Top Menu

Can Marrying DTC Ads with Relevant Content Minimize Ad Avoidance?

By Anne O’Brien of Remedy Health Media


I have been quite the content creator lately. My October wedding provided plenty of fodder for Facebook posts, reaching not just my friends, but friends of friends. I was providing entertainment that might otherwise have been provided by a commercial publisher, maybe by my company’s site, or maybe your brand’s content.

Free content creation has been a concern to publishers from the beginning of the internet. As marketers, we thought we would become our own publishers. At the turn of the century many thought advertising would become obsolete as brands could just use search to drive their target audience directly to their own content. But managing that content, keeping it current, making it relevant, engaging, and trusted has proven to be a bigger challenge than most marketers can manage with great success. The challenges in the pharma space are even more compounded.

Our counterparts in consumer goods have engaged resources that can make their products cultural icons, or part of the consumer landscape. Take Buick’s product placement deal with ABC’s Black-ish. The team at Dentsu Aegis’ The Story Lab was able to not just pull off a simple product placement, but to marry and fully integrate their client, Buick, into the storyline. In one episode the ad agency featured in the program is pitching the Buick account. Per Molly Peck, Buick Marketing Manager: “With any of these integrations, they allow us to be organically woven into a storyline. We get the benefit of being part of the program, so people are actually watching it as opposed to advertising where viewers often don’t watch it.” What a brilliant way to capture key copy points and articulate your brand value. Can you see that happening for an Rx product?

We certainly have a “higher bar” when marketing prescription products; so how will we maximize efficiencies, reach the most appropriate audiences and encourage patients to discuss our products’ treatments with their doctors in 2016?

Continuing the heavy mix of television will prove to be less impactful as even the older audiences are skipping ads on their DVR, using Netflix, Apple TV, and other devices to have more control. Many of my friends in advertising (and maybe you, too) will record all their programming simply because ad skipping is a more efficient way to watch TV.

In digging through reports from Nielsen and stories in the advertising trades, ad avoidance is focused on digital ad blocking technology. Reported by PageFair and Adobe, ad block usage has increased by 48% in the past year with 45 million monthly active users in the US. It is rare to hear stats on TV ad skipping and even more difficult to demonstrate who is paying attention to ads. TV remains a powerhouse but with 65% of U.S. adults having smartphones, and 45% having tablets, viewer distraction continues to be a challenge to marketers. Additionally “live TV” viewing by adults 18+ is down to four and a half hours per day – with 18-34 year olds spending 54% of their “media” time with TV.

Partnering or sponsoring the development of storylines about a condition relevant to your brand can be done on TV or in movies, but not without challenges (and good contacts like the team at The Story Lab have!). These tactics are fabulous opportunities for brands, but they don’t have the “legs” to sustain reach and awareness over time. Your advertising needs to be the thread that links the programming, requiring that the advertising message must do some heavy lifting. Beyond the legal requirements, DTC ads must be as engaging as the content surrounding them to ensure that they do not get skipped.

I have always been a firm believer in the catch phrase “content is king”. Is your creative strong enough to be king? Is it in an environment that complements the creative? Does it feel connected to the content… do they go hand and hand?

When I left Johnson & Johnson in 2007, I believed the real patients writing from had the most powerful stories to help others like themselves receive the best care possible and do all they can for their condition. I was confident those stories would also result in more visitor engagement with advertising. Today, Remedy Health Media’s team of producers and video experts are bringing powerful stories to life via short-form multimedia executions like Gay’s Rheumatoid Arthritis Live Bold, Live Now: Turning Points story. These stories are proven to have strong content and ad engagement. Results of a site survey found that:

  • 94% of respondents would recommend the story to others
  • 91% of respondents were inspired
  • 82% of respondents related to the story
  • 75% of respondents learned something new about the disease

The impact on the advertising is even more profound:

  • Respondents were 2x more likely to research the advertised medication online
  • Respondents were 2x more likely to talk to their doctor about the advertised medication
  • Respondents were 3x more likely to request a prescription for the advertised medication
  • Brand recognition of the advertised medication was 3x higher among Turning Points visitors

My 2016 prediction is there will be far more ad skipping, blocking, and avoiding, except where consumers are highly engaged in content that is sought out and relevant for their specific needs. If you need to relax and have a laugh and are also in the market for an Enclave Crossover, Black-ish is the perfect environment to be receptive to Buick’s message. If you are diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, you may be interested in a TV series featuring a patient with RA, but more likely you will be connected and deeply engaged to learn how real people with RA manage the very real hassles that the condition presents in real life and how they overcame these obstacles.

Looking back, I made some big life changes in 2007, not only did the career move prove to be advantageous; the online dating plan did, too. I am very happy to report that, after 8 years, I sealed the deal with my favorite ad skipper!

Anne O'Brien on Linkedin
Anne O'Brien
VP of Strategic Solutions at Remedy Health Media
Anne O’Brien, Remedy Health Media’s VP of Strategic Solutions is responsible for building collaborative partnerships and developing strategic patient marketing solutions with Remedy’s healthcare partners. Prior to Remedy she was at Johnson & Johnson where she served as Media Director and DTC lead for the Global Marketing Group. Anne also serves as Programming Chair for the New York City Affiliate of Alliance for Women in Media where she recently organized an event on Content and the Future of the Media Business. For more information, visit Contact Anne at or on LinkedIn.

One Response to Can Marrying DTC Ads with Relevant Content Minimize Ad Avoidance?

  1. Andrew December 26, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    This just goes to show how important secarh engine marketing and secarh engine optimization are to a comprehensive and strategic marketing plan. Fifty-two percent is too large for any company or marketer to ignore.

Leave a Reply