Ingestible Technology Marketing

The next logical step in the evolution of the health and wellness market, ingestible technology is poised to occupy a huge place in the healthcare marketplace over the next three to four years.

The Basics of Ingestible Tech

Otherwise known as “smart pills,” ingestible technology refers to electronic devices that are swallowed by patients to accomplish or aid in a broad spectrum of treatment or diagnostic healthcare processes. In general, this technology is dominated by a range of medical sensors, each one specifically designed to detect, record, and report a particular heath/wellness characteristic or condition. 

But what are ingestible sensors, exactly? And how to they work? Briefly described, an ingestible sensor looks similar if not identical to a traditional pharmaceutical capsule. Although small in size, these high-tech pills include a range of tech components such as microprocessors, controllers, power supplies, and monitoring instruments. Of course, because these smart pills are designed to pass through the human body, they must be made of materials that are wholly biocompatible and completely safe to swallow.

Although huge sections of the general population remain unaware of ingestible tech and its enormous potential, scientists and physicians are already accomplishing amazing things in this rapidly emerging sector. Subhra Pradhan, a PhD in chemical biology with a focus on the molecular genetics of pathogenic bacteria, presented just a few examples in a 2019 article for the independent research organization PreScouter.

These examples include a pill by Proteus Digital Health that can actually record the moment that a patient takes it. Connecting to a digital network, this pill contains a sensor that becomes activated by electrolytes within the body upon consumption. This allows concerned friends and family members to rest easy because they will know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, when an elderly loved one has taken his or her medication on a daily basis. Each of these Proteus Digital Health pills contains a sensor that is only one square millimeter in length but can communicate exact dosage information to healthcare providers and other interested parties in real time. This sensor is coated in copper and magnesium – two digestible metals that occur naturally in the typical human diet, but can work wonders when it comes to tracking regular medication compliance.

Other remarkable ingestible tech products detailed by Dr. Pradhan and PreScouter include a disposable pill that can actually replace the universally dreaded colonoscopy procedure. The Israeli company Given Imaging has produced a pill that contains a small battery-powered camera that takes high-speed photos of the intestinal tract as it passes through it. This colonoscopy pill instantaneously sends the images that it records to a second device that a patient wears around his or her waist, which in turn sends these images to the computer or tablet of the patient’s doctor. Named the PillCam COLON, the pill has been fully approved through the United States Food and Drug Administration. Although it is currently recommended only for patients who experience pronounced difficulties while undergoing standard colonoscopies because of various anatomical problems, the potential for technologies such as the PillCam COLON are both varied and virtually unlimited.

The Ascendency of the Ingestible Tech Market

Ingestible tech is regarded by a preponderance of healthcare professionals and market analysts as the next step in the evolution of healthcare technology after wearable sensors that can monitor everything from heart rate to blood sugar. However, ingestible tech has more than a few hurdles to overcome in terms of general public perception.  In short, many people are simply unsettled by the very notion of putting tiny computer components, cameras, and other equipment into their bodies.

As ingestible tech continues to evolve, there is little doubt that it will raise a wide range of legal, scientific, and ethical questions. In addition to general and specific health concerns, this form of tech opens the door to issues of patient privacy and effective data sharing as it communicates information drawn from within the human body to medical providers and organizations on that span the globe.

However, the far-reaching benefits of ingestible tech cannot be denied. In one of the first comprehensive market analyses of ingestible tech, Grand View Research valued the total value of the global ingestible sensor market at $491 million in 2016.

As the market continues to evolve, companies are devising a variety of ways to introduce healthcare technology to a wary public and take the necessary “baby steps” toward a widespread acceptance of ingestible tech. As an example, the medical startup facilitator MaRS has discussed a smart pill bottle from Adhere Tech that lights up and buzzes much like a cell phone in order to remind people to take their medication at the proper time. This smart bottle can even send text and/or voice messages that communicate prescribed dosages and keep track of metrics such as the number of remaining pills in the bottle and the number of times that its lid has been opened and closed.  

Products like the Adhere Tech smart bottle may bridge the gap to a future in which ingestible tech is commonplace. In short, as patients get more and more comfortable with incorporating technology into their daily health and wellness routines, their willingness to literally swallow this technology will increase by leaps and bounds.

The vast majority of healthcare professionals and market analysts agree that the market for ingestible sensors is going to experience explosive growth over the next few years. Mordor Intelligence expects the ingestible sensor market to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.7 percent by 2024, while Research and Markets expects a CAGR of 20.06 percent by 2023.

Predicting a CAGR of 22.22 percent as the ingestible sensor market matures, Market Research Future presents an even sunnier picture of this emerging medical technology. According to this research, the total value of the global ingestible sensor market will ultimately exceed $87.10 billion.

Tips for Marketing Ingestible Tech

In light of these remarkable statistical projections, pharmaceutical and healthcare organizations should certainly pay close attention to the massive potential of ingestible tech and smart pills marketing. However, far too many healthcare advertising agencies are arriving far too late to the ingestible tech party.

If you want to capitalize on the rapidly expanding ingestible tech market, now is the time to develop your strategy and launch your campaign. Here are just a few key guidelines to help you create and propagate marketing messages that will be sure to resonate with the general public.

  • Stay up to date with new technological advances as they emerge –Advances in the ingestible tech sector are both ongoing and diverse. Most experts agree that the existing smart pills discussed above, despite their remarkable nature, are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the massive potential of this sector. A 2018 article by Wired singles out the absence of adequate micro-tech power supplies as one of the greatest hurdles standing in the way of further ingestible tech development. However, MIT has developed incredible technology that harnesses the properties of stomach acid to power small sensors within the human stomach. By paying close attention to ongoing developments such as this, healthcare marketers will be in a far better position to promote and sell ingestible technology to existing and potential customers.
  • Recognizing and communicating key ingestible tech features, advantages, and benefits – The patients of today are better informed about their various medical issues and more involved in their overall own health and wellness than ever before. Therefore, they are more likely to seek out and consume healthcare information than any generation that came before them. Specifically, they want to know how evolving healthcare technology and medical modalities can help provide them with care that is more advanced, targeted, and comprehensive, leading to quicker overall recovery times and better overall outcomes. By identifying the key benefits of specific ingestible tech products and highlighting them in your advertising campaigns for those products, you can overcome the stigmas that ingestible tech may carry in the minds of your targeted audience demographic.
  • Countering existing fears and negative perceptions – As we have previously discussed, your chosen target audience is bound to have a variety of health and personal privacy concerns when it comes to ingestible tech. To combat these fears and negative perceptions, it is absolutely vital to address them in your marketing materials. Counter health concerns by stressing the biocompatible nature of your products and their proven safety. Tout the fact that your products have passed rigorous official health and safety standards such as those of the FDA. Both pharma and general healthcare organizations should also stress the fact that their ingestible tech mirrors the familiar form of a common pill capsule in terms of size, shape, substance, and general appearance. Personal privacy and information security concerns can be addressed by ensuring consumers that any pictures taken or data collected by ingestible sensors will be sent directly to the intended recipient or recipients (qualified healthcare professionals, close loved ones, and/or the patient him or herself). Absolutely no one else should be able to access the results that are produced by the ingestible tech process. 
  • Appreciating both positive and negative issues that relate to change and adoption – Make no mistake: the advent of ingestible tech constitutes a major sea change in the health and wellness sector. Even consumers without specific safety and security concerns will have a range of questions about this cutting-edge technology (how does it work?, how was it developed?, how long has it been in use?,  etc.). Your ingestible tech marketing campaign must learn to anticipate these questions and address them proactively. Of course, all adverting materials should be benefit based, so all information provided should lead directly to the key advantages that smart pills present as compared with the technology that came before them. After all, most patients will welcome a small, swallowable device such as the PillCam COLON when the alternative is a traditional colonoscopy procedure with all of the discomfort and/or embarrassment that it typically entails.
  • Presenting complicated technology in non-technical terms that anyone can easily understand – In addition to heavily stressing the benefits of your smart pill products, your explanations of specific ingestible tech modalities must be clearly presented in layman’s terms. However, as you “dumb down” the highly technical language that often goes hand in hand with ingestible tech, make sure that your explanation remains entirely accurate and true to the spirit of the product/procedure at hand. In addition to using simple language and maintaining a warm and familiar tone in the written or spoken elements of your marketing materials, you should also include clear diagrams and other visual elements. The old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” rings particularly true when it comes to illustrating the complex and highly clinical intricacies of ingestible tech.

Getting Professional Help

When it comes to ingestible tech, securing effective management and advisement in the worlds of medical device marketing and/or general health and wellness marketing can be daunting to say the least. Because ingestible tech is still positioned on the cutting edge of state-of-the-art medicine, the average healthcare marketing agency or pharma marketing agency simply doesn’t know what to do with it.

If you’re looking for an ingestible tech branding agency or if you simply have questions about this amazing new market, contact a skilled and knowledgeable marketing professional at Bigeye today.

As a highly innovative healthcare marketing firm, we take a forward-thinking approach that embraces the as-yet untapped potential of new medical technologies. Get ahead of the ingestible tech curve with us!

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The Basics of Nootropics Marketing

Nootropics promise to play a big part in the future of the pharmaceutical and nutritional supplement market. It’s time to get your nootropics marketing strategy in order!

Some people know them as “cognitive enhancers,” while others might refer to them as “smart drugs.” No matter what you choose to call them, nootropics are big business and only getting bigger.

What Are Nootropics?

Broadly defined, the term “nootropic” can refer to any pharmaceutical drug or nutritional supplement that is taken by generally healthy individuals in an effort to improve or enhance mental function. Nootropics can be either natural or synthetic. You can readily purchase some over the counter, while others require a doctor’s prescription.

Different nootropics target different elements of cognitive processing including those that govern executive function/conative control, memory, attention, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Two of the most widely consumed nootropics are caffeine (which boosts alertness) and nicotine (which affects both attention levels and motor functions). For marketing purposes, however, we will focus on other substances that are purchased specifically for their mental enhancement properties.

A recent article by Healthline ranked the nootropics L-Theanine (a naturally occurring amino acid that engenders feelings of calmness) and creatine (a common bodybuilding supplement that has also proven effective at sharpening short-term memory and reasoning skills) among the top nootropics in the modern marketplace. Other nootropics singled out by Healthline include Ginkgo biloba, Bacopa monnieri, Rhodiola rosea, Panax ginseng, Noopept, Piracetam, and Phenotropil.

The Strength of the Nootropic Product Market

Regardless of what types of nootropics they are taking and why they are taking them, general consumers are turning to smart drugs and conative enhancers in increasing numbers.

According to a recent report by Zion Market Research, the nootropics product market is expected to reach approximately $5,959 million by 2024. Taking a broad look at the nootropics sector as a whole, this report – titled “Nootropics Market By Application (Memory Enhancement, Mood and Depression, Attention and Focus, Longevity and Anti-Aging, Sleep, Recovery, and Dream Enhancement, and Anxiety): Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast – also predicts a nootropics compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of approximately 15.7% between 2018 and 2024.

How to Market Your Nootropic Products

In light of the growing popularly of nootropics among the global public, you’ll want to make the most of this rapidly expanding health and wellness sector. Here are just a few tips that can help your particular nootropic product(s) stand out in the marketplace.

1. Lead with the Problem

As previously discussed, nootropics can address a range of specific mental functions and cognitive deficiencies. By specifically targeting common problems at the head of your marketing materials, you can instantly capture the rapt attention of your chosen audience.

Many marketers operating in the pharmaceutical/nutritional supplement sector have made the mistake of jumping directly to the benefits of a particular product before first firmly setting up the problem that it solves. When it comes to nootropics, a clearly established problem/solution approach will drive conversions more readily than an approach that is centered around the presentation of specific product features.

2. Offer Free Samples

Pharmaceutical/nutritional supplement sector have long known the tremendous value of a free sample. And free samples are particularly effective when it comes to marketing substances, like nootropics, that are designed to enhance health and wellness rather than treat a dangerous medical condition.

Free samples of prescription nootropics can be distributed through physicians who ensure that these medications are only available to those who can truly benefit from them. Studies have shown that doctors who receive free pharmaceutical product samples are significantly more likely to prescribe that product.

3. Connect with Customers Emotionally

Memory, attentiveness, and general cognitive function are areas of health and wellness that connect with people on a strong emotional level. By tapping into this emotion, you can not only capture audience attention but drive consumer conversions. Just be sure that you choose emotional appeals have a basis in fact and are relevant to the specific nootropics that you are marketing.

Social media offers ample opportunities to emotionally connect with audiences in a genuine way. Consider launching an interactive campaign that encourages people to comment on your product and share their feelings about it.

For More Information on Nootropics Product Marketing

A forward-thinking marketing agency with a specific focus in the healthcare industry, Bigeye is always one step ahead of the competition. Like all emerging and rapidly growing markets, the nootropic market is an area of specific interest to us. To learn more about nootropics marketing and other areas that relate to advertising and promotion, contact us today.

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Why Pharma Brands Struggle With Digital Ads

Pharmaceutical companies dominate the airwaves in the U.S., but face a much tougher challenge on the Web.

Turn on a TV during daytime hours, and the odds are strong you’ll see the work of a pharmaceutical advertising agency. Ads for prescription drugs are everywhere during peak viewing hours for older viewers, and only slightly less omnipresent during evening hours.

The numbers bear this out: Pharmaceutical companies are spending about $6 billion on TV ads annually. With an aging population and medical advances keeping us healthier longer, this is a state of affairs that’s likely to continue.

Yet while pharmaceutical ads are everywhere on linear TV, they are much less well-represented in the digital sphere — and there are a few reasons why progress on this front has been halting.

Paging Dr. Google

The Internet has become the public’s number one source for health information. When consumers have a troubling symptom, Google and WebMD are often the first stops. Physicians aren’t immune to the powers of the Internet either, and often use online searches to supplement print sources when developing clinical opinions and treatment plans.

Yet despite this rather transformational change, pharmaceutical advertising is still limited in the digital realm. TV and magazines still receive the vast majority of pharmaceutical ad and marketing spend.

There are two reasons why digital advertising in the pharmaceutical industry remains a relative rarity: Government inaction and federal regulations.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken an exceptionally methodical approach to providing guidance on what is allowable and what is illegal in terms of digital pharma ads and online pharma marketing. Without clear guidelines, companies have been historically risk-averse in terms of formulating digital strategies. While the FDA is slow and deliberate when crafting policy, it sends out warning letters with much higher velocity.

Compounding this difficulty is the current rate of technological change. By the time the FDA offers pharmaceutical marketing guidance on a digital platform, two new platforms have been developed and released.

Bypassing Programmatic Roadblocks 

There’s another rather large fly in the ointment for digital advertisers: The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. This federal law grants US citizens privacy rights that protect the use of medical data.

For programmatic advertisers, this is a substantial challenge. By harvesting location data, search data and other personal information, advertisers can serve highly targeted ads to consumers when their intent to purchase is at its apex. This, obviously, is a very powerful tool.

It’s also a tool that’s constrained by regulations in some instances, however. If a pharmaceutical advertising agency wants to initiate an automated ad campaign, they must proceed with caution. 

HIPAA outlaws the use of first-party data to link a consumer with a medical condition. This means that a pharmaceutical advertising agency cannot use such data to identify a consumer as a high cholesterol sufferer, then serve her an ad for Lipitor.

While this is a significant limitation, it isn’t a complete deal-breaker. Advertisers often use indirect targeting based on related conditions. They also white-list the sites their ads appear on and use audience proxies (such as medical websites) when creating automated campaigns. Agencies can target content (serving Viagra ads in an article about erectile dysfunction, for example) but can’t target specific consumers. These strategies help them stay on the right side of compliance.

Is indirect targeting based on third-party data or related conditions as effective as standard programmatic approaches? That’s unlikely. Yet it can be quite effective, especially when compared to linear TV ads, which offer only the most crude form of demographic targeting.

And, as digital advertising tools continue to evolve, indirect targeting may improve to a point where it is nearly as effective as using first-party data. 

One thing is certain: Digital spaces remain under-utilized within the context of pharmaceutical marketing. As today’s Gen X and millennial consumers age, pharma brands won’t be able to rely on linear TV and print magazines to reach their audiences — and brands at the vanguard of this transition will be in the strongest competitive position.

The Takeaway

If you’d like to see what a tech-focused pharmaceutical advertising agency can do for your products, contact BIGEYE today. We’ll help you harness the full power of advertising and marketing across every medium.

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Rise of the Chatbots: Bringing AI Into Pharma Marketing

Looking for a low risk, low overhead, but high impact way to introduce AI into your pharma marketing? Then consider the chatbot.

Customer service is one of the most obvious applications for automation — and companies have been ruthlessly efficient in its deployment. Newer tech-based firms, in particular, have opted for near-total customer service automation, at least for routine queries. Most consumers are no doubt familiar with the lengths one must go to in order to get an actual carbon-based life form on the other end of a phone or computer interaction.

While dealing with endless irrelevant computer-generated questions is tiresome now, consumers are about to get some relief. AI and natural language processing (NLP) are growing exponentially smarter. Soon, consumers will have difficulty discerning silicon-based vs. carbon-based customer assistance. As chatbots and other automated programs grow more capable, brands will also be able to extend their functionality into the realm of pharmaceutical marketing.

How Chatbots Can Help Brands Incorporate AI Into Pharma Marketing

AI is playing a critical role in pharmaceutical industry product development. Major companies such as Pfizer and Google are using AI to help with early disease diagnosis. Artificial intelligence is also used to accelerate timelines for new drug discoveries. AI is also positioned to play a critical role in the emergence of personalized medicine, where tailored therapies are created based on a patient’s genetic profile.

Heady stuff, to be certain — yet also fairly far outside of the bailiwick of your conventional pharmaceutical advertising agency or pharma marketing department.

There is, however, one AI implementation that is both effective and viable for marketing purposes: The chatbot.

Today’s chatbots have come a long way from the rather static and limited versions consumers first encountered. Part of this is due to a gradual shift away from rules-based AI (where a chatbot responds according to pre-determined rule sets) to a fully realized NLP implementation. In the latter, a chatbot can continually learn and expand its repertoire, growing more accurate and responsive over time. 

In fact, today’s NLP-based chat applications have grown astonishingly life-like, even incorporating human-sounding conversational pauses and stammers. Some chatbots even make intentional errors to increase their verisimilitude.

Serving an Automated Marketing Role

In the context of customer service and marketing, it’s not difficult to see the benefits of having an intelligent helper who sounds like a human and who is ready to assist with patient queries 24/7. This is especially helpful in an industry where consumers frequently have simple questions about dosages, interactions, and other issues. If your chatbot is capable of seamlessly handling these lines of interaction, it frees up personnel to work on higher-value tasks — one of the core advantages of automation.

That’s merely one application of chatbot AI, however. While a well-designed bot can provide consumers with information and facilitate positive experiences, it also plays another critical role: It accumulates a vast trove of data culled from thousands upon thousands of consumer interactions.

Obviously, privacy regulations govern how first-party data can be used. Yet this information is still quite valuable in terms of identifying how processes can be improved and how consumers respond to particular messages.

Teva and other leading global pharmaceutical brands have created chatbots for their internal properties and are using them for pharma marketing purposes. Teva’s Maxbot implementation, in fact, recently won several awards from the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society.

Smaller brands should also follow suit. Though these brands may not have the internal resources to develop a chatbot, the right pharmaceutical advertising agency may be able to develop a chatbot solution that fits the bill.

The Takeaway

At BIGEYE, we believe that technology plays a leading role in the success of a modern pharma marketing campaign. If you’re looking for more from your pharmaceutical advertising agency, we urge you to contact BIGEYE today.  

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Learning from Five Key Pharma Industry Trends

The global pharmaceutical industry is experiencing profound changes — and understanding the impact of these changes is critical for those involved in pharmaceutical marketing.

According to a new industry report, the era of pharmaceutical firms succeeding with low innovation products and indiscriminate TV pill pushing is coming to a quick end. The successful pharmaceutical firm of the future will feature smaller and more agile sales staffs, products that truly add value for patients, and marketing efforts that are laser targeted.

Let’s take a closer look at some key trends shaping this future, and how brands can partner with the right pharmaceutical advertising agency to develop campaigns that fit this evolution.

Projecting Pharmaceutical Industry Trends

A recent report compiled by PricewaterhouseCooper (PwC) outlined the tectonic shifts altering the pharmaceutical industry. Some of these dynamics are associated with broader societal change; others are tied to new technology or evolving consumer preferences.

Highlighted developments in the PwC report include the following:

  • Chronic disease rates are growing at a rapid pace, creating a larger — and sicker — population of patients/consumers.
  • Healthcare payers are giving physicians less latitude in terms of prescription decisions.
  • The “pay-for-performance” model is also becoming more established in the industry, as payers seek to tie reimbursements to actual health outcomes.
  • Healthcare boundaries are now overlapping and an interdisciplinary approach to patient care is gaining favor.
  • Demand for pharmaceutical products in the developing world is robust, as globalization raises wages and technology increases access to healthcare. Demand for medicines, however, varies widely in global markets.
  • Governments across the globe are placing a greater emphasis on prevention rather than treatment, hoping to control costs and improve patient outcomes.
  • Regulators are assuming a more risk-averse posture.

All of these developments are collectively transforming how patients are treated, and changing the underlying business dynamics across multiple related industries. Most importantly, if you’re a leader within a pharma brand — or a pharmaceutical advertising agency — these trends provide a lodestar of sorts to help inform your industry marketing and advertising campaign strategies.

Marketing and Advertising Through the Lens of Trend Analysis

As industries evolve, advertising and marketing must evolve in parallel. In the case of the pharmaceutical industry, it’s important that advertisers stay away from a product-focused approach rooted in yesterday’s industry model.

Instead of being overly focused on follower products, brands should invest in developing innovative new products that fill an unmet or underserved market niche. PwC describes innovation in the context of drug development as products which:

cure a disease or condition; prevent a disease or condition; reduce mortality or morbidity; reduce the cost of care; improve the quality of life; are safer or easier to use; or improve patient compliance and persistence.”

PwC claims that a mere eight new medications meeting those criteria were launched in 2018. In the absence of innovation, patient outcomes suffer. Yet this also creates an exceptional competitive opportunity for brands capable of innovating.

Other core imperatives for today’s pharma marketing and ad departments, according to PwC, include:

  • Recognizing how payer, provider, and pharmaceutical value chains work together.
  • Developing the capability to effectively market specialist therapies, which will become more important in the coming years. 
  • Introducing products with multi-nation launches and live licensing.

Deeper, cultural changes are also critical. Brands need to foster a modern marketing and advertising culture capable of supporting a knowledge-based commercial organization. 

Such initiatives are certainly ambitious, especially in an industry where firms have been able to make margin by developing low innovation follower products and pairing them with tired, yet tried-and-true, marketing techniques. Yet ambition and innovation are exactly what’s called for, given the massive structural changes that will alter the shape of the pharmaceutical industry in the coming years.

The Takeaway

If your pharmaceutical advertising agency isn’t pressing you to think three moves ahead, it’s time for a re-evaluation. The pharmaceutical industry will experience a sea of change in the coming years, and brands that begin adapting early will be in the best competitive position.

At BIGEYE, we have the right combination to help pharma brands win: Domain expertise, a sophisticated suite of technological tools, and a full range of pharmaceutical marketing services.

Contact us today to learn more about BIGEYE, and what a forward-thinking pharmaceutical advertising agency can do for your brand.

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Why Direct to Consumer Pharma Ads Remain a Global Anomaly

Direct to consumer prescription drug ads are everywhere in the US — and almost unseen everywhere else. Here’s why.

In the U.S., consumers are bombarded with ads for pharmaceuticals — so much so, in fact, that the very form has become a cliché (think about “active seniors” pursuing their favorite activities while a narrator rattles off a list of side effects). If you work for a pharmaceutical advertising agency that isn’t based stateside, it’s an entirely different world, however. 

The U.S. is the only large market where direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising is permissible. Only one other country (the ‘tiny by comparison’ New Zealand) allows the practice — and that nation has seen repeated efforts to ban consumer prescription drug ads.

Let’s take a closer look at why direct to consumer drug marketing works, and any changes that could lie ahead.

The Power of Direct Advertising

While direct advertisements for pharmaceuticals are now inescapable, the truth is that they’ve only been around for 22 years. The practice of marketing medications to consumers was made legal under the Clinton Administration in 1997, immediately unleashing a torrent of new advertising on the public in a previously unseen category.

The rationale behind this move was simple: When people suffering from a certain affliction would see an ad for a product that treats their symptoms, they would ask their physician about the product, opening up an important dialogue about their health in the process.

However, the reality hasn’t always proved so simple. When direct advertising certainly works in terms of generating brand awareness and sales, some physicians have raised objections about the role it plays in patient health.

In a Food and Drug Administration survey, 65% of physicians reported feeling that direct advertising sent confusing messages to patients; a smaller number of physicians reported feeling pressure to prescribe as a result of direct ads.

This has occurred against a backdrop of massive expansion in direct pharma advertising dollars. According to a Journal of the American Medical Association study, total direct pharma ad spending grew more than 360% from 1997 to 2016.

The reason for that ad spend is simple: It results in sales, and lots of them. Another federal study showed that for every $1,000 pharma companies spend on direct advertising, they add 24 new patients. Pharmaceuticals supported by direct consumer ads add patients at a rate seven times higher than drugs without ads.

Alternative Approaches to Direct Ads

One alternative to direct pharma advertising that has gained traction in recent years is the Disease Awareness Campaign (DAC). This model eschews product-specific direct ads in favor of a less commercial advertising approach that aims to heighten awareness.

Gilead, one of the world’s leading drug developers, has used the DAC approach in support of its new hepatitis C treatment. The ads encourage people to seek testing for the disease without getting into the merits of Gilead’s product. 

Ultimately, it is unlikely that we see a move to significantly restrict direct pharmaceutical advertising in the US. In fact, it seems likely that other nations may follow the lead of the U.S. and New Zealand and loosen regulations. The European Commission, in fact, has undertaken hearings to explore that possibility, though any approved ads would likely be much less promotional in nature than what is seen in the U.S.

If you’re running a pharma brand or a pharmaceutical advertising agency, perhaps the best approach is one of moderation. Take advantage of the reach and efficacy of direct advertising, but make sure it’s done in a way that stresses awareness and maintains a sense of professional ethics. 

Ultimately, drug companies, physicians, and patients all need to pull in the same direction to create better health outcomes.

The Takeaway

At BIGEYE, we believe that a great pharmaceutical advertising agency offers its clients three things: Domain expertise, advanced technological tools, and a sophisticated understanding of the existing marketing landscape.

Don’t hesitate to contact us today to learn more about what BIGEYE can do for you.

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