Why and How Direct-to-consumer Advertising Works

Marketing pharmaceutical drugs or medical devices directly to patients through print ads, TV commercials, online video ads, and more is controversial. While some argue direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising leads to better-informed patients and improved health care, others believe that DTC ads have brought about an overabundance of new “diseases” or conditions and patients who self-treat and self-diagnose. Like most things, this is a topic that will remain controversial for many years to come with no end in sight. So, do you pick a side or walk the line?

The truth is there is real value in direct-to-consumer advertising, and not just for pharma companies, but also patients and physicians. Consider the alternative; wind back time and imagine a world in which patients know little to nothing about their condition or treatment, never question whether a better, more viable option may be available, and aren’t given the chance to decide what risks and side effects they can live with. Sure, some physicians would love to go back to the good ol’ days when their word was gospel, but many more have come to appreciate the advantages of patient/physician communication and the insight that is gained in the exchange. Other benefits of direct-to-patient marketing include:

Greater Awareness of Diseases and Conditions
DTC ads work to not only promote a product, but to expose or educate a condition to the greater public. Take, for instance, a prescription drug that alleviates a very specific condition that no one has heard of. By advertising the drug, more people will become aware of the condition and perhaps realize that “mystery” disorder they’ve silently suffered from for years has a name and a treatment. Greater awareness of diseases and conditions leads to more patients seeking treatment for a better quality of life – a life they never before knew they could have.

Better Conversations with Healthcare Providers
No one likes to be talked down to in any context. This is not to say that doctors do this intentionally, but rather sometimes inadvertently when they know significantly more about a disease than their patient counterpart. Additionally, very few people care to engage in conversation without some basis of understanding from which to share thoughts and exchange ideas or perspectives. When patients are exposed to a condition through a DTC ad that they may believe they have, chances are they will do some research into the condition and bring this knowledge with them to physician consultations.

The most effective DTC ads share the following qualities:

  • Creative Brand Icons – The idea here is to create images that leave an imprint. Think of the VESIcare pipe people, the Enablex balloons, or the Cialis bathtubs – each brand is associated with an artistic icon, which ultimately leads to sustained memorability.
  • Compelling Messages and a Strong Point-of-view – Given all of the restrictions surrounding medical advertising, quite often there is little room for marketing messages once all of the safety information is accounted for. That said, messages need to be succinct, unique to differentiate a brand, and communicate the rational or end benefit. Consider messages by Latisse that read, “Not enough lashes? Grow them! Longer, Fuller, Darker.” The brand’s stance on beauty makes it stand out and the end benefit appeals to women who crave that look.

DDA Medical is one pharma marketing agency that can help you walk the line between the overtly persuasive and the nondescript. Our in-house staff consists of writers, animators, illustrators, videographers, designers, and more who work together to craft quintessential brand icons and messages that effectively reach patients who could benefit from prescription medications or medical devices the most. To find out more about our direct-to-consumer marketing services, contact us at 215-355-6442 or info@ddamedical.com.

photo credit: Erin DeMay via photopin cc