Pharmaceuticals Go Digital to Promote Niche Drugs

When consumers think pharmaceutical advertising, they figure they’ll be seeing more TV ads. For decades, pharma companies have spent billions on direct-​to-​consumer TV promotions. But, things are changing in the industry as the next big wave of drugs will be targeting niche populations with specific medical problems.

Pharma companies have gradually begun to spend more of their ad money online. For example, this year the projected online spending will reach $1.58 billion which is a 23.3% increase over last year. But after 2012, the increases going to digital advertising are expected to taper off:

  • 2013 $1.86 billion (17.7% growth rate)
  • 2014 $2.11 billion (13.5% growth rate)
  • 2015 $2.30 billion (8.9% growth rate)
  • 2016 $2.48 billion (7.8% growth rate)

Part of the change in the industry’s marketing is linked to product development. In the next few years, companies are not planning to release blockbuster drugs designed to treat large percentages of the population. In addition, several well-​known brands are losing patent protection. Pharma companies will not allocate large marketing budgets to drug brands which must now compete with widely-​available and less expensive generics.

Marketing will instead focus on drugs which are being designed for less-​common diseases. Victoria Petrock, eMarketer senior analyst, says that “Rather than turning to one-​way, mass-​market media to promote brand awareness and maintenance, marketers are experimenting with more interactive, lower-​cost and more targeted digital channels.”

The lower-​cost strategy is being applied to professional promotion as well. To reach doctors, pharma companies say they’ll increase their use of the following strategies this year:

  •  MD-​oriented social media 58%
  • Mobile technology 55%
  • Edetailing 52%
  • MD-​oriented media channels 51%

By personalizing and customizing their promotions in the digital channel, pharma companies expect they can connect with the specific audiences they are seeking to reach.

[Source: To Market Niche Drugs, US Pharma Goes Online. Emarkter​.com. 20 Jun. 2012. Web. 4 Aug. 2012] 
Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-​owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.