The End of DTC as We Have Known It OpEd by John Mack
Almost a year ago to the day-just a week or so after launching Pharma Marketing Blog — I warned that DTC advertising must change if it is to survive. And change it has… knock on wood!
Back in January and earlier, I complained that DTC ads were not educational despite claims to the contrary by the industry. I cited erectile dysfunction (ED) drug ads as examples. Here’s what I said: “Nowhere in any ED ad have I seen any information about what ED is, what the symptoms might be, and who is likely to suffer from it.”
Now there are unbranded ads on TV that actually talk about the medical conditions that may cause ED-diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Imagine that!
A year ago I complained that pharma marketers were underutilizing information-rich channels such as the Internet. “Not enough effort or money,” I said back then, “is spent to foster the synergy between DTC broadcast ads and the Internet. DTC ads focus on what may be a giant step for many people-go see your doctor. They don’t emphasize enough an intermediate step-i.e., go to a website to learn more about the condition, the treatment options and find motivational tools.”
Now we have www.mensfacts.com and other unbranded disease information sites that consumers are directed to via DTC ads. If you believe Yahoo!’s Jack Barrette, 2006 will be a big year for DTC on the Internet (see “Pharma Trends to Watch in 2006”).
Back in June, 2005, I complained about print DTC ads that were creative with regard to presenting benefits but written in legalese mouse text when presenting the vital facts. I suggested that drug companies prevent their lawyers from writing the patient package insert stuff.
Now we have Lipitor print ads with large type both front AND back! In fact, Pfizer’s new patient-friendly labeling information is almost as easy to read and understand as the ad copy! Who could have imagined this?
Back in March, 2005, I suggested that more DTC ads should use doctors and doctor-patient communication scenarios to convey the marketing message. “Drugs are serious products and require a doctor to close the sale,” I said. “It makes perfect sense, therefore, to include doctors within the DTC ads to communicate risks.”
Now we have plenty of DTC ads with doctors and actors playing doctors. This might be one of those wishes that should have been better thought through. There are doctors everywhere now! I’ve seen them in TV and print ads for Lipitor, Evista, Zetia, and Viagra to name just a few.
It’s almost as if pharmaceutical marketers are listening… to me! I know it’s just not me, but I think they are listening. How refreshing.
Merck asks “If you ran a pharmaceutical company, what would you change?” I might first kill all the marketers. I mean this only in the most benign (sic) Shakespearean sense of preparing the way for a new order, a new kind of marketing. I’d get rid of all the “kids” with their packaged goods promotional ideas and get back to the basics. I’d also ease up on the doctor-in-DTC thing!
Issue: Vol. 5, No.1: January 2006