Should you change your DTC marketing buckets?

SUMMARY: There is a huge issue that’s challenging DTC marketers: online health misinformation. While we’re still trying to research the changes it has led to for DTC marketers, there are some observable behaviors taking place that we have examined through Google analytics. They paint a picture of people who are spending more time online looking to answer their questions and relying on HCPs to help sort out treatment choices.

So let’s get right to it.

1ne: Should we change budget allocations by channel? First, there is no one right answer. We’re finding that healthcare treatment choices vary wildly by health condition. Diabetics, for example, are more likely to do a lot more research before deciding on any new treatments. MS patients are often more willing to try new treatments but are very wary of quality of life issues.

Despite all the emphasis on healthcare this year, the number one channel to quickly build awareness is still TV. What we are seeing is that there is a direct correlation between TV ads for new treatments and website visitors. However, clickstream analysis via Alexa clearly shows that TV ads also lead to searches for competitive treatments. We also see a decline in trust in social media posts about branded prescription drugs.

2wo: What about drugs in the early stage of their lifecycle? – Awareness within your target audience needs to be measured continually. If the awareness is good, your next challenge to market research is to ask, “what are they doing after they become aware of our product?”. Going online is not a satisfactory answer. You need to know where they are going, how much time they are spending on our site and the bounce rate.

3hree: Beware of changing market parameters. Advertising that weakens the immune system is not a good idea as people equate immunity with Covid response. However, research seems to indicate that the continued problems of the pandemic are affecting well-being. Prescription drugs for depression should take an empathetic view but should not over-promise.

4our: Online paid media – DTC marketers continue to write big checks to Google for paid serac even though the analytics tend to be poor. I’m not a fan of wasting money on programmatic ads either. There is too much fraud, and the metrics are usually terrible. Targeted ads that are developed for online health seekers perform much better. Social media is great for potentially reaching HCPs but not online health seekers.

5ive: In-Office info DTC – If your agency can develop a compelling story that captures patients’ attention who are bored waiting to see their doctor in-office works. It’s not just one message; however, you need to connect the path to asking for an Rx.

6ix: Product websites – Sure, you’re getting traffic, but what’s the bounce rate, and what are the top page views? Your product website should be going through evolutionary stages as your product goes through the life cycle.

Allocating DTC budgets and then staying the course without considering the product life cycle or changing market conditions is wasting money. Market research needs to step it up and give you qualitative insights into how patients respond to your DTC.

Yes, things are changing, but patients still chose a prescription drug based on what they believe is “best for them”. Right now, prescription drugs with nasty side effects are being frowned upon, especially if people report those side effects on social media.