The fairytale of DTC TV ads

The pandemic is changing consumer behavior, and there is zero chance they will return to their carefree spending ways. Using the same ads to advertise prescription drugs repeatedly is a waste of money and doesn’t lead to sales.

According to a 2019 study from Kantar, a whopping 70 percent of consumers say they see the same ads over and over again. And that was before the pandemic had us cooped up in our homes watching ad-supported content all day long. T.V. viewers still see linear T.V. advertising frequency as “excessive.”

Ninety-two percent of U.S. viewers surveyed in 2021 believe “they see the same advertisements too many times. Nowhere is this clearer than in pharma DTC TV ads.

A Prevention Magazine study dated had prescription DTC ads as being 7% effective in driving new Rx’s. From an in-depth analysis of metrics for several clients, including research with audiences, DTC TV ads are doing a good job driving awareness. Still, the chain between awareness and action has become much more prolonged and convoluted.

Despite the number of DTC conferences, there isn’t any one magic formula for successful DTC marketing. Each disease state has unique patient behaviors, and decision matrix’s for going from awareness to asking for an Rx. In this blogger’s opinion, there is also a severe need for talented marketers who understand the microsegments of each market.

The MS market is a great example. M.S. patients, and caregivers, are very active on social media and often reach out to each other to compare treatments and OTC products to help manage their M.S. symptoms.

Diabetes patients are having a vibrant discussion about the new “weight loss” drugs and asking many questions about their use and side effects, which pharma seems to be ignoring in their product website’s content.

I have been developing, for clients, a patient journey map from awareness to asking for an Rx based on research with current customers. DTC managers are often surprised by the results. They’re surprised that physicians don’t always give patients the drug they ask for, and they are amazed that many, who are considering the drug, are turned away by what they read online.

One DTC Director asked me, “how can we become part of the decision-making?”. My reply was simple: listen in real-time and quickly act on what you find. You need to work on what patients want to know and share quickly before they make up their minds based on what may be the wrong information.

U.S. consumers” trust in pharma is low, despite the industry’s contributions to ending the pandemic: Only 15% of U.S. consumers say they trust pharma companies more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Accenture’s 2021 survey. DTC marketers seem to ignore this data.

It’s not more T.V. ads; instead, it’s pivoting their efforts away from directly attracting consumers to working closely with doctors since docs hold the key to consumer adoption. About 33% of consumers say a recommendation from their medical providers would make them more likely to use digital health tech, per Accenture.

Running T.V. ads with increased frequency does not lead to more Rx’s; it leads to more people “turning off” the brand. I’m hoping that eventually, DTC managers will understand that they should not sponsor the evening news with the same T.V. spots and instead come up with a unique way to reach their audience that works.