Time to rethink the objective of DTC marketing

QUICK READ: Only someone who is fooling themselves believes that life will go back to normal after the pandemic. The pandemic has affected healthcare dramatically as searches for health information beyond COVID, have skyrocketed and patients have become used to virtual health visits. DTC marketing needs to evolve if it’s to remain relevant as part of the brand objectives.

The last Prevention Magazine study indicated that 7% of DTC TV ads effectively drove patients to ask for/about a medication. If the study were done today, I would imagine that number would decline significantly. DTC marketing today drives patients online to seek more information, and too often, the information they are reading is inaccurate.

Social media is part of our online lives, but too many people believe what they read regarding health information and prescription drugs. I’ve spent a lot of time mining social media data for clients to show what people are saying about their products. There are anecdotal quotes, but there are links to highly questionable health information that social media sites have not taken down. If you believe this information isn’t affecting your DTC, you’re sadly mistaken.

So what is the purpose of DTC?

1ne: TV ADS – TV is still a great way to inform patient populations and caregivers about a new drug and its unique selling proposition. The downside is that DTC marketers believe that more TV is better and that more reach equals better brand metrics. That’s not true at all. It just wastes money and turns off your audience.

2wo: PRODUCT WEBSITES – Sigh. A business person will tell you that the goal of the product website is to drive new Rx’s but that’s a line of bullshit. NOBODY goes to a pharma website and says “I’m going to ask for that drug!”. They listen to the noise online about your product and determine if they want to deal with the side effects that some patients are talking about or pay more because it’s on a different tier level for co-pay.

Pharma websites need to evolve. They need to help patients understand the health condition, how the medication works and how they can manage chronic health problems. They should be updated with content based on listening to what people say to one another on social media and having links to credible online health resources. If your website is static and a billboard to sell, it’s a waste of money, and the agency that developed it should be shown the door.

3hree: PRINT ADS – Last year, we were surprised in a study of ad recall the number of people who remembered pharma print ads. Some of the creative are excellent with great headlines and use of images of real people. Targeted in the right publications, print ads can be a great DTC marketing tool.

4our: IN OFFICE MARKETING – Physician waiting rooms hold a captive audience, and it’s been my experience that when a pharma marketer develops special ads for in-office medical information, they can be effective.

5ive: PAID ONLINE MEDIA – If time and money are applied to paid media, it can be effective, but repurposing offline ads online is another huge waste of money. The other budget-burning tactic is programmatic advertising which is ripe with fraud. There is a direct correlation between the money spent on creativive and the metrics. I also believe that too many DTC marketers spend too much on paid search when online health seekers and results say ads.

Think of DTC marketing as a journey for online health seekers coupled with a lot of distractions. DTC marketers need to think like patients not marketers to evolve DTC.