Direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, something that once seemed shocking, has become such a part of the television landscape that it raises few eyebrows any longer. Oh, there was an FDA study and finding last year that calming voice-overs and images of puppies and beach houses did not distract consumers from picking up on the health risks of the products being pitched. And a recent study found that voluntary industry guidelines have been ignored to the point that family-hour viewing often comes with a dose of erectile dysfunction drug advertising. But all in all, it is a part of doing business embraced by consumers and used by drugmakers of all ilk.
While DTC advertising spending has backed off from the $5-billion-a-year highs set during the boom years of the last decade, significant sums are still spent, particularly by the top 10 spenders. According to Nielsen, which tracks the numbers, those 10 last year spent $2.7 billion on ads for TV, magazines, newspapers, radio and billboards. The numbers do not track online advertising, which research shows is growing but still small comparatively. Two-thirds of the top 10's total went to television, and another 30% to magazines, leaving other media to share in about 4%, the Nielsen numbers indicate.
Most of the top 10 largest ad budgets are fielded by the largest Pharma players, but Amgen ($AMGN) and Allergan ($AGN) are also among them. The world's largest drug company, Pfizer ($PFE), tops the list, spending 23% of that $2.7 billion on some of its best-selling drugs. In fact, as the data show, it is generally a company's best-selling drugs that get the greatest spends, suggesting that DTC advertising remains very effective.
Here are the numbers, and please post a comment or send us a note if you have observations you would like to share. -- Eric Palmer (email | Twitter)