Healthcare and Pharma Marketing: The Diabetes Epidemic

Diabetes drugs and devices have become one of the fastest-growing parts of the U.S. healthcare industry, and simultaneously one of the largest segments of the healthcare ad marketplace. How big? Currently, 10% of the U.S. adult population, or 24 million people, have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes), according to Kantar Media’s 2015/2016 MARS Consumer Health Doublebase Study. Another 27 million feel they are at risk of developing diabetes, according to the study. Given the importance of this growing consumer group, Kantar Media examined advertising and media trends surrounding diabetes patients.

Diabetes ad spend grows

The explosion in the number of diabetics has led to a corresponding increase in both competitive pharmaceuticals and diabetes-management devices, and also in ad spending by those healthcare marketers. Prescription medications account for the vast majority of diabetes-related ad spending. U.S. measured-media ad spending for diabetes prescription drugs in 2015 surged 117% to $723.4 million, based on our analysis.


Four diabetes drugs had measured spending above $100 million in the 12 months ended May 2016:


Four pharmaceutical marketers also spent more than $100 million to advertise diabetes drugs in the 12 months ended May 2016:

The best ways to reach diabetes patients

According to the MARS Consumer Health study, the median age of diabetes patients is 61, but 45% are under age 60. Diabetes patients are more likely to be dependent on their doctors for advice on treatment and lifestyle suggestions. They are significantly less likely to research healthcare information on their own, the MARS study found. However, these people are heavier users of traditional media, and more likely than the average American adult to take action after seeing healthcare advertising.

Adults with type 2 diabetes are 32% more likely to be heavy or medium-heavy TV watchers than the average adult. Some 43% of type 2 diabetes consumers say they value TV programs, compared with 37% of all American adults, and 30% say they value TV ads—five points higher than the total adult population.

Advertising leads to more action from these consumers. Type 2 diabetes patients that took some action as a result of seeing advertising are 86% more likely to discuss an ad with a doctor, 65% more likely to consult a pharmacist and 60% more likely to make a doctor’s appointment after seeing or hearing healthcare advertising. They are 65% more likely to ask their doctor to prescribe a specific drug, and 58% more likely to ask for a product sample of a drug they saw advertised.

Reflecting that patient profile, diabetes product marketers have focused their efforts on traditional media. U.S. measured-media spending for diabetes medications totaled $856.9 million for all media in the 12 months ended May 2016. Nearly three-fourths (72.4% or $620.6 million) of that spending went into TV. Magazines captured 21.8% ($187.0 million). (Magazines reach a whopping 86% of type 2 diabetes patients.)

Diabetes and search

Although diabetes sufferers spend more time with traditional media than the average consumer, they do spend time researching the disease and seeking community online. Drug and device marketers as well as educational and advocacy organizations try to reach those diabetes patients with search ads. A total of $28.8 million was spent on U.S. Google desktop search ads on 1,013 diabetes-related keywords in the 12 months ended May 2016, according to Kantar Media’s AdGooroo unit.

The top search spender was the American Diabetes Association. Also in the top 10 spenders were the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and the diaTribe Foundation. All of these advocacy groups use their online presence to offer news and lifestyle help, raise funds and foster a community for diabetics and their families.

Diabetes Paid Search 

As the diabetes epidemic continues to grow, healthcare and pharma advertisers are increasing marketing investments targeted towards the disease. But since the typical diabetes patient has unique consumer profile, marketers must invest wisely to ensure they reach the intended audience, as this group is very likely to take action as a result of seeing or hearing ads.



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