Why TV will continue to be the first choice for DTC


  • Google has vowed to block cookies completely on its Chrome browser, which is used by around 70 percent of the world’s desktop computer owners, by the beginning of 2022.
  • Display ads are usually reported to have an overall click rate of about five clicks in ten thousand ads served. If you want to know why the web is so appallingly littered with ads, it’s because to get five clicks you have to run 10,000 ads. If that’s not bad enough, 60% of the clicks are reported to be mistakes.
  • In one test, data bought from a data broker was able to correctly intuit the sex of an individual 43% of the time. A cat flipping a coin would be right 50% of the time.
  • According to Nielsen traditional TV viewing (over-the-air and cable) account for about 2/3 of all TV viewing and streaming accounts for only about 25%. The rest of TV time is used for gaming. Despite all the hype about Netflix, it accounts for about 2% of TV viewing.

The idea that the same consumer who was gleefully clicking a remote to escape from TV ads was going to click a mouse to interact with online ads joyfully will go down as one of the great marketing fantasies of all time. The same is true for pharma products, yet they continue to waste a lot of money on display ads while the bounce rate and time on their product websites are dismal.

It’s estimated that DTC marketers spend at least 76% of their budgets on TV ads. That’s actually a good idea given the inefficiency of online ads, but DTC marketers are really missing the connection between awareness and action. Gone are the days, for the most part, of someone seeing a DTC ad and running to their doctor to ask for an Rx. Today it’s about using the internet to research prescription drugs, and more and more pharma is being left out of that conversation.

Of course, some will point to the fact that people are moving to streaming services but that too is more hype than reality. According to the Ad Contrarian:

  • Between January 2020 and October 2020, the percent of people who canceled a paid streaming service went from 20% to 46%.
  • Of the people who signed up for a paid streaming service, almost 62% did so to watch a specific show. This leads to a big problem. People sign up for a free trial, watch the show, then cancel. This was encouraged by the streaming services that released the series all at once. I expect they’ll be re-thinking that strategy.
  • It costs paid streaming services about $200 bucks to acquire a customer, and they have to keep that customer for 15 months to break even.

So at a time when Google is ready to ditch cookies for their own service called FLOC and Apple is suing the awareness light on privacy, how will online marketers react? The answer is “back to basics.” Marketers are going to have to learn all they can about their audience beyond demographics. Where do they go for news, medical information, and daily bookmarked sites? Then they are going to have to align online advertising with those psychographics.

PR is also going to play a huge part in DTC. The headlines around Novo’s diabetes drug were “18% weight loss,” which led to a direct correlation in people searching for information about the drug and to their website. Unfortunately, they found out about the side effects, and that it had to be taken for over a year, and that this in clinical trials had “weight counseling.”

I keep telling clients to spend more money developing their product websites, including more reference backlinks, and using images of REAL people. I also tell them to utilize thought leaders for writing content and optimize their sites based on pages that are read and ones that aren’t.

TV is right to be the number one choice.