Our blogWell said:
Insights in health & wellness branding
14 August

DTC Still a Prime Player

At some point you may have asked yourself, “Is it just me or are there more drug commercials on television than ever?” At first, you might think it just means you’ve matured.  After all, the demographic targeted for DTC ads is well, older.

Or maybe you’re noticing them more because you have dry eye or pattern baldness, or just because you work in this biz.

It’s not you, it’s the market

Truth is, DTC (direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising) is more prevalent than ever.

Depending on which show you’re watching, prescription drug makers are responsible for as many as 38 percent of ads during commercial breaks, according to iSpot.tv.

In fact, DTC “has grown more in the past four years than any other leading ad category,” says Jon Swallen, chief research officer at Kantar Media, a consulting firm that tracks multimedia advertising.

And the lion’s share is in TV. According to Kantar Media, a consulting firm that tracks multimedia advertising, TV spend for prescription drugs has increased almost 65% since 2012*. That’s more than any other leading ad category.

Growing population, growing category

Why has DTC grown so fast? Because the older population has grown. According to the NIA (National Institute of Aging), the world’s older population continues to climb at an unprecedented rate, with 8.5 percent of people worldwide aged 65 and up. Combine that with the fact that the average prescription drug user is older and you can see why there’s a preponderance of those often silly but sometimes clever little commercials with the legal in the middle.

While this demographic uses the internet, they still watch a great deal of prime-time television. Says Swallen, “Overall, adults who suffer from chronic ailments are more likely to be heavier users of TV and print media.”

So what else is new?

Research company, eMarketer says that part of the increase in consumer ads is due to new diabetes entrants from Boehringer Inglehelm, Sanofi and Eli Lily, which in turn prompted defensive ad spending from existing brands.

The number of cancer drug spots, unheard of prior to 2013 (when Provenge DTC aired), is also increasing. From June 2013 to February of 2017, pharma companies spent an estimated $223 million on airings for Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo, Merck’s Keytruda, Dendreon’s Provenge, and Amgen’s Neulasta, according to iSpot.tv.

It’s time to get serious

What once was a marketing play for blockbuster brands for nonfatal conditions like allergies and acid-reflux is now also a play for brands that treat more serious ailments, says Thomas Lom, a consultant at several health care ad agencies. That, of course, reflects the health issues common to audiences that skew older.

So, next time you watch TV and there’s a commercial break, don’t check your email. Check out the latest trends in DTC.

*Based on a 2017 report of data collected through 2016.

Caren Spigland About the Author

Caren Spigland is an Associate Creative Director of Copy at Abelson Taylor. Prior to AT, she worked at shops like JWT, where she wrote her 1st Super Bowl spot, and BBDO, where she “wrote” her 1st no-copy ad and assisted in the death of the Wrigley’s Gum jingle.