The debate on TV vs. online pharma ads

  • [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]U.S. adults, internet use for health information is vast and growing; 8 in 10 adults say they use the internet for health and wellness purposes, an increase of 13% since 2015. (Source: Kantar)[/inlinetweet]
  • T[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]two in five ailment sufferers have seen or heard healthcare advertising on the internet or on a mobile device within the last year. (Kantar)[/inlinetweet]
  • Among the 61% of patients who had researched prescription drugs online in the past 12 months, 34% had requested a specific prescription drug at least once.
    Among patients who had requested an Rx, 25% were prompted to do so by a TV ad and 25% by ads seen online. (DRG)
  • [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]An average 80 DTC ads air every hour on TV[/inlinetweet] (Axios)

DRG has started a discussion on LinkedIn about TV ads versus digital ads, but some elements of the discussion are being omitted.

When it comes to raising awareness about a branded prescription drug TV rules.  However, once the awareness  has reached a certain level digital is the driving factor in getting patients to ask for a certain brand.  DTC marketers need to continually measure their product awareness within their target audience and once the awareness has reached a specific level they need to think digitally, and not just their website.

For 99% of most pharma products the days of seeing an ad and going to the doctor to ask about/for the product are long gone.  Today, people are turning to the Internet.  Digital ads spur 60% of people to take action on mobile devices and 55% on the Internet according to Kantar.

What are people doing when they see an online ad for your product?

First 75-85% of online health seekers start with search.  Sure, they’ll go to your website, but they are also going to make a lot of stops on the journey to finally ask their doctor about your product.  Online ads, alone, are not going to drive your brand objectives you need to think like an online health seeker and go to other websites and social media to see what your audience is reading about you and competitors.

Recently we tested some online ads for a client.  The first were just branded ads borrowing from TV creative placed strategically at online health sites and health pages of popular sites.  The second were targeted messages without heavy branding.  The messages had been tested in qualitative research and were rotated on health sites.  The ads with tested messages performed 200% better than the branded messages in both click-thru rates and bounce rates.

We then took it a step further. “What if the messages talked about an issue important to online health seekers, but instead of taking them to the home page, took them to a page with more information related to the online ad?”   They performed even better with an amazing 3:34 on the site page we directed them to.

The bottom line?

1ne: Think like a patient when using the Internet to search for your brand/product information.

2wo: Always conduct a competitive audit to see what information your audience is reading online.

3hree: the most important aspect of thinking digitally is the creative.  Toss poor performing creative and always rotate and optimize your ads.

4our: Don’t assume that a branded ad pulled from TV is going to perform well.

5ive: Measure the awareness of your brand within your target audience, then think “pulling” your audience into your brand with multiple creative messages.

6ix: Ad fatigue, for online ads, is higher than for TV ads.  If you keep using the same ads over and over you’re wasting money.

7even: Don’t think that you need to drive traffic to your homepage.  People don’t have time to navigate your site.  Help them get to the information THEY need, quickly.

8ight: Don’t continue to air TV ads once your awareness has reaches saturation levels. It won’t drive more action and could backfire.

9ine: Your online agency should be suggesting the above steps.  If they aren’t, then find yourself a new online agency.