Direct-to-consumer advertising officially becomes a "tweenager" this August—and, oh my, how it has grown. DTC was officially born in 1997 when FDA gave the green light to companies to advertise their drugs to consumers. In the first year, pharmaceutical marketers bounded onto the scene and spent more than $1 billion. Years passed. Debates ensued. Patients learned more about drugs. And, yes, spending grew. The latest available figures for 2006 show that the industry spent $4.8 billion on DTC advertising, a 13 percent increase over 2005 and the second year of double-digit growth.
It's not closing time, but it does seem like the nine-year, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising happy hour is winding down. PhRMA's new Guiding Principles are dimming the lights, and television, the most glamorous and visible media channel for DTC, will have to turn down the volume.
Michael Aylmer recalls with some sentimentality the lavish three-day weekends that were once routine fare at New York's famous Ritz Carlton. Crowds of physicians and their spouses would come to the hotel to enjoy rich four-course meals, sumptuous spa treatments, and planned outings to the city's venerable hot spots and Broadway shows. This was, of course, before the 2002 PhRMA Code became the de facto law of the land.
Direct-to-consumer spending increased from $3.2 billion to almost $4.1 billion between 2003 and 2004, the biggest leap since the category began in 1997. While other US industries are just getting their footing back after a prolonged economic slump, DTC advertising, as in previous years, seems unaffected and continues to thrive. Even in the wake of FDA's virtual shutdown of the lucrative COX-2 inhibitor market, both DTC and professional promotional spending have, so far, remained in tact. (See "TV Dominates")