The right balance in DTC: Tv versus digital ads

SUMMARY: Television remains the most important medium for healthcare advertising, accounting for 54.7% of all spend in 2018, far higher than television’s 30.8% share of the advertising market as a whole. However, recent trends indicate that healthcare marketers are shifting more dollars to digital ads. The shift to digital advertising doesn’t make sense when pharma product websites don’t meet consumers’ needs.

The majority of healthcare consumers start their journey by finding and comparing providers online, usually through search. 5% of all Google searches are health-related. Google is a trusted resource for people worldwide to get answers to health-related questions and find providers (source: Google). This one reason why healthcare companies’ global advertising expenditure is projected to increase by 4.3% in 2021. Global ad spend been climbing since 2018, and this trend is projected to continue (Source: Zenith Media)

Healthcare digital advertising spend will overtake healthcare TV ad spend for the first time in 2021. At that time, healthcare digital advertising spend will account for 46% of all healthcare ad spend. But is this the right strategy? From the research I have read and conducted over the last few years the answer is NO.

First, let’s talk basics. TV is still the best way to introduce a new product provided it has a big audience. There is a direct correlation between pharma product website traffic and TV ads for new products. The disconnect happens in the reliance on TV to drive new Rx’s.

Today virtually nobody will ask their doctor for/about a new prescription drug product without doing online research. That research entails going to the product website. It also entails using social media and other health websites to see alternatives and what other patients say about the product. For some reason, DTC marketers feel that increased frequency will lead to new Rx’s; it won’t, and it doesn’t.

Online digital advertising is a mess. Programmatic ads are full of fraud and place ads on less than desirable sites. Pharma DTC marketers would be better served by ensuring product websites meet online health seeker needs and using omnichannel marketing to ensure sites used by health seekers are sharing their content.

The first, and most basic, strategy for online health seekers within your audience is to find out what THEY want and integrating their needs with your wants on your product website. Your goal is that pesky engagement word and can be measured by return visitors and an analysis of the pages they viewed beyond coupons for discounts.

The other mistake pharma marketers make the absence of a content strategy. Pharma websites should NOT be stagnant. Pharma product websites should have content added based on listening to online health seekers on social media and other websites. Make your brand the health condition’s voice by providing good unbiased content written by your thought leaders.

People are coming to you because of your TV ads, but you’re losing them with a website that reads like a medical journal and ignored their needs. Nobody is going to decide to try a new prescription drug without first doing more research. Pharma can ill afford to have their websites just a stop in the journey; they need to help online health seekers get all the information they need to see your product as the answer to their needs.