Treato, an online consumer insights company, released a survey on DTC 4/18. It was done with 529 Treato.com consumer users. The headline in their press release that said “Treato Finds DTC Pharma TV Advertisements Have Little Influence”. They cite a result that only 7% of respondents asked their doctor about an advertised drug this year compared to 21% last year.
When you do a survey and get some strange results like a decline from 21% to 7% you have to ask why. There is no reason that consumers would react so differently year to year. You have to question the methodology, the panel who responded, or some other factor. People would not find 2015 advertising so much less influential than 2014 advertising.
Treato did not analyze what TV ad influence means in terms of ROI for drug companies. Television ads payback, and the evidence is overwhelming. Whether the real consumer request number is 7%, 21% or anywhere in between, the drug makers look at the value of consumers who do request based on their ads. For many branded drugs 7% would be a great number.
The drug industry does not expect their ads to influence a majority or even a large minority of consumers. They know most consumers rely entirely on their doctor to tell them which drug to use. The drug makers hope a large enough segment of a potential user population see an ad and ask their doctor.
I remember the launch campaign for Lipitor had a marginal share boost. That marginal boost, however, was a great ROI on our investment. So Treato may be correct that TV has less influence than the DTC critics give it credit for having. Maybe Hillary will see that DTC is not the force for evil she contends in her speeches.
When you examine any blockbuster drug performance DTC has a marginal influence. Lipitor spent about 100-150 million on DTC in its peak days. It was doing over 5 billion in sales. So it probably generated 200-300 million in incremental sales from DTC. Maybe it had 4-6% influence. I think that percent would be a fair estimate for most billion dollar plus drugs doing television DTC.
Treato suggests that drug companies look for other ways to influence consumers. This statement misses the ROI truth. Drug marketers will use any medium that pays back. Television may not be seen by media pundits as innovative, but drug marketers are evaluated on ROI success, not how much they experiment. Television ROI is less than some other more targeted techniques like Point of Care. Drug companies do both to achieve their goals.
So Treato’s headline has some truth despite the odd decline they state from 21% to 7%. Their term “little influence” has very different meanings to drug company marketers and DTC observers. A little influence can generate a great ROI on premium priced drugs. For most brands’ mass media plan it is 1.5 to 3 to one. Pharma lobbyists should tout this survey to DTC critics showing there is no need to be concerned that consumers are being hypnotized by television into mass use of drugs.