It’s the end of the year, and just like every year at this time DTC marketers are flooding our televisions with prescription drug ads because they either have to use the money or lose it. The continued heavy investment in TV advertising is proof that most DTC marketers don’t understand the way consumers are making healthcare decisions and where they are going to get health information.

As much as marketing is changing, one aspect hasn’t changed: Increasing reach and frequency will not necessarily result in driving brand objectives. Today, consumers are taking a more active role in their healthcare and that means scrutinizing drug marketers’ claims as well as listening to what others have to say about specific medications. More often than not that means the Internet.

While there are some drug marketers who are blazing new trails in digital marketing, most are content to sit on the sidelines and purchase keywords as well as develop the basic drug.com website. That might have worked five years ago but today consumers—and patients—are a lot smarter. For example, dissatisfaction with the results and unwanted side effects are two of the biggest reasons why a large number of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis patients go untreated, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Dermatology. Yet today, brands seem to ignore these patient voices and bombard them with ads with fair balance that would make anyone cringe.

According to Kantar Media’s Online Behavior Study, about 195 million U.S. adults used the Internet in the last 30 days and almost 90% of these adults say they used the Internet for health research in the last year. While the FDA is still in a holding pattern on the use of social media by pharma marketers, social networking use among Internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled—from 22% to 42% over the past year. It is clear that people are using social media, but the extent that they are using the information they find to make healthcare decisions has yet to be studied in depth and varies by condition. However, there is a wealth of information on social networking sites that pharma companies can learn from, including how patients think about healthcare choices and the barriers they face when requesting a particular product.

Rather than focus on simply developing a product website and purchasing some keywords, DTC marketers need to focus on building informational relationships based on what they hear online and from current customers. It’s time to advance digital marketing in drug marketing and realize that a lot of money spent on TV is being wasted.

  • 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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