Pharma consumer marketing budgets tend to be heavily tilted towards the awareness end of the conversion funnel, and particularly toward TV advertising, despite modest shifts toward more digital spending in recent years. So we read with great interest and arched eyebrows the recent news of a Wall Street analyst questioning a company’s use of TV advertising in a launch campaign.
Here at DRG Digital Innovation, we worry that many pharmas short-change their consumer digital promotion budgets, relative to their TV spend. Now make no mistake, there’s a reason pharma brands love the tube – TV is effective at driving mass awareness, and when you’re launching a brand into a complex and highly competitive category, you need to build awareness. When we asked online consumers that had requested a specific brand where they first heard about it, roughly a third of them cited TV ads, while a fifth cited online ads (doctors are the top source of initial brand awareness, cited by more than half of those having requested a drug). And more than half of online consumers recall seeing a TV ad in the past 12 months, while roughly a quarter remember online ads.
But what happens after a TV ad for a relevant therapy piques your interest? Consumers go online to learn more about advertised drugs. In our ePharma Consumer® 2015 study, we found that nearly three-in-five TV viewers would go online to learn more about the brand. That’s where consumers research and evaluate treatment options, and where they glean the knowledge that informs future discussions with doctors.
Moreover, online advertising is twice as effective as TV at driving health-related actions, such as requesting a drug or asking a healthcare professional about an advertised drug.
Launch brands need to let the world know that they’re there, and TV continues to be a great (albeit blunt) instrument for doing that. However, the eyeballs are increasingly online, and advertisers in more consumer-facing industries are following them there -- digital ad spend is forecast to pass TV this year. Pharmas need to get out of a TV-first mentality, think about targeting audiences and pay attention to what happens further down the funnel, where awareness flows into conversion. Study data suggest that critical moments for conversion are increasingly taking place online. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, pharma should focus more on digital media and analytics.
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