Direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing in the pharmaceutical sector has become increasingly prevalent in the last few decades, particularly in countries like the United States where it is allowed. You might see these advertisements on TV, radio, or online, urging you to “ask your doctor” about a particular medication. DTC advertising in the pharma world has advantages and drawbacks, like any form of marketing. Here’s a closer look.
I could argue strongly that patients have changed how they make healthcare treatment decisions based on what happened over the last three years. Research found that 61 percent of participants trusted the pharmaceutical sector, but despite this increase, the pharma sector is the least trusted subsector of healthcare. The question then becomes, “do people trust DTC marketing?”.
According to Vox, “most consumers in the United States know the names of a litany of pharmaceuticals they’ll never come into contact with or need, thanks to the commercials that fill our airwaves day in and day out. Drugmakers spend some $6 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising each year. The ultimate goal is for some people to visit the doctor and ask about them.” But the number of people is getting smaller.
The path between awareness and getting an Rx for an advertised brand is becoming increasingly complex. Reach, and frequency is irrelevant in an age when insurance companies and PBMs dictate what they will cover. DTC marketing can be effective, but it has to provide more answers instead of leading to questions.
CPG marketers are trying to maintain market share amid price increases and smaller product sizes, leading to a more significant jump in consumerism. But, in pharma marketing, the changes affect every product category.
Consumers have changed their shopping behavior due to the pandemic, and some of those changes are relevant for pharma marketers. The days of someone seeing an ad for a prescription drug and rushing to ask their doctor about it have replaced the quest for more information, usually online.
Pharma DTC marketing is unique, and drug marketers need to think more about the journey from awareness to requesting an Rx. In addition, the patient journey is different for each product category and audience. Some will lead to more online research, while others may not.
DTC marketing has evolved. Those DTC managers who use the exact roadmap will waste a lot of money when accountability is increasing. Challenges await, and there isn’t one set of guidelines for every product category.