Pharma ups the ante on DTC advertising
Despite the buzz around digital media channels, pharma continues to pour marketing dollars into television
by Frank Celia, Pharmaceutical Commerce
For the fourth year in a row, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising funded by the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries continued to grow, most likely surpassing 2015’s record-breaking media spend. Although the figures were not completely tallied at presstime, in 2016, consumer-marketing efforts probably cost about $6.4 billion, a 5% jump over the $6.1 billion spent in 2015, according to the market research firm Kantar Media.
Since 2012, DTC spending by pharmaceutical companies has increased 62%, with back-to-back 19% increases in 2014 and 2015, according to Kantar data. The previous high mark for consumer advertising, $5.4 billion, was set in 2006. As usual, television benefited the most from higher spending, capturing 83% of the increased cash flow since 2012. Television’s share of the DTC ad pie has grown 12% since that time, while magazine and other print media’s share has shrunk by 6%, says Kantar.
Expenditures for digital marketing also grew in 2016, but at a slower pace than experts would have predicted a few years ago. Advertisers spent $2.02 billion on healthcare and pharma digital promotions last year, a 20% gain over 2015, but still only accounting for 2.8% of the total digital ad spend among all US industries.
There is a widespread agreement among marketing experts that drugmakers should be making more inroads into digital. “We’re urging clients to shift more resources to digital media, because their customers are there, and even after a TV ad or a detail generates that initial awareness, they are making medical decisions based on the information they find online,” says Matthew Arnold, a principal analyst at the consulting firm Decision Resources Group. “But digital spending remains a pittance at most pharmaceutical companies.”
Prime time works
Part of the reason for the increased consumer marketing is a flood of new diabetes products, according to a report by market research company eMarketer. New diabetes entrants from Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi and Eli Lilly debuted in 2016, which in turn prompted defensive ad spending to protect established brands from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Multiple sclerosis was another crowded marketplace that attracted copious ad dollars, according to the company.
“Pharma growth continues to be driven by well-funded marketing launches for new or recent drug approvals, plus existing therapies that have been approved for new indications and have increased their spending rates as a result,” explains Kantar Media CRO Jon Swallen.
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