Prescription Drug Ads to Shift from TV to Online

In a post last month, I mentioned that big drug companies have been cutting their direct-​to-​consumer (DTC) ad spending. In 2012, prescriptionhandpillstotal spending was $3.4 billion which was a 14% drop from the previous year. Drug company executives say part of the decrease was the result of fewer big drugs entering the pipeline but the shift was also made because these marketers are realizing that the ‘easy’ DTC approach may not be the most effective in terms of increasing sales.

Drug companies say that up to 25% of their ad budgets are being used in formats like digital, social media and mobile this year. This change should help them capture younger audiences.  Another problem with the traditional brand-​building approach is that the wrong audiences were being reached. This was especially true for the ED drug category. Those TV ads caused parents to complain and attracted the attention of the regulatory branch of the FDA.  Pharma executives also believe that they need to spend more promotional funds on the physician channel. Studies have shown that even when patients see an ad on TV and request a specific drug, the physician often prescribes a different drug.

Analysts point out that TV advertising for the pharma industry remains important in terms of educating the public. These ads can also prompt consumers to seek help for a medical condition. But shifting more money to digital promotions and online channels can reach consumers who are deeper in the sales funnel. TV and print ads will likely remain effective ways to start conservations and thinking about a specific health care problem, but they will be supported by more intense spending on digital promotions this year and in the future.

[Source: Arnold, Matthew. Direct-​to-​consumer report. Mmm​-online​.com. 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 2 May 2013] 
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.