Is pharma doubling down on TV? Really?

File under: Global Pharma Marketing, Multi-Channel Marketing, Patient Engagement, Pharma innovation, Relationship Marketing

The data is out on consumer ad spending in 2013. It wasn’t a surprise that TV and magazine ad spending was down significantly while digital spend was up. If you own a TV network, you can’t ignore the handwriting on the wall. You feel the pain.TV.jpg

Unless you are selling to pharma.

It appears that pharma is trying to single-handedly bail out traditional media. Pharma’s TV ad spending was up more than 12% last year, and magazines were up more than 6%. And digital? The channel to which every other industry is moving their spend?

For pharma, digital spend was down more than 14%…

The total pharma DTC spend last year was $3.8 billion, and of that, it spent about $60 million on digital ads last year. That doesn’t even qualify as a rounding error. Of the top 20 pharma brands, 16 didn’t even spend more than $1MM on digital advertising.

I’m left scratching my head. Why the heck is pharma bucking the global trend to digital? Does it know something the rest of us have missed?

I have a couple thoughts on this trend. First, I have to give props to TV and magazine sales executives. Obviously, they haven’t surrendered to digital, at least among their pharma clients. They make the argument that cable TV allows for better targeting, an attractive argument for brands that are trying to reach a mass audience.

But there are still many open questions. How do you convert the passive TV viewer into an active participant? And how much impression waste is there in a broadcast medium like TV? Digital is a much more effective medium to find and engage, understand and impact real patients. TV continues to be a very inefficient way to engage real customers.

Over investing in TV is not only inefficient targeting, it is bucking the larger social trend of consumers moving their screen time from broadcast media to digital, mobile and social. TV viewership continues to hemorrhage. Our audience is frankly moving away from the TV wasteland.

Or maybe the practical answer is not one or the other, but a more comprehensive multi-channel ad strategy. TV may be an appropriate medium for awareness building, especially during a product’s launch year, but there also needs to be a more sophisticated funnel that pulls qualified prospects into the digital channel, where a real conversation can begin.

Unfortunately, the data speaks loud and clear.

Pharma is not only behind the rest of the marketplace when it comes to using digital and mobile channels, but is, in fact, moving in the wrong direction.

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