Ad(Ventures) in Pharmaland

May 01, 2009

Top Impressions
A dvertising spending was depressed across the country in 2008, and pharma was no exception. According to Nielsen, DTC ad spend among pharma companies dropped 18.4 percent in 2008, from $5.3 billion to $4.3 billion. Predictably, the drop was spread unevenly across media. For example, TNS Media Intelligence compared spending on direct-to-consumer advertising in 2008 to 2007. The findings: Magazine DTC spending fell 23 percent, to $1.45 billion, and radio dropped 51 percent, to $25 million, while television fell only 3 percent from $2.95 billion to $2.86 billion. Meanwhile, Internet display ads (not including search) were up by a third in 2008, though they still accounted for just 5 percent of all DTC spending.

The year's drop in advertising is due, in part, to increased FDA scrutiny and the low number of potential blockbusters reaching market. But a deeper look into the numbers reveals some interesting trends. The recent explosion of digital media is having an impact on the marketing mix, and social media have finally made their debut on the pharma promotional scene. Despite the fall in overall DTC ad expenditure, it's clear that new advertising doors opened in 2008 for an ambitious (yet cautious) pharma to enter.

But if "innovate" is one of the watchwords for pharma marketers today, another is "optimize." And 2008 was a year in which companies looked hard at their marketing mix, analyzing which channels are most responsive and effective. That trend distinguished 2008 from previous years, according to David Baron, senior manager in Ernst and Young's advisory services group. "It's not necessarily 'out with the old and in with the new,'" he says. "It's more 'in with the old and in with the new.'"

Don't Change That Channel

Television remains an invaluable tool for pharma marketers. The medium's ability to forge connections with an audience is converging more with digital media. Spending on TV may have dropped a bit last year, but much of that drop was attributable to the increased cost of advertising in an Olympic/election year, plus the effect of several big-spending brands reaching patent expiration. "Television advertising is still the leading vehicle when it comes to generating awareness," says Fariba Zamaniyan, senior vice president of Nielsen IAG. "It's not that we expect to see ad spending go away in the DTC category, but what we may see is some share of the mix expanding to incorporate some online [advertising]."

According to Annie Touliatos, vice president for sales development, Nielsen Monitor-Plus, many pharma brands did up their spending. "When you look at the top 10 brands, you still have many that increased their ad spending in 2008, like Advair, Viagra, and Crestor," says Touliatos. Why the increase? In some cases it was brand strategy; in others, the launch of a competitor; in still others, the company may simply have decided the product was losing traction and needed more exposure.

lorem ipsum