For all the talk about digital migration and channel agnosticism, pharma companies remain huge fans of direct-to-consumer television ads. In 2016, pharma spent $4.06 billion on TV buys, up 4% from $3.91 billion in 2015, according to Kantar Media.
[According to data from Nielsen, the U.S. drug industry spent $5.6 billion on DTC ads, excluding digital ads (read “Direct-to-Consumer #Pharma Drug Ad Spending at an All-Time High”; http://sco.lt/61NlRp According to the Nielsen chart shown here, the 2016 spend may have been $5.8 billion (excluding digital but including cinema).]
Related: Spending in and around much-heralded digital channels was more or less flat ($515 million in 2016 versus $516 million in 2015).
[This number probably does not include search. Thus the digital DTC ad spend is only about 8% of the total DTC spend!]
So, pharma loves TV and TV loves pharma — or, to be more specific, its endearing generosity (read “Big Pharma Spending on TV Ads Like a Drunken Sailor”; http://sco.lt/8epI6z). But in the past 18 months or so, there has been an increasing sense that the rest of us may not be quite as sold on the marriage.
The first vocal pushback arrived in October 2015 when members of the MS community expressed some less-than-appreciative thoughts about the images and patient depictions in a Biogen TV spot for Tecfidera (read “More DTC Ad Backlash. This Time from Patient Bloggers!”; http://sco.lt/55MW1p). Bristol-Myers Squibb found itself on the receiving end of a similar response when its own series of ads for Opdivo made promises that, patients and caregivers alike proclaimed, the drug could not keep (read “Opdivo TV Ads "Educate" Patients About the Positive, Not the Negative Trial Data”; http://sco.lt/5OtIdl).
Taken in tandem with the anti-DTC sentiment preached by the American Medical Association (which has aggressively advocated ending the practice of advertising drugs directly to consumers) and the link alleged by many activists between pharma DTC spend and drug prices (which, once more for the record, is specious at best), one might well wonder if DTC on TV has reached an inflection point.
Could it be all downhill from here?
- “Is DTC Drug Advertising Effective? More - & BETTER - Research is Necessary”; http://sco.lt/7afJmD
- “Big Pharma Spending on TV Ads Like a Drunken Sailor”; http://sco.lt/8epI6z
- “Who Said DTC Ads Are Not Effective? Those ‘Knotty’ Linzess Ads Increased Sales by 30% Claims Ironwood Executive”; http://sco.lt/6p807l
- Pharma Marketers Spend Too Much on TV Because of the ‘Fame & Glory’ It Brings”; http://sco.lt/7bmTMf