Direct to Consumer: DTC or DTP - Pharmaceutical Executive


Direct to Consumer: DTC or DTP
A guide to the strategies and subtleties of consumer marketing.

Pharmaceutical Executive

Ben Whisenant
Ask an average American to describe the difference between direct-to-patient (DTP) and direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing and you will likely receive a blank stare. Unfortunately, you'll often get a similar reaction from many pharma marketers.

"As we've asked agencies to help us develop innovative campaigns to help educate both consumers and patients, I was surprised at how often people got confused by the difference and the subtleties of DTC and DTP," says Cynthia Hogan, senior vice-president of Novartis Ophthalmics North America.

DTC and DTP Match-Up
Clearly differentiating between the two approaches can be instrumental in building more precise and complementary marketing plans. "If people were a little more precise about the definitions, it probably could help in terms of investments," says InChord Executive Vice-President Brian Hoffernan.

So, in the interest of clarity, here is a quick primer on the distinction between DTC and DTP marketing.

DTC (For Unknown Audiences) DTC advertising involves communicating information about a company, a brand or a therapeutic category to educate or motivate action. Its primary goal is to help the consumer identify himself or herself as someone who has the condition being treated, Hogan says.

DTC advertising should also notify its audience that treatments are available, encourage visits to the doctor, and promote the brand name. "If you [accomplish] these three things, you have been successful," Hogan observes.

The approach has proven effective for many products, particularly those with a broad target audience, such as Lipitor (atorvastatin). However, as a relatively young avenue of communications, there are still questions about its effectiveness.

"DTC tends to grow categories like a rising tide lifting all boats, but it doesn't necessarily grow the market share," Hoffernan points out. "There is still a lot of learning going on, and I don't think anyone feels like they have maximized this category. There is a long way to go."

DTP (They're Already Patients) DTP advertising is directed toward patients, who, by definition, are already aware of their condition and are being treated for it. Although it is almost always far less visible than DTC, it is also much less expensive. And most important, it reaches target populations that are difficult to reach through mass-media channels.

The primary objectives of DTP advertising are to encourage patients to continue taking their medication or to switch to the advertiser's product. Although some DTP "reminder" ads may appear on television or radio, the bulk of patient marketing has traditionally been accomplished through direct mail and waiting room literature. DTP has also found a new home on the web, where patients can sign up for e-mail newsletters designed to keep them motivated and compliant.

However, questions Frank Hone, executive vice-president of Healthworld Communications Group, "Is DTP underutilized today? I think the answer is clearly yes."

That's especially true in light of the lost revenue resulting from patients who stop taking their prescriptions. "I think there would be general agreement that everyone is not investing as much money as they should be in adherence programs," Hoffernan says. "And that's one area where more of a focus on DTP could pay off."

Gray Area When promotion falls on either extreme of the spectrum, it's pretty clear whether it's DTC or DTP. All parties can see that Claritin TV commercials are DTC and that a pamphlet enclosed with a patient's prescription is DTP. In the middle, however, there is a lot of gray area that has become a source of confusion and misunderstanding between companies and agencies. That can have negative repercussions for the pharmaceutical company and for the consumer. A DTC advertisement could, for example, end up driving customers to a competitor or fail to communicate essential information to existing patients.

Viagra is one DTC success story that has run into some big challenges. Ads featuring former US presidential candidate and senator Bob Dole were extremely effective in alerting the public to the availability of a treatment for erectile dysfunction syndrome. Yet some have suggested that the campaign may have estranged a younger generation of consumers in the process. Despite the campaign's success, Pfizer has since struggled to reverse the "elderly" stigma established by Viagra's initial DTC campaign.

It is also not always easy to determine whether an audience is best served by a broad-based approach, a narrower one, or a combination of the two. For instance, DTC is a particularly effective strategy for products with a high number of potential users, but it may also be appropriate in certain circumstances for products with fewer potential patients.

Hone gives the example of a multiple sclerosis product that was originally marketed through a direct response ad in newspapers and Sunday magazines. Using the responses, the company was able to evaluate the need for the product and to create a patient base. Thereafter, DTP marketing became its marketing strategy of choice.

Industry and ad executives alike hope that a better understanding of the terms DTP and DTC can help prevent costly mistakes arising from confusion. By going into marketing and advertising proceedings equipped with the same definition of these important concepts, they can start building a successful DTP or DTC campaign from day one.

Accounts Novartis' $350 million prescription drug business goes to Deutsch, New York and Integrated Communications, both of the Interpublic Group of Cos.; DDB Worldwide and Cline Davis & Mann, both Omnicom shops; and two others. The CementWorks is agency of record for Vicuron's dalbavancin, a developmental antibiotic for skin and soft tissue infections. Torre Lazur McCann was awarded the consumer launch for Mucinex (extended release guaifenesin) by Adams Respiratory Therapeutics.

Launches Daniel Teper, formerly COO of GSW Worldwide's international and specialty marketing division, is CEO of Energy! & Co., a strategic communications initiative he oversaw at GSW. Indigenus, a global cooperative network of independent healthcare communications agencies covering 70 percent of the global pharmaceutical market, has been launched.

People Fred Kellogg stepped down as CEO of Nelson Communications.

Richard Levy resigned the presidency of HealthSTAR Advertising. GSW Worldwide welcomes Marcee Nelson as senior vice-president/group creative director, Jim O'Neill as vice-president/account director, and Tom Watkins as senior director, market research. Arista Marketing Associates hired Scott Olson as director of business development. The CementWorks appointed Peter Zamiska chief creative officer and enlisted Todd Neuhaus as senior vice-president, creative director.

Steven Girgenti
Sir Martin Sorrell's Empire Grows It's been a constant stream of news on the mergers and acquisitions front from WPP this fall. Taken together, those steps exemplify the scaleability that WPP is building outside the United States.

Margot James
Its most publicized action was the September buy-out of Grey Global Group (GGG). That agency acquisition brought with it approximately 10,500 employees, new healthcare clients such as Boehringer Ingelheim, and benefits of scale in areas where it matters—like media buying.

Next, Healthworld Communications Group merged with Ogilvy Healthcare to form Ogilvy Healthworld (both WPP agencies). Steven Girgenti, worldwide CEO of Healthworld, assumes leadership for the new company. Margot James, current head of Ogilvy Healthcare Europe, becomes regional president of Ogilvy Healthworld Europe.

Only a few days after, WPP announced its next agency action: J. Walter Thompson acquired 30 percent of the issued share capital of Guangzhou Newsun Insight Advertising, which is located in China.

In other WPP news, CommonHealth unveiled a new operating philosophy and corporate identity that conveys a more integrated approach by its 12 business units to client work. For more information, visit


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