Ask your doc? Consumers are so over pharma TV ads

Bladder TV spot
Christine Peterson, Treato

What a difference a year has made in the life of pharma TV ads. A second annual patient view study from Treato just out found that the number of consumers who will ask their doctor about a drug after watching a TV ad dropped to just 7% this year, from 21% last year.

Christine Peterson, Treato’s chief marketing officer, noted the “plunge” was significant but said the audience and study questions hadn’t changed. Sample sizes, U.S.-only audience, female/male split and age demographic were all similar.

“The only thing we can surmise about the decrease is that people are becoming bored and indifferent,” Peteresen said. “That, and I think they also have been influenced by so much press about the amount of money that pharma does spend (on advertising). So perhaps consumers are saying, ‘Well, I’m wise to that so it’s not influencing me.’ ”

More than 64% estimated that they saw more pharma advertising this year, compared with 51% last year. And they’re right. The decrease in consumer interest comes as pharma ad spending has actually increased; the industry piled up big bucks last year, particularly in TV. In 2015, pharma tied its all-time overall ad spending record of $5.4 billion, according to Kantar Media, which was an increase of 19% over $4.53 billion spent in 2014. About two-thirds of the total was spent on TV.

But if consumers aren’t taking action after watching, are pharma companies wasting money on TV?

“Spending more money doesn’t necessarily equate with more effectiveness,” Petersen said. “Maybe they should look beyond big TV advertising and look to other channels to get [their] messages across.”

Consumers in the study continued to be unimpressed by celebrities; 80% said they were no more inclined to watch a pharma ad with a celebrity in it. In a new question this year, they were similarly unimpressed with pharma spokescharacters, with 75% saying they wouldn’t be more likely to watch a character ad.

The only drug mentioned by name by the more than 500 respondents in open-ended questions was Eli Lilly’s Cialis. However, consumers cited it most often (75%) in complaints about erectile dysfunction advertising at inappropriate times of the day.

- read Treato's news release

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