Will we ever see great, breakthrough DTC?

Someday_20564KEY TAKEAWAY: Great ads start with a focus on the target audience, but they take the concept of advertising one step further.  They aren’t afraid to “break the mold” of ads to create action on the part of consumers.  While the pharma industry has no shortage of self proclaimed ad awards patients are making DTC ads more and more irrelevant. 

According to Treato “only seven percent of respondents said they have asked a doctor about a drug after seeing an advertisement about it on TV” . This is significantly down from last year’s survey in which 21 percent of respondents said that they had asked a doctor about a drug they saw on TV. So why in the beautiful green earth are DTC marketers still allocating so much to TV?  Because to them, digital is a black hole of metrics and budget dollars.


Do DTC marketers really understand how hard it is for patients to get into see their doctor?  Do they understand that even if patients ask for an Rx their insurer is probably going to ask them to try a generic medication first?  These are not usually addressed on pharma websites because it’s too much work.  It’s better and more glamorous to go on a shoot and say “look what we did” with TV ads.

Last week on LinkedIn a Gilead executive was named for an award.  This was then followed by agency hacks congratulating him despite the fact that they charge so much for their Hep-C treatment and have the poster company for high pricing within pharma.  Of course, these agency people love to fart sniff executives because to them, their companies are cash cows.  Not too long ago in Boston I was at a great restaurant when an agency was wining and dining pharma clients.  I was able to overhear some of the conversation and frankly, it made me nauseous. I though sucking up was dead, but it’s not.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very good agencies out there who can develop breakthrough DTC but too often they are handcuffed by tight company people who are living in fear of the FDA and the media.  This is when agencies become vendors instead of strategic partners.  Then there is procurement who manages to throw up every obstacle to doing work with pharma clients.


If I asked you to name one pharma product website that was excellent, could you do it?  Will we ever see a DTC commercial that really drives people to inquire about a new drug?  BMS took a risk with the Opdivo ads to their credit, but the online aspect leaves a lot to be desired and one can argue that they would have a better ROI targeting cancer patients in other channels.

I am hopeful.. but then I am also an optimist.