DTC budgets being trimmed substantially?

Rich Meyer

World of DTC marketing

Rich Meyer explores the growing trend to cut DTC marketing budgets in pharma.

A recent article about earnings for Pfizer indicated that “cost cutting” was a huge reason why the drug giant was improving its financial outlook. In addition to layoffs, what we are starting to see is substantial cuts in all areas of the business including DTC marketing. In other words, the days of $100 million DTC budgets may be over.

A total of 80% of CEOs admit they do not really trust and are not very impressed by the work done by Marketers – while 75% of CEOs think Marketers misunderstand (and misuse) the “real business” definition of the words “Results”, “ROI” and “Performance” and therefore do not adequately speak the language of their top management1. What we are seeing in consumer packaged goods is a shift from feel good marketing (fluff) to ROI marketing (driving conversion). The same is happening in the drug industry as budgets come under the microscope.


“…the days of $100 million DTC budgets may be over.”


I recently conducted an informal survey among some DTC marketers and agency people and found that in fact more and more DTC marketing budgets are being cut while DTC marketers spend more time justifying the dollars they are spending. One Director who spoke to me on the condition that her name not be revealed said “I had to fight for my marketing budget now I have to justify every dollar I spend and show a clear ROI”.

The biggest problem with that of course is that when we spend a lot of time trying to prove what we are doing is right we have less time to look at new opportunities and explore new ways to reach engaged patients. However, there is a clear indication that traditional DTC marketing is ineffective for driving conversion.

Do DTC marketers really believe that people are going to see a commercial for a prescription drug and then ask their doctor for an Rx? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way anymore. First people multitask when watching TV thanks to mobile devices and second they are more cautious of what they put into their bodies so they conduct a lot of online research to see what others have to say about different healthcare treatments especially when fair balance names some really nasty side effects.


“Consumer marketing is going through the realization that social media marketing is not the answer to bad marketing…”


Consumer marketing is going through the realization that social media marketing is not the answer to bad marketing. DTC marketers have to do a lot better job of identifying the barriers to treatments and conversion and meeting consumers where they are to overcome those barriers. One message does not fit all in this age of micro segmentation.

DTC budgets are being trimmed, but successful DTC marketers will see this as an opportunity to get better at marketing and show real value to executives who view marketing as an expense.


1. The Fournaise Marketing Group.


About the author:

Richard Meyer is a passionate DTC marketer who has worked within the industry for 10 years. He has an MBA from the New York Institute of Technology and has worked for Eli Lilly on the Cialis launch team as well as on Prozac, Prozac Weekly and Sarafem teams. During his career, he has worked with some very talented people and learned a great deal from them but has always believed that if you do what is best for the patient it will lead to good business. For enquiries he may be reached on richardameyer@me.com.

With shrinking budgets how can DTC marketing improve?