Time to shape the future of DTC

SUMMARY: Like it or not, there will not be a return to normal for DTC marketing. The onset of wrong, inaccurate, or confusing medical information forces people to go online or talk to their doctor about treatment options. DTC marketers need to get more personal and stop using a generic formula for marketing.

Visting my doctor for my annual physical, I noticed huge LCD screens in each exam room with rotating ads for everything from prescription drugs to vitamins. What I thought was hysterical was that the drug ads had fair balance that was impossible to read unless you’re a couple of feet from the screen. I asked my doctor if they work, and her response was, “no, but they help pay expenses.”

So why should I be exposed to an ad for a condition I don’t have, and why in the hell is fair balance required? It’s all about changing the changing environment of DTC marketing.

To improve our DTC marketing, we need to understand the marketing environment better. First, there is confusion over treatments around COVID. Booster shots and misinformation have forced people to go online to try and get the facts. Second, do people trust the FDA? It’s an important question that needs to be explored via more research. Finally, do people trust drug companies? There has been much noise about drug companies, like Pfizer, making billions on vaccine boosters. Pfizer’s CEO said “trust us” is not reality.

So what does that mean for DTC marketers?

1ne: The model of running TV ads and just developing a website will not work anymore. DTC marketers need to think and act like their audience and ask, “what can we do to get someone to get interested in this product?”.

2wo: Physicians are still the gatekeepers of new Rx’s. For them, it’s about two things: relevant data that can be corroborated and improvements in patient outcomes.

3hree: DTC messages need to be more personal to address personal needs. What does the data mean to the average patient, and why should they consider your product?

4our: Think multi-channel – TV is still a DTC marketer’s first bucket, but that model is fading quickly. Where are patients going for online health information, and how can you join the conversation?

5ive: Please! Stop with drug ads on social media. Too much wrong information on social media. It would help if you listened on social media and used the data for content that talks to people rather than them.

6ix: Ask your current customers why they switched or started using your product and develop a strategy to reach prospects from that data.

7even: Up to 45% of all Internet ads are fraud. What in the hell is your agency during to prevent that, and why in hell is any agency recommending programmatic advertising?

Finally, there is no one formula for all DTC. It depends on the market in which you compete. Diabetes customers are different than MS patients.