Pharma DTC ad spending sinks 11.5%, a $2B slide from 2006 peak

The bad news for prime-time television and consumer magazines: Pharma's direct-to-consumer advertising dropped by 11.5% last year, to $3.47 billion. The even worse news for digital venues: DTC spend fell by 33%.

But, as the Pharma Marketing Blog reports, there's some consolation. Last year's decline isn't the worst ever, as some previous data suggested. The record decline was in 2008, when DTC spending dropped 17%.

The biggest drop, percentage-wise, was in radio ads, which fell 34% to $23.1 million. Internet advertising came in a close second with a 33% drop, to $68.4 million. But compared with magazines and TV, those media are small potatoes for pharma ads, together accounting for just 3% of DTC spending.

TV advertising, of course, is where the lion's share of pharma ad spending goes; 62% to be exact, according to the blog. So when spending drops 10%, as it did last year, that amounts to more than a $200 million off the top. New total: $2.167 billion. Magazine spending, for 29% of the total, hit $1.015 billion.

As the blog notes, 2012's decline follows several years of shrinking ad buys. From a peak in 2006 of about $5.4 billion, spending has dropped and dropped as fewer new drugs hit the market and more old meds fell off patent.

After the recent spate of FDA approvals, DTC might expect a boost, particularly from primary-care drugs such as Eliquis, the blood thinner from Pfizer ($PFE) and Bristol-Myers Squibb ($BMY), and Invokana, the brand-new diabetes pill from Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ). Specialty meds aren't advertised as often to the consumer, however, and certainly not as heavily. Several of the most-anticipated approvals were cancer drugs, such as Roche's ($RHHBY) Perjeta and Kadcyla. We'll have to see how the balance tips as the year wears on.

- get the analysis from Pharma Marketing Blog

Special Report: Top 10 Pharma Advertising Budgets - 2012