The History of Pharmaceutical Advertising is Traditional, but Digital is the Future

BY Kathy Crosett
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As the average age of U.S. consumers continues to increase, pharma companies are rolling out new drugs and therapeutic solutions to meet their aging needs. These companies are also spending more on advertising. Jacob Bell, writing for Biopharmadive​.com, reports that 70 drug companies have spent about $2.8 billion on advertising this year. This history of pharmaceutical advertising still significantly influences these companies' decisions concerning their ad money. But they can't avoid the waves of digital change.

The History of Pharmaceutical Advertising is Traditional, but the Future is Digital

Pharma companies are partial to TV advertising and have been for some time. Michael Leszega, a market intelligence manager at Magna, says, “If you look at syndication or early morning or things like that, pharma now consists of at least a substantial minority of total advertising spend within those day parts.”

For consumers who are seeking relief from pain and diseases associated with old age, TV is an important resource. These folks are watching TV during the day, and they are watching ads. They are also likely to read their local newspapers, and perhaps national ones as well. Experts point out that these formats allow advertisers to easily list the information needed about the efficacy of treatments and any possible risks. It's no wonder both types of traditional advertising have influenced the history of pharmaceutical advertising.

For that reason, advertisers still spend 58% of their media budgets for oncology drugs on TV and 39% on print ads. Similarly, TV captures 75% of immunology spending and 20% of print. For the oncology category, online spending is 3% while for immunology, it’s 5%. Pharma company advertisers use these formats to connect with older consumers who are more used to traditional modes of advertising, shown by the history of pharmaceutical advertising.

However, drug makers are starting to realize that online channels comprise a more effective way to target younger consumers who have grown up using technology. For example, in the HIV therapy area, online advertising captures 20% of the advertising media mix.

While debate continues about whether drug companies should continue to advertise directly to consumers, experts do not believe that the practice will change any time soon. In fact, these experts point to new treatments becoming available for Parkinson’s and other diseases as factors in driving future pharma advertising. Analysts also predict that the loss of patent protection for some key drugs will increase the availability of more affordable generic versions. That development could also fuel pharma advertising.

Show your clients a profile of consumers who response to pharmaceutical advertising. Check out the report on AudienceSCAN, available at AdMall from SalesFuel.