The Low Cost of High-Impact Ads - Pharmaceutical Executive


The Low Cost of High-Impact Ads
Point of Sale: A cheap way to (almost) forget about DTC ads

Pharmaceutical Executive

And pharmacists are a much-used source of health information for consumers: A Harris Interactive survey conducted for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Foundation (NACDSF) found that 63 percent of all purchasers of prescription medications consulted with a pharmacist over a three-month period. Of these respondents, 39 percent said that in addition to dispensing general information about their prescriptions, pharmacists reviewed dosing information, discussed possible reactions with other medications that they were taking, or gave advice about OTC products.

NACDSF is also piloting an initiative with the Sarasota Group, a coalition of community pharmacy and pharmaceutical manufacturers, to enhance patient empowerment through education.

This includes providing messaging tools to pharmacists, such as brochures to help patients understand how to get the optimum benefit from their prescription drugs, how to find options for affordable prescription drugs, and how to use pharmacists as a trusted resource for healthcare information.

Possibilities Continue to Grow

Today, there are 20,704 traditional chain drug stores, 9,437 supermarket pharmacies, and 6,362 mass-merchant pharmacies, according to the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. More than 3 billion prescriptions are dispensed annually in the United States.

Projections made at the 2020 Needs Conference sponsored by the Pharmacy Manpower Project show that the pharmacy setting will continue to be important: patients continue to want accessible settings where they can actively seek information and education. A report put out by the conference facilitators states, "Patient preference for personal service will continue to pharmacy settings."

It is those trends that provide a real role for POS advertising to contribute to the growth of market share. Moreover, POS disease-state education helps build market and brand awareness in the pre-launch stage. Knowledge can be targeted to a relevant and interested public.


The point-of-sale approach will never replace direct-to-consumer advertising. DTC ads have become vital to the pharmaceutical industry since it uses the powerful mechanisms of TV, radio, print advertising, and the Internet to place drug information directly in front of patients. The industry continues to support consumer advertising, and not just as a means of educating consumers about diseases, symptoms, and available therapies. Companies also aim to enhance the patient's relationship with the healthcare professional.

Fifty-six percent of physicians surveyed in a 2000 survey by Scott-Levin (now Verispan) indicated, "DTC advertising brings in patients to seek treatment that would otherwise go untreated."

However, with the constraints of tighter rules and regulations, companies should seek alternative ways of conducting consumer outreach. After all, consumers want health information—when they are looking for it. A recent Harris Interactive Survey revealed that more than half of consumers are ready for a new approach:

  • 35 percent would favor a mandatory ban on DTC for all new prescription drugs approved by FDA for a limited time period
  • 16 percent would favor a voluntary ban on DTC for all new prescription drugs approved by FDA so that each pharmaceutical company could decide when to begin advertising to consumers
  • 23 percent would oppose any ban on DTC for new prescription drugs approved by FDA

Pharmaceutical marketers can gain a new type of relationship with its end customers by reaching them in the pharmacy, when consumers are thinking about their healthcare and just an aisle away from the pharmacist, who can answer their questions about diseases or brands. In this way, pharma product managers might consider point-of-sale advertising to reach their target audience as a less intrusive patient education and brand awareness vehicle, and cost-effective option for the message, market, and media mix.

Barbara Orr (
) is executive vice president and Gary Beresky (
) is director of account services and marketing at Poretta & Orr.


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