Are direct-to-consumer ads enough to make patients ask for your product?


Marketers must use multiple touchpoints to sway the consumer and ensure that they explain how quality of life can be maintained through adherence.

America's evening network news programs are still heavily sponsored by pharmaceutical products, but direct-to-consumer (DTC) TV ads are not enough to drive patients to visit their doctor to ask for the product.

Continued research indicates that in the search for health information, consumers don't rely on any one touchpoint, other than their doctor, to choose healthcare treatments.

Last year I did a study for a client on how consumers chose healthcare treatments via online resources. The top-line result was that virtually everyone goes to multiple health websites before deciding to select, or ask for, a treatment. It involves general health sites, like WebMD, as well as social media. What patients want to know is the 'why', but also how other patients are living with chronic conditions and what side effects are most bothersome.

"DTC marketers are not measuring effective reach, and thus a lot of money is being wasted"


TV is still a great way to raise awareness, but DTC marketers are not measuring effective reach, and thus a lot of money is being wasted. DTC managers need to think like patients and take the same journey, from awareness through to conversion, so they can better allocate dollars to touchpoints that drive brand objectives.

While DTC ads are largely devoted to acquiring new patients, there seems to be a huge void in keeping patients on therapy. Multiple studies clearly show the need for some type of intervention to achieve this. Is DTC marketing the way? I believe it can be – if the ads are developed with research insights.

Last year, in qualitative research, we tested several concepts with patients who had high blood pressure. The best results were the ones that focused on quality of life by staying on therapy. Discount coupons were well received, but were not enough to ensure compliance and adherence. The best-received concepts were ones that informed people about the health risks of high blood pressure and quality of life. Images of real people, not models, enjoying life, also tested very well. The key takeaway here is that there are multiple opportunities for DTC marketers to embrace downstream marketing.

If we think like patients, who often have too many treatment choices, we can brainstorm and test the best initiatives, beyond selling, that ensure DTC marketing can be a valuable tool for marketers and a valuable resource for patients. However, we need to get beyond the thinking that a TV spot and product website are enough. US consumers and patients have become adept at checking your claims and comparing treatments; a sales message on your website is not enough to get them to see their doctor to ask for your product.

It's a multi-touch environment and marketing needs to be tailored at every stop in the journey to influence treatment choices.

About the author:

Richard Meyer has over 20 years of marketing experience in consumer packaged goods and healthcare. He has worked for companies like Eli Lilly and Medtronic, and recently sold his digital healthcare consulting business to take a position as chief strategy officer.

Among his many accomplishments, he was on the Global Cialis launch team, where he developed an award-winning interactive strategy, receiving the highest marketing award at Lilly. He redesigned the Medtronic Diabetes site, increasing key metrics, and is recognised as a digital thought leader.

Rich currently works with healthcare clients to develop DTC and HCP marketing initiatives. He leads research for clients and identifies actionable strategies to improve marketing. He has an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology and lives with his wife in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Visit Richard's blog here.

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