Depending on your television viewing habits, you may have noticed a gradual change in advertising over the past few years.
Not too long ago, prescription drug manufacturers could not advertise on television. Instead, they focused on trade/B2B magazines targeted to physicians and other medical industry professionals (as well as direct mail, trade shows, branded merchandise and samples). I measured the effectiveness of literally thousands of these advertisements, in dozens of publications, over many years. Print advertising rates are based on many factors, but are primarily driven by audience size (circulation quantity), quality (subscriber profile), page size, page color and frequency.
It was quite apparent that these companies had large budgets when it came to advertising. Instead of the standard one page advertisement with color, their advertising was often 4+ pages printed on heavy-weight glossy card stock. And sometimes, they would advertise more than once within the same issue. Because most people outside of the medical industry don’t have the opportunity to see this kind of advertising, what you also missed was a page or two (or more!) of contraindications. That’s a fancy word for side effects, how the drugs interact with other drugs and conditions that would warrant avoiding the drug and complications that could arise as a result of taking it.
Fast-forward several years and regulations have been lessened to allow drug manufacturers to advertise on television. Most drug manufacturers jumped at the chance to advertise on television because it brought prestige to their product.
The biggest change is that they’re no longer targeting the doctors and medical industry professionals but the end-consumers and patients. “Ask your doctor about [drug name here]” is the new normal. They’ve altered the marketing dynamic by creating consumer demand to supplement physician knowledge.
What hasn’t changed? The need to incorporate the contraindications as part of the advertising. So the same commercial that spends time praising the amazing benefits of the drug being advertised must also spend time telling you all the bad things that could happen too. While it’s probably a good thing that they have to disclose that information, they’re sharing it with those who aren’t qualified to make complicated prescription decisions.
Is having to include negative information in the commercial ultimately hurting their marketing efforts? There’s certainly an increased volume of television commercials for prescription products.
Why do you think they’re working? Do you think people simply tune-out that part of the message, or is there some other reason? Or, do you think they don’t work and the drug manufacturers simply have a budget large enough to advertise on television despite incorporating a negative message?
Part 2 on this topic has been published.