- Despite increasing amounts of money spent on direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ads, a new survey found consumers may be less inclined to talk to their doctors about a drug they saw on TV.
- Only 7% of the consumers surveyed by Treato asked their physician about a drug after seeing a DTC ad. This is significantly lower than the roughly fifth of respondents who had spoken with a doctor about a drug advertised on TV.
- Perhaps responding to the uptick in drug ads during this year’s Super Bowl, almost half of surveyed consumers felt drug ads should be banned from airing during the game.
According to data from Medical Marketing & Media, DTC drug advertising rang up to $5.2 billion last year, up from $4.3 billion the year prior. Surveys like this one don’t bode well for pharma marketers looking for returns
Some of the creative approaches to drug ads also didn’t resonate with consumers. For example, 76% said celebrity cameos in drug ads don’t make them more likely to pay attention. The same held true for animated characters, with 80% of respondents indicating they are not inclined to pay more attention to ads featuring the cartoons.
Despite the troubling results for pharma marketers, the survey was relatively small, limiting the ability to draw broad conclusions. Treato surveyed 529 of its users between April 12 to April 15
But the results are suggestive consumers may be paying attention to when ads run, and in what setting. Three-quarters said ads for erectile dysfunction and low libido should only be aired after 9 p.m. or not at all.
Pharma advertising has been under fire lately. In November 2015, the American Medical Association (AMA) backed a ban on all pharma DTC advertising, citing the fact that the US is the one of the few developed countries which allows DTC drug ads. The organization expressed concern DTC ads were driving up the cost of healthcare by encouraging patients to request more expensive drugs.
At the same time, advertisers are ramping up spending in other mediums too. According to data from Nielsen, pharma spending on magazine ads increased by nearly 20% to $1.53 billion in 2015, up from $1.29 billion in 2014.
Magazine ads offer several advantages over TV for drug advertising. Patients can tear out the ads and physically bring them to their physicians. Magazine ads are also an easier medium for reporting all of the long-form safety and prescribing information which must be included with each ad.
Eric Malter, Founding Partner and CEO of MDC, a programmatic healthcare advertising and communications agency in New York City, was surprised by these results.
"It runs counter to everything I've seen and experienced in my many years of healthcare marketing. In fact, the power of television and print to act as key influencers of consumer's healthcare decisions has been seem time and again across a wide range of therapeutic areas," he said.
According to Malter, the survey failed to address one important consideration. "The conclusions drawn in this study totally belie the impact of the internet and digital advisors like WebMD, which is a high source of direct-to-consumer healthcare information. I have to believe that a good deal of traffic to these sites is driven by DTC television advertising."
Note: This post has been updated to include a quote which was received after initial publication.