Call Big Pharma a DTC conservative

Marketing experts say drugmakers played DTC safe in 2009. Big Pharma reduced expensive network television advertising and took a hard look at which brands should get DTC support, Medical Marketing & Media reports. And they reconsidered just how to measure the effectiveness of their consumer-advertising campaigns.

Drugmakers cut their consumer ad spending to $865 million during the first nine months of 2009 from $955 million during the same period in 2008. That's a decline of more than 9 percent. The same trend was expected to carry through Q4, despite a few new drug launches and tweaked ad campaigns. As Deborah Dick-Rath, SVP at marketing analyst Factor TG, told MM&M. "[N]one are at the spend levels that we have seen in the past."

The poor economic outlook at the beginning of 2009 contributed to that new conservatism. So did the ever-present debate over DTC and its effectiveness-slash-suitability. And so did the fact that there were few new meds, with only 21 FDA approvals in 2008. So drugmakers tended to sock their ad money into blockbusters (sort of like publishers and movie producers). Big brands like Lipitor and Abilify got $100 million-plus spending, while smaller drugs didn't. For more on which drugmakers boosted spending--Pfizer's one--and which cut back--GlaxoSmithKline and Merck, for two--check out the MM&M piece.

Where did those ads appear? Drugmakers cut back on expensive network-TV spots in favor of cable television, national magazines, and Sunday newspaper supplements. As Dick-Rath notes, "[C]ompanies were ... more eager to look for less expensive marketing channels to reach consumers." Indeed.

- read the story from MM&M

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