The biggest barrier to great DTC? The FDA

UnknownKEY TAKEAWAY: There are two reasons why DTC advertising is not recognized as great marketing; first and foremost, there is the FDA, which is run by scientists and doesn’t understand marketing and how consumers are making health care decisions.  Second, there are too many conservative M L R teams and a lack of talented marketers to ensure DTC stays relevant.

Want to see the face of frustration?  Look no further than ad agencies working with pharma to develop DTC campaigns.  Newer agencies, those who haven’t really worked with a pharma company, are often told “we can’t”, or “we won’t” do that because they don’t want to challenge their M L R teams or worse, the FDA.


The FDA continues to do a lot of studies on how consumers are interrupting DTC ads, but what’s so troubling is that they should know a lot of this stuff from companies like Manhattan Research. They are trying to quantify human behavior which can’t always be measured.  In addition the latest round of insurer acquisitions equates to changes in the way consumers get and even ask for prescription drugs.

Finally, there is a lack of talent and motivation.  There is a predominance of “it’s good enough in a regulated industry” and that is killing DTC.  I have seen too many clients go with campaigns that they know are not going to be effective and then spend countless hours trying to show management has good they are at driving new business.


The FDA has a lot of challenges on its plate, I understand that, but DTC guidelines are stuck in the past and need to be reexamined at every level.  Fair balance on TV ads, for example, are of little value since the vast majority of patients won’t ask for or take an Rx without doing some research.

Will the FDA change?  It’s a government agency, need I say more?