Just How Effective Are DTC Ads?

Only 7% of consumer respondents were motivated to talk to their physician about a prescription drug they saw on TV, down from 21% in 2015, according to a 2016 STAT-Harvard poll. At Digital Pharma East, one of the speakers even went as far as to say that there is no ROI for prescription drug DTC ads. So what is the future of DTC advertising and should marketers even try to measure their ROI?

Consumerism is taking effect within healthcare, from rating doctors and hospitals to choosing the prescription drugs we take. The days of seeing an ad on TV and running to the doctor to ask for a prescription has been hampered by insurers, as well as costs for certain types of drugs. Even with employer-sponsored insurance, people are paying more for healthcare, and as such, want more of a say about their treatment options.

Still, 25% of patients who were prompted to visit their doctor after seeing an ad were given a new diagnosis. According to a study on DTC marketing conducted by Eli Lilly. Of those patients, 43% were a “high priority” diagnosis for a serious health condition, such as diabetes or hypertension. That same study indicated that 53% of physicians felt that DTC ads lead to better discussions with patients because patients are better educated and informed.

TV Ads Move Millennials to Visit Pharma Websites

In fact, advertising motivated more than half of Millennials (51%) to visit a pharma website, compared with 36% of Gen X and 26% of Baby Boomers, according to the sixth annual Makovsky/Kelton Pulse of Online Search Survey. Old-school TV was the most influential media among Millennials, with 26% citing it as the top ad channel, followed by 19% selecting websites and 16% choosing social media. Millennials are also more likely to ask for a drug by name, with 70% having done so versus 61% of all consumers surveyed.

DTC ads can be effective, but an integrated approach is needed to reach targeted audiences. Marketers should research which messages motivate consumers to “seek more information” but they also need to connect the motivation to learn more with motivation to ask about the product when they see their doctor.

Not too long ago we tested, within a pharma website, a built-in message application that could be used to email a patients’ doctor to ask about a new diabetes treatment. Some website visitors were served the page, and others were not. In the group that was served the messaging application, patients were 45% more likely to get an Rx and the vast majority said that their doctors did not require an office visit to prescribe the medication. It was a way to ensure that the online portion drive new Rx’s—and it worked.

DTC marketers have to be bold and experiment with their audience. We can’t continue to use the same old model of TV and then a website. Take your customers by the hand and motivate them to ask for your product.

  • Richard Meyer

    Richard Meyer has worked in healthcare marketing for more than 12 years and is the author of www.worldof dtcmarketing.com and www.newmediaand marketing.com. He is the Director of Online Strategic Solutions.


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