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Brand managers choosing to advertise an anti-depressant on "Criminal Minds" may not be making the best choice. New methodologies reveal "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" along with "The Bachelor" to be shows favored by depressives
Television represents the largest direct-to-consumer (DTC) promotion expenditure for most pharma marketers. In the first quarter of 2010, 59 percent of pharmaceutical DTC spending was on television ads.
Photo credit: NBC (Cast of "Law & Order Special Victim's Unit")
But brand managers who are relying solely on traditional ad placement methods rather than using newer, more sophisticated methodologies, may be missing opportunities to reach target patients as well as wasting spend.
So what are these new methods? Digital capabilities that anonymously link what we tune in to watch on TV with the prescription behavior of consumers. The result? An ability to determine the most effective networks, programs, and times of day to reach patients of interest and to measure the impact of the campaigns. In turn, it enables brand mangers to base the placement, measurement, and refinement of their strategies on empirical data, which can result in more efficient investments and greater accountability.
A key objective of DTC advertising is to drive patients to visit their physician and request the prescription brand advertised. And when it works, it works: Take TV advertising for the osteoporosis market. At its peak in 2008, osteoporosis patients requested a specific drug from their physician during 20 percent of visits. And studies show that physicians tend to grant patient requests and issue the sought-after drug, unless there is a valid reason not to. In 2008, when Actonel was requested by patients, physicians issued it 98 percent of the time.
Given the significant investment that goes into pre-market campaign planning, particularly creative and message testing, the same level of rigor needs to be applied to ensure the ad is effectively reaching the intended audience of patients. However, TV real estate continues to be purchased based on traditional parameters of audience age and gender demographics, at the right price.
How exactly do these new methodologies work? Anonymous longitudinal patient data tracks, among other things, prescription activity over time. By reviewing what drugs patients have filled recently, they can be classified as being treated for conditions in different therapeutic markets. A combination of tuning and prescription behavior then enables an analysis of what patients in different healthcare markets are watching.
In addition, evaluations can determine the influence an ad has had on patients who viewed it. Advertisers are then able to accurately gauge differences in the prescription behavior of patients exposed to an ad compared with nonviewers.
An evaluation of a brand's recent ad schedule demonstrates how knowing what programs patients are actually watching could dramatically change the selection of programs made by an advertiser (figure 2). In the six months ending March 2010, a popular depression drug was advertised most often on:
1. "Criminal Minds" (CBS)
2. "48 Hours" (CBS)
3. "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" (NBC)
4. "Medium" (CBS)
5. "The Bachelor" (ABC)
These shows most likely were chosen based on traditional age and gender criteria. However, a ranking of shows based on new insights gleaned from linked tuning and prescription data indicates that these were not the most optimal placements.
And so while "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" was the third-most-purchased show, it ranked No. 20 in reaching depression patients—meaning that 19 other shows would have been more efficient.
The fifth-most-popular—and most expensive—advertising placement, "The Bachelor" on ABC, ranked poorly when analyzed in terms of patient healthcare behavior. It indicated that 36 other shows would have been more effective in reaching depression patients.
Employing the new methodologies would have enabled marketers of this brand to either decrease spending and reach a better audience or continue with a similar investment but reach far more patients. Either scenario should result in a better return on investment.
When patient-level data is being used, a true control group can be created that matches a group of patients who viewed the ad. Age, gender, past healthcare behavior, and other patient characteristics can be analyzed to help ensure that resulting differences in prescription behavior between the control and exposed groups can be attributed to the viewing of a campaign instead of outside factors.
In addition, patient-level data is longitudinal and tracks patients over time. Therefore, a host of metrics about patient behavior pre- and post-exposure to the campaign can be analyzed. The objective of many ad campaigns is to draw new patients to the brand, either through acquisition of patients new to therapy or conversion of patients from other drugs in the category. Since the de-identified patients' past prescription activity is known, it's easy to discern the types of new patients acquired.
Some campaigns are created to build brand loyalty and will include direct-response spots that encourage patients to join customer loyalty programs. The extent to which campaigns like these are effective at extending the length of therapy for patients can be measured by tracking viewers over time to determine how long they remain on therapy after being exposed to an ad campaign compared with those who didn't view the campaign.
Dave Nussbaum, VP of Media Innovations at SDI, firstname.lastname@example.org
Fariba Zamaniyan, Senior VP, Pharmaceutical Sales at TRA, email@example.com