Why DTC TV ads aren’t working

For DTC marketers, TV is still the yellow brick road, but DTC ads are becoming a nuisance for consumers. Although research continually shows that DTC TV ads are becoming less effective, drug companies insist on spending millions on developing and airing the spots. “What we have here is failure to communicate.” Indeed.

Nobody can argue that today’s healthcare market has changed dramatically since COVID. Misinformation has led to a surge in online health seekers, and more people are becoming healthcare customers.

There is a negative correlation between high TV ad frequency and conversion, but DTC marketers seem immune to this statistic. The biggest issue, however, is the disconnect between awareness of a new prescription drug and the desired action (asking for an Rx). Anyone who believes that someone will ask their doctor about a prescription drug after seeing a TV spot is misinformed.

DTC marketers should now understand that their target audience is going online to research their product. Their product website is only a tiny part of the decision to ask for/about the product because it’s designed to sell, has language they don’t understand, and doesn’t answer their questions about the drug.

Earlier this year, we followed online health seekers after they went to a new diabetes drug website (opt-in was required). We found that they spent less time researching the drug and competitors on the product website and more time on other health sites. Social media was used to learn about others’ experiences with the drug (side effects). This should be highlighted at every DTC conference.

In an analysis, we found that the time and money to develop the website were minimal compared to other channels, including print. The content was rated at a college reading level, and the most important pages to the brand team had the highest bounce rates and shortest time on the pages.

After our lengthy presentation, the brand manager decided to challenge their online agency to improve metrics at the expense of TV ads. Their internal research showed a high awareness of the drug among the target audience. That is forward-thinking.

Drug marketing is unlike CPG marketing because people use a different purchase funnel when deciding if a drug is right for them. DTC ads generate awareness, but that’s not enough in today’s market.