OTC Health Care is Booming: Why You Should Care

BY Rachel Cagle
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If American consumers have taken one lesson away from the COVID-​19 pandemic, it’s that prevention is key. After all, you don’t need to see a doctor and get expensive medication if you can avoid getting sick. So, consumers are turning to over-​the-​counter (OTC) health care that focuses on monitoring and personalized sickness prevention. If you have OTC health care clients, now is the time to convince them to take action.

The Future of OTC Health Care Ad Spend

According to Zenith’s Business Intelligence OTC Healthcare report, the industry’s advertising spend is predicted to grow by 8% in 2022. That means that total OTC health care ad spending will reach $21.6 billion this year. This growth isn’t an independent occurrence. In 2020, when total market ad spending was shrinking, OTC health care’s portion grew by 6.8% and has continued to increase since. This trend is expected to continue into the future.

Switching Up Advertising Strategies

In previous years, OTC health care advertising skewed fairly traditional. TV, radio, magazines and out- of-​home advertisements made up significant portions of OTC ad spending. But now the industry is switching to digital advertising.

When consumers first buy an OTC product, they often spend time researching the purchase and discussing it with family, friends and trusted advisors like pharmacists,” reports Zenith. “But after the first purchase, buying OTC products quickly becomes routine, part of the regular shop. The fundamental role of OTC advertising is therefore to maintain brand awareness at the point of purchase.”

Where do consumers do their research? Online! According to AudienceSCAN on AdMall by SalesFuel, within the last 30 days, 33% of parents of newborns and toddlers looked for health or medical information online. While stressed-​out parents are searching for information about their children's health condition, your clients could raise awareness of their brand and products through digital advertising. As more consumers go online to get answers to their questions, Zenith predicts that OTC brands will increase their digital advertising spend by 11% annually through 2023.

What to Promote

The beauty of the OTC health care products market is that it covers any affliction American consumers feel they can prevent and/​or solve without the help of a doctor. These afflictions range from muscle pain to headaches and everything in between. However, the categories that will drive the most growth in the OTC industry will be:

  • Sleep aids (expected to experience annual growth of 8%)
  • Contraceptives (demand to raise by 7%)
  • Cold and allergy medications (grow by 5%)

Even if your OTC health care client doesn’t specialize in these fields, Zenith analysts remind advertisers that it’s not what you advertise as much as how you advertise it.

How to Advertise

In order to keep your client’s OTC health care brand top-​of-​mind with their target customers, you need to ensure their ads create an emotional connection. “The rise of high-​quality advertising environments, online video and retailer media – ads that appear on retail websites and e‑commerce platforms – means brands can use digital to convey brand values effectively right through to the sale,” says Zenith. To make an emotional connection, Zenith recommends reflecting on who is using your client’s products and for what purposes. Examples given include a gym goer with muscle pains, office workers who get frequent headaches from staring at their screens and the concerned parents of children with growing pains.

If your OTC health care client’s ads seem tailored specifically to the audience who will come across the ads, they’ll be more likely to pay attention. And don’t forget what was mentioned earlier about online research and wanting the advice of professionals. Your clients can create advertising content designed answer frequently asked questions and provide input from professionals.

Isn’t it about time your OTC clients took advantage of this shift in consumer mindsets and interest in digital resources?

Photo by Laurynas Mereckas.