Alternative Media: TV's Targeted Comeback

Educational TV programming provides a new channel of information for disease sufferers.
Apr 01, 2006


Howard Steinberg
Many pharma marketers have pointed to the increasing use of digital video recorders, TV's diminishing audiences, and the backlash over drug ads as evidence that television no longer provides a valuable medium for brands to communicate their messages to consumers. As a result, many companies have shifted their focus—and their dollars—from mass-market advertising to Internet and print ad campaigns to better target their audience base. (See "Change the Channel.")

Certainly, the change in the media mix is valid. Of the 2,904 commercial messages that consumers receive each day, they pay attention to only 52, according to a study conducted by ad agency Carat in 2003.

However, though consumers may be viewing fewer commercials, they're still watching TV and absorbing information. To that end, companies don't have to do away with television as a marketing platform completely. Instead, pharma companies should think about embracing new longer-form content options, targeted TV channels, and creative on-demand alternatives that are likely to attract the segment of audience they're after.

Health Condition, by Channel



Health consumers are proactively searching for relevant tools to learn about their conditions—particularly as the incidence of chronic disease grows and the responsibility for managing those conditions falls on consumers' shoulders.

But the patients who are searching for disease information are increasingly taking the attitude of "my health, my disease, my media." These health-hungry consumers want easier access to the information that will help them better their lives. They don't want scheduled media; they want to control their TV programming just as they control their TiVos and iPods.

Certainly, disease-specific web streams and broadcast options are beginning to emerge, providing pharma a vehicle to engage specific types of patients when and where they want to be reached. Until recently, these health condition programs aired primarily in hospital waiting rooms or patient rooms, and were used to help educate patients on their illness for a faster recovery.

But now, consumers from households with cable or satellite television can access various health-related programs, like Medical Breakthroughs, airing on network affiliates in major markets, to prevent disease and hospitalization in the first place.


The dLife channel
Some pharma companies already support these types of shows. Sanofi-Aventis, for example, promotes its long-acting insulin drug Lantus (glargine) through spots on the television show dLifeTV, a national weekly TV program that's part of an integrated media platform, dLife, targeted to patients with diabetes.

DLife informs patients about new therapies, testing devices, research, and tips on compliance—picking up where many healthcare professionals leave off in offering knowledge and motivation to keep patients persistent and compliant with their drug regimens. The content is educational in nature, offering, for example, tips on how diabetics can overcome their fear of needles or an explanation of how insulin works. Because it is focused on a specific disease state, the audience that tunes in represents exactly whom companies want to reach—those who are eager to learn about therapy options for the specified disease or other co-morbid conditions likely to affect the patient.