Fearing FDA, pharma abandons search ads

When FDA spoke, pharma listened. Drugmakers have tossed out their search-engine advertising almost completely, Advertising Age reports, in the wake of an FDA smackdown in late March.

Paid search ads from pharma fell by 84 percent immediately after the FDA dispatched a much-discussed flurry of warning letters. You remember; the agency cited search ads for their lack of full disclosure. Marketing types complained that they'd been operating under the so-called "one-click rule," which allowed a tersely worded search ad, provided consumers who clicked through got risk information immediately.

Given the all-but-impossibility of full disclosure in the few words allotted to search-engine ads, drugmakers stopped their search campaigns. That pullback is likely to cut deeply into pharma's internet ad spending, which had grown by 36 percent year-over-year in 2008, Ad Age points out.

Pharma marketers have been clamoring for online guidelines from FDA for some time, as social media and search ads gain traction in the advertising world. Finally, the FDA is seeking industry input on developing those guidelines. But in the meantime, drugmakers will continue to tread lightly, one exec told Ad Age: "[W]e can't afford to open ourselves up to another warning letter."

- see the AdAge article