Pfizer, Amgen, GSK lead spike in digital ad spend during COVID-19 pandemic

MediaRadar tracked the drop, spike and more recent return to normal in pharma professional ad spending during COVID-19. (MediaRadar)

Pharma advertising took a nosedive when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Advertising to professional dropped by 30% in the month of March, according to digital ad tracker MediaRadar. But by mid-April, spending began to climb again and by May, medical and pharma ad spending was up 56% overall year over year.

One of the biggest spenders? Prescription drugs, which soared 123% over typical spending levels during the spike—and cancer drugs in particular.

While advertising has slowed somewhat in June, several Big Pharmas remain individually way up in ad spending to professionals in year-over-year data. For the first six months of 2020, for instance, Pfizer digital advertising is up 532%, Amgen is up 216% and GlaxoSmithKline is up 151%, according to MediaRadar’s data.

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“While industries like air travel and events will continue to bear the brunt, other industries will have increased opportunity to highlight their value,” said Todd Krizelman, the co-founder and CEO of MediaRadar in a statement.

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He added later, in an interview, “We call this the unexpected beneficiaries of a pandemic. Certainly no one hopes for a pandemic, but there are a handful of segments where business is up.”

One specific therapeutic category that saw a noticeable spike were cancer drugs. Krizelman said that could be because oncologists were forced to turn to prescription drugs available in pharmacies—such as oral meds—instead of therapies given by infusion in clinics or hospitals.

Along with general prescription drug brands being marketed to healthcare professionals on the rise, many of the other health categories that saw increases—telemedicine and telemedicine technology, imaging devices and personal protective equipment—were connected to COVID-19 care or needs.

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Biotech companies, which saw a 171% spike in ads to professionals, tended to focus on COVID-19 messaging around things like antibodies and testing. MediaRadar did not detect an uptick in advertising from companies working on treatments or vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

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