Alexandra vonPlato, Digitas Health

June 2, 2008

The industry assumption is that "DTC" means advertising, "creative" means advertising campaign-creative, and agency means advertising agency. Brands should stop viewing DTC as promotion at people and start thinking of it as engaging with people. Better to call it DFC-direct for consumer. As an industry, we need to wean ourselves off the 50-year-old advertising-centric model that was developed to sell consumer products on TV and in print. It is right to suggest to people: "Ask your doctor if brand X is right for you." But it's naive to think the first thing a person does when they have a health concern is to call a doctor. As marketers, we can no longer afford to underinvest in the Internet-the medium consumers have actively made part of their personal healthcare system-in favor of ads that consumers are actively trying to avoid most of the time.

The industry assumption is that "DTC" means advertising, "creative" means advertising campaign-creative, and agency means advertising agency. Brands should stop viewing DTC as promotion at people and start thinking of it as engaging with people. Better to call it DFC—direct for consumer. As an industry, we need to wean ourselves off the 50-year-old advertising-centric model that was developed to sell consumer products on TV and in print. It is right to suggest to people: "Ask your doctor if brand X is right for you." But it's naive to think the first thing a person does when they have a health concern is to call a doctor. As marketers, we can no longer afford to underinvest in the Internet—the medium consumers have actively made part of their personal healthcare system—in favor of ads that consumers are actively trying to avoid most of the time.

At present, a "big idea" in DTC is one that can be turned into a "good" TV spot. And the spot subsequently can be turned into an integrated campaign where all the "adlobs" (ad-like objects) match like a set of expensive luggage. In this pursuit, we overlook the fact that people use different media for different reasons. Effective integration means exploiting the unique features of each medium to engage the customer in an exchange they'll find meaningful and valuable. A truly "big idea" is one that has the legs to make the brand relevant and engaging across multiple platforms.

This is not to say that advertising can't play a critical role. But advertising and other agencies that were built for the purpose of creating ad campaigns should no longer be leading a brand's efforts to engage, educate, and motivate people to seek the treatment and care they need and deserve.

The Skinny

Digitas Health is a next-generation marketing agency. As the name implies, digital is a core marketing strategy, not a form of alternative media.

Telephone: 215-545-4444

E-mail: info@digitashealth.com

Web site: digitashealth.com