.

7even: The vast majority of online health information is hard to understand, even for patients who have some college.

8ight: Drug company websites get visits because of DTC TV ads but fail to convince the target audiences to act.

9ine: Target audiences pay attention to fair balance in TV ads, and extreme warnings (death, cancer) will cancel any interest in the drug unless its benefit is necessary.

Going more in-depth, we heard that people are growing tired of DTC TV ads frequency, which can sometimes cause them to ignore the product even if they are in the target audience.

We are seeing a transition from “mass market” media to better targeting, primarily online. DTC TV ads are NOT going to add new Rxs; they will lead to more research online and discussions with a patient doctor.