Inside the colourful history of pharma advertising

Sales & Marketing
Inside the colourful history of pharma advertising

Pharma companies employ a variety of tactics to increase brand awareness and promote their products. While the tactics used to market prescription drugs may be controversial, today’s advertising efforts are a far cry from the outlandish claims made in the early days of the pharma industry.

With each passing decade, pharma companies and regulators have worked to refine the art of marketing, adapting to new technologies and innovations to deliver creative campaigns. That is not to say that the journey has been a smooth one. So how did pharma advertising transform from a wild world of patent drug quackery to a tightly knit machine of creativity?


The birth of mass marketing

After assuming control of his grandfather's patent medicine business, Benjamin Brandreth ventured across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a bigger market for his now famous Vegetable Universal Pill.

In an early example of mass marketing, Brandreth was a pioneer in targeting prominent health concerns – in this case, the widespread belief that blood impurity caused various illnesses – using a distinctively literary approach to appeal to the general public.

Through the distribution of books and newspaper adverts, Brandreth positioned the pills as a purgative, claimed to be a 'cure-for-all' remedy for all ailments. Unfortunately, in reality – as with most patent medicines at the time, these miraculous assertions were unproven and often not worth the ink they were printed with.

• Read the full article in pharmaphorum's Deep Dive digital magazine