Direct to Consumer: When Television Isn't Enough

Marketers are tightening mass-marketing budgets and putting cash into direct media and integrated programs.
Jan 01, 2007
By Pharmaceutical Executive Editors

David Coman, global marketing vice president of Dendrite, and Paul Buta, co-founder of Optas
It looks like 2006 will be remembered as the year the pharma sales-force arms race finally ended. But there are signs it might also be remembered as the year that direct-to-consumer advertising finally cooled off.

The reasons, according to a study recently released by Dendrite, include a trend toward avoiding high-cost mass-marketing channels, and the ongoing effects of the diminishing blockbuster model.

What's more, the study reports, although mass-market media are still significant, brand managers also are investing in new channels that are more targeted and patient-driven, such as Web sites, pharmacy programs, and physician-office programs, in an effort to provide patients with specific information that meets their individual needs.

Pharm Exec spoke with David Coman, global marketing vice president of Dendrite, and Paul Buta, vice president and co-founder of Optas (a division of Dendrite), for more details.

PHARM EXEC: What DTC trends struck you as new and innovative this year?

COMAN: In previous years, there had been an increasing sentiment to invest more in DTC advertising, but this year we're starting to see a slow down.

How big of a slow down?

COMAN: As a frank comparison, if we look at 2005, more than 40 percent of brand managers said that they were going to be experiencing an increase of DTC spending of more than five percent. In 2006, less than 25 percent said that.

What caused such a big change?

COMAN: There's a lot of investment that goes into DTC, but the actual return can't really be measured. So I'm sort of going on faith that this big mass-media channel outlet is going to drive patient and physician behavior. And we haven't necessarily been able to quantify whether that's actually true.

It's really a shift from mass media to more direct media—and more investment in Web sites, pharmacy programs, and physician-office programs, where you have a very specific, direct, and measurable return.

Can you give some examples of targeted DTC initiatives?

BUTA: One area that's very active right now is loyalty-card programs for improving patient persistency and compliance. That's an opportunity whereby a patient goes to the physician's office, the physician writes the prescription, and the patient gets a welcome packet from the pharmaceutical company, including a card that can be used for future reductions in copay or in the actual cost of the prescription itself. It's a situation where the patient opts into a program to get a reduction in cost as well as further information about the product.

COMAN: We've seen a dramatic uptake in persistency programs. Just over the course of the last several months, we have 40 brands up and running with new persistency programs that utilize some sort of a card mechanism or an opt-in mechanism. [Through this] we can start gaining a relationship with the individual patient.

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