There is some really bad DTC on TV


  • TV continues to be the dominant channel for DTC advertising.
  • Some of the TV spots for drugs are horrible, and some products should even be on TV because of terrible fair balance.
  • TV ads only drive awareness as the first step for online health seekers. More conversations are happening on social media, and pharma seems to be immune to the conversations.
  • One of the reasons for such bad TV is the lack of talent within DTC marketing.
  • Agencies are equally responsible for bad DTC TV.

It’s estimated that DTC marketers spend 76% of their budgets on TV ads. Judging from some of the DTC ads, that’s a huge waste of money.

Take the spot for Paragard. Is this a DTC commercial or an audition for a Broadway play? Dancers fill the screen with choreographed moves that seem more suited for a musical. To top it off, at the end of the spot, they all break like the Director just said “cut.”

Then there is a spot for a drug for cancer patients that has a forgettable name. The one thing I remembered was that “death” was listed in the fair balance. One consistent learning from ALL the research I have been involved in is that patients pick up when death is listed as a side effect and stay far away from the product.

So all this begs the question; what in the hell are they doing?

DTC TV ads are meant to do one thing: raise awareness of the product. Any DTC marketer who believes it actually leads to new Rx’s is living in fantasyland. People trust prescription drugs, but they don’t trust pharma to tell them the truth about how those drugs work and the side effects. Over the last 14 months, I have been tracking conversations on social media around DTC advertised products, and the conversations are getting longer and deeper.

Pharma is afraid of these conversations under the “we’re a regulated industry” excuse but what is hard to understand is why they’re not listening to the concerns of online health seekers and addressing their concerns in content?

The other issue few people talk about is that the level of talent within the DTC marketing pool has been contaminated. Too many people have left only to be replaced by internal candidates who are led by agencies interested in billings, not actually measured metrics.

It’s time to rethink the objective of DTC and design DTC that leads acts as a positive first step to asking for an Rx. Websites that look like a medical journal are not the answer, nor is stagnant content. There is a lot of bad DTC out there, folks.