…but life support? Maybe.

Last week there was yet another conference on DTC marketing and social media. The insights presented at the conference were painfully obvious and would not have improved any but the newest newbie’s understanding of new media and marketing. While these conferences have become a venue for consultants and agency people to connect with possible clients, relevance may be waning: more and more people are making healthcare decisions based on new sources of information, and are leaving DTC marketers out in the cold.

Over the past 3 years we have seen a remarkable marketing revolution. The Internet has given consumers a voice, and they are using that voice to influence others. What is also changing is that today consumers are more interested in wellness, which they understand as quality of life over quantity of life. So if a medication has nasty side effects, patients may choose to roll the dice or look at other options that allow them to live the quality of life they want to live.


A recent presentation from Nielsen Incite indicated that health discus- sions on social media sites are broad ranging—but discussions around brands make up less than 20% of the whole. Melissa Davies from Nielsen Incite expanded on the data: “When we look at online discussion among patients and caregivers, we do see very detailed conversations about specific treatment brands—the good and the bad, from efficacy to side effects to treatment path and more. These conversations are strongly rooted in personal experience, and most patients are very careful to note that ‘your mileage may vary.’” So people want to hear from other people about their experiences and in large part the pharma industry has failed to bring people together to share experiences both good and bad. The Nielsen data also showed that the drug industry only has a brief window of opportunity in which to respond to online buzz or media stories about their products. Then the buzz dies down, and the window closes. In other words if you keep quiet and don’t say anything when the news is fresh you’re going to miss a chance to weigh in on the conversation.


DTC marketers cannot afford to go to conferences and learn about what happened in the past or rehash the basics of social media. That time has passed. They now have to think about how they can make marketing relevant again to consumers who have all but left them out of the conversation. If they don’t do this, and do it soon, then DTC marketing will become extinct as organizations cut marketing budgets in a time of shrinking budgets.

  • 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.