Big Pharma's Top 13 Advertising Budgets

By Maureen Martino and Tracy Staton

When it comes to the bottom line, marketing can be every bit as important as R&D. A company may develop a great drug, but that drug could become either a blockbuster with the right advertising approach--or wither from lack of marketing support. From TV and radio spots to newspaper and Internet ads, Big Pharma now has a variety of ways to let the public know about their latest and greatest drugs. The key to success is crafting a memorable and effective message, finding the right media outlet, and spending the appropriate amount of money to get results.

Below are thirteen Big Pharma companies ranked by their 2007 advertising budgets. These drugmakers made it into Advertising Age's 2008 list of 100 National Advertisers, and the Pharma Marketing Blog identified the thirteen drug companies on it, slicing and dicing some of the trends. The pharma numbers include spending on "measured media"--19 media types tracked by TNS Media Intelligence. The "unmeasured media" numbers are generated by Ad Age, and they include direct marketing, product placement, certain types of online spending, and more.

1. GlaxoSmithKline
2. Johnson & Johnson
3. Pfizer
4. Schering-Plough
5. Wyeth
6. Bayer
7. Bristol-Myers Squibb
8. Eli Lilly
9. Merck
10. AstraZeneca
11. Novartis
12. Boehringer Ingelheim
13. Sanofi-Aventis

We analyzed that data, plus company financial documents and press releases, past FiercePharma and FierceBiotech articles, and other media coverage. The result: A quick look at each of these companies' recent ad strategies--and the results they achieved.

One trend you'll notice is that several companies cut their ad budgets in 2007: GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, and AstraZeneca, to name a few. But for every Novartis (down 30 percent) there was an Eli Lilly (up 51.5 percent). And then came Boehringer Ingelheim, which boosted spending by a whopping 163 percent.

You'll also see that while all of the pharma sector focused the bulk of its "measured media" spending on magazines and television, online spending varied widely, from just $1 million (Reckitt Benckiser) to $49.2 million (Johnson & Johnson). But lurking in the "unmeasured media" numbers--which amounts to about half of pharma's total budget--is internet-search spending. And as John Mack at the Pharma Marketing Blog notes, some analysts peg those search buys at 40 percent of all drugmakers' ad money. So the low "measured" Internet numbers don't accurately reflect what Pharma is doing online (see the Pharma Marketing Blog for more).

For much more detail and number-crunching on these 13 companies (and the other 87 on Ad Age's list), check out this link. And for a regular look at pharma's marketing strategies, visit the Pharma Marketing Blog.