Catching Interest, Resisting Involvement
Although marketers may struggle with keeping patients on treatment, there are signs they're getting better at generating initial,
pre-prescription interest. TV continues to be the crown jewel of this effort, with DTC ad awareness levels jumping from 69
to 89 percent between 2003 and 2004. Sue Ramspacher, senior vice president of NOP World Health, says TV's triumph is directly
related to a "dramatic spend" by marketers in this medium. Spending rose from $1.9 billion in 2003 to $2.6 billion in 2004.
"In early 2004 you couldn't turn on the TV without seeing ads for the newest erectile dysfunction drugs, and the COX-2 wars
were still going on," Ramspacher says.
"Believability" of DTC ads, according to Ramspacher, rose to 57 percent across all media channels, as did "likeability," which
rose to 66 percent in categories like asthma.
In spite of this good news, she says DTC promotion is still preaching to the choir rather than gathering new converts: "DTC
primarily influences patients who are already diagnosed and are being treated, but fails to motivate the undiagnosed and untreated
who represent more than 50 percent of sufferers in many large categories."
Such was the case with Eli Lilly's osteoporosis medication, Evista (raloxifene), according to Jay Bolling, managing partner
of Roska Direct. "We had a well-defined audience, but the product was not on their radar screen," says Bolling. "Women would
see an ad for Evista and think of their mother, not of themselves. In cases like this, you're dealing with issues of apathy
Bolling and his team launched an ad campaign in women's books which included a consumer response vehicle that wove together
product and disease awareness information. It offered a 30-day free trial offer for Evista to women who redeemed a certificate
included in the mail-in response.
Moving Right Along
There are various reasons why people who would benefit from a prescription resist taking it.
"Some people may be suffering but, whether they be internal beliefs or barriers, don't think they're ready for a medication,"
Ramspacher says. "When these people see a branded prescription drug ad, they ignore it because they're not seeing themselves
in them. This speaks to the need for pharmaceutical marketers to better balance their branded message ads and their unbranded
disease awareness ads." Some companies are already experimenting with this more subtle awareness-to-adoption mix and are reaping
Consumers may rush straight to the doctor after seeing a drug ad, but they are rushing to the computer to find out more. NOP
figures suggest that the Internet is becoming the "intermediary" between doctors and patients; nearly one-third of those who
contacted their doctors after seeing a DTC ad first went to the web to find out more. (See "Reaching Consumers Online.")
As the relatively new field of DTC advertising matures, it is becoming increasingly clear to marketers that effective consumer
messages operate on a continuum of action; it's up to them to prod consumers almost every step of the way. Indeed, even if
a consumer is motivated enough to go to their doctor and get a prescription, 25 percent never make it to the pharmacy. "Getting
to the doctor is one thing, taking a drug is another," Boehm quips.