Direct to Consumer: Is Branding Enough? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Direct to Consumer: Is Branding Enough?
Reminder ads play an interesting role in the new DTC era.


Pharmaceutical Executive


The challenge for marketers, then, is to find a balance between brand recognition and maintaining the public's interest, leaving some wondering whether companies will reign in reminder ads to avoid confusing consumers—and a crackdown by FDA.


Phil Deschamps
Branding Tool Where DTC advertising opens the information gate to consumers, reminder ads serve to keep it open. They instill brand recognition so the product's name is on the tips of consumers' tongues.

Historically, pharma companies use 15-second reminder spots to prompt patients to ask healthcare providers about a drug or to remind consumers to fill or refill their prescriptions. But these spots provide value in other ways.


Phil Deschamps
Programs drivers Reminder ads are useful in driving consumers to toll-free numbers and to websites, where they can opt-in to a program. For example, Lilly ICOS, which markets Cialis (tadalafil), uses reminder advertising to promote the "Cialis Promise" program. Patients sign up on the Cialis website and receive free samples of the product. If they are not satisfied with the drug, Lilly ICOS then provides them with a sample of another brand name. Other brands, such as Avandia (rosiglitazone) and Prevacid (lansoprazole) use similar strategies to drive patients to sign up for "value-adds," such as coupons or free offers.

Enhance media buy Other executives use the short reminder ad format as a cost effective way to capitalize on the awareness they laid down during the full-length DTC ad, in which the full profile of the drug is communicated. Let's face it: 15 seconds is cheaper than 60 seconds. "Our economic environment requires the use of reminder ads," says Anne Devereux, chief integration officer for BBDO Advertising.


R. Steven Lang
Are They Effective? Some executives say, if the shared goal between industry and patients is having a fully informed public, reminder ads aren't effective because they don't communicate the total message to the consumer.

"It builds interest but then creates the question of what is to follow," says Don Apruzzese, senior director of consumer marketing for AstraZeneca.

Apruzzese says internal studies show that reminder ads are not effective at prompting patients to act. AstraZeneca analyzed product sales in controlled tests that compared similar markets. The company ran a six-to-eight-week full ad campaign that also included a direct response element, but exposed one market to a 15-second reminder ad. "It was a campaign that worked even harder because it included a call to action, and we still did not get a worthwhile response [to reminder ads] in terms of investment," Apruzzese says.

Apruzzese sees reminder ads as a tool to build a positive social association with a product, but believes drugs are more of a considered, rather than an emotional, purchase. Apruzzese acknowledges that the tactic might be effective for a product like Cialis, where images of relaxing in a bathtub becomes a subtle way of explaining positive associations. "But it becomes more challenging when talking about acid reflux," he says. Instead, he uses other mechanisms to build positive awareness, such as having the Crestor Charity Challenge as a sponsor of the PGA tour. "It's a positive sport, we are donating money to charity, and it's effective because it reaches our target audience."

Furthermore, Ehrenthal says reminder ads can only be effective if there is a 40 to 50 percent awareness of the product. "Non-indicated reminder ads are only as good as the knowledge base the manufacturer has established with the fully branded ad to be efficient and effective."


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