Here's a DTC shocker: Pharma ad spend actually fell in 2017 for first time in years, Kantar says

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Pharma industry ad spending fell in 2017 as Big Pharma decreased ad budgets almost across the board. (Pixabay)

Pharma advertising, which typically delivers reliable growth, dropped in 2017 for the first time since the 2008 recession. Spending last year totaled $6.13 billion, a 4.6% decline, Kantar Media says.

Spending cuts among four of the top five pharma ad spenders—Pfizer, AbbVie, Allergan and Merck—dragged down the total, Kantar reported. Only Eli Lilly upped its ad budget among the industry's top spenders, Kantar said.

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Kantar includes traditional advertising media such as TV, print, radio and out of home, both branded and unbranded, in its tracking data, a spokesman said via email. The figures also include digital ad spending on display, mobile, paid search and online video, but do not include social media, he said.

As the top pharma company spender, Pfizer shelled out more than $1 billion on advertising last year, coming in at $1.31 billion for its drug brands. But that was a decrease of 7.1% from $1.41 billion the previous year. Allergan recorded the biggest drop in pharma, decreasing ad spend by 21.2% from $484 million in 2016 to $420 million in 2017.

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Among the spendiest drug brands, AbbVie's Humira made its expected appearance at the top of that ranking with a total of $429 million shelled out in 2017. That was down by 2.3%, however, from 2016’s total of $439 million. Humira accounted for the bulk of AbbVie’s total spending on branded drugs, which ran up to $467 million for the year.

Pfizer’s Lyrica was second among brands with $350 billion spent (down 10.7%), followed by three more Pfizer siblings: Xeljanz at $273 million; Eliquis (which Pfizer co-markets with Bristol-Myers Squibb) spend was $227 million; and Chantix at No. 5 with $207 million. Chantix saw the biggest jump in ad spend among the top group. Pfizer boosted its spend by 31.8%, up from the $157 spent in 2016, according to Kantar.