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Article: TV & Pharma Brands

When Is TV Advertising Right for A Pharma Brand?

by Michael Maher August 25th, 2014

“Will television work for my brand?” is a question increasingly posed by pharma marketers. TV advertising was historically used only by large blockbuster brands treating widely prevalent conditions like hypertension. Today, more targeted therapies are now seeking the enormous benefits TV provides.

However, before brands treating multiple sclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s, etc., allocate significant budgets to TV creative and media, it’s important to review what TV can potentially accomplish and when it might help a brand most.

What TV Can Deliver

The effectiveness of DTC advertising, the majority of it television, has been validated by many different studies, almost all of which cite its ability to increase sales substantially. While specific conclusions and ROI estimates vary, below are the top findings:

DTC is consistently recognized as being highly effective in driving the following KPIs:

  • Increasing market share vs. competition
  • Building therapeutic categories when supported by HCP advertising
  • Creating a more productive physician-patient dialogue
  • Spurring untreated and undiagnosed patients to visit the doctor
  • Accelerating the uptake of newly launched drugs
  • Boosting sales for new indications
  • Excelling in chronic care and competitive therapeutic markets

DTC’s quantified benefits vary widely, but nearly all are impressive. According to recent studies:

  • DTC advertising raises prescription rates by 34.2% vs. 5.1% for drugs not promoted.
  • New drugs that have utilized DTC advertising have driven nine times more prescriptions than new drugs not using DTC.
  • Every 10% increase in advertising increases drug sales within the class by an average of 1%.
  • On average, each additional dollar spent in advertising yields $4.20 in additional sales during that year.
  • Each $28 increase in DTC advertising leads to an additional physician visit within a year at which an Rx drug from the advertised class is prescribed.

Only two studies were less positive, including a survey reporting that DTC had a lower return than other marketing tactics and a report that only 10% of ads pay back in the short-term.

Key Considerations

Television is more expensive, and marketers want to be assured it will work before committing significant marketing dollars. Yet the TV evaluation process is too often simplistic. If the target audience is mass, that implies very little waste, and TV advertising moves forward. Conversely, if the audience is small, TV is deemed wasteful and inefficient, so budgets stay with other media.

In truth, many factors drive the success of television advertising, not solely large target audiences. Brands should consider each of the following when assessing whether TV can deliver strong value:

  • Is my brand’s category patient or physician-driven? Some therapeutic prescribing decisions are driven more by physicians, while others are driven by patients and caregivers. The more consumer-driven, the more value television provides.
  • What are my brand’s competitors doing? One of television’s greatest strengths is helping brands gain market share. TV is invaluable when competitors are also actively marketing.
  • Where is my brand in its lifecycle? New product launches, especially in lesser-known therapeutic areas, benefit the most from TV advertising, as do some late-stage products prior to patent expiry.
  • What is my brand’s patient value? Specialty therapies often have high patient value, which can translate to strong ROI for television.
  • What are my brand’s objectives? Brand business objectives should guide the choice of TV, especially when aiming to build awareness, boost sales or pre-empt competitors.
  • Can my budget allow for TV? Television requires significant investment in video creative and sustained media to drive results. Ensure you can allocate a significant portion of your budget to TV without underfunding other core marketing support.
  • How big is my target audience? Television is more efficient for larger targets. When sizing up your audience, also include both patients and key influencers like caregivers.

Boosting TV’s Impact

Once you make the decision to invest in TV, consider how to take full advantage of the medium’s deep offerings. Two opportunities in particular are beginning to enhance the value of television advertising initiatives—advanced data-driven targeting will make TV far more efficient and the rapid growth in online video will enable additional, complementary deployment of TV ad creative.

1. Advanced Targeting: Enhancements in set-top box technology and the explosion in available data are enabling more precise TV targeting and measurement. For example, aggregated and anonymized Rx data can build richer profiles than traditional demographics, reducing media waste and boosting ROI. This has already been tested in select local markets, and is projected to be available nationally in late 2014.

2. Online Video: Video advertising’s tremendous ability to engage and motivate can be leveraged across television, desktop, mobile and point-of-care. Online video advertising combines TV’s engagement power with digital’s efficiency and measurability. Yet while online video use surges, it remains substantially smaller than TV, with less than 5% of TV’s average monthly viewing (6.5 hours vs. 146 hours). Thus, online video advertising is currently a valuable supplement to TV, but lacks the reach to replace it.

DTC TV is not right for every pharma brand, but marketers recognize its high potential for many more therapies than currently employ it. Assessing multiple factors beyond target audience size will determine if TV can deliver compelling returns for individual brands.

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