Within DTC pharmaceutical advertising, a meaningful level of targeting efficiency is not always achievable. In many cases, natural skews in audience delivery do not align well enough to sufferer profiles to produce meaningful efficiencies, e.g., allergy sufferers. It's possible to find titles having relatively high compositions of the sufferer population; however, these high-composition titles tend to be few and focusing exclusively on them limits reach. In media-speak, these titles have high composition but low coverage. We have to buy well beyond the high composition titles to reach a significant portion of sufferers. The reality is that for many low incidence conditions, achieving a high level of targeting efficiency is simply not possible.
Limited targeting efficiency is also a result of targeting sufferers of low incidence conditions. For example, assume the cost of a network primetime 60-second spot (6 -seconds to accommodate "fair balance" requirements) is $60 per 1,000, based on the buying target definition. Targeting a condition with a 10% incidence within the buying target population translates to a cost of $600 per 1,000 sufferers. For acid reflux, multiply the buying target CPM by about 6. For allergies, multiply the buying target CPM by about 7. For diabetes multiply the buying target CPM by about 17. And so on.
The solution to this problem comes in two parts. The first part of the solution deals with reallocating budgets toward better targeted, lower cost "point-of-care," digital and social channels. The second part deals with understanding the role that these channels can play in moving a sufferer from undiagnosed to becoming a loyal user of a brand. In a nutshell, when are these channel best leveraged. Consumer surveys fielded by MPG confirm the roles of these channels.
Moving sufferers through condition and brand awareness and early stages of attitude formation require broad reach of television, magazines and similar mass channels. These channels reach both the sufferers as well as their surrounding community (friends and family) who play an important role in encouraging the sufferer to seek treatment. These mass channels should be supplemented by well-placed editorial about the condition/brand and signage/brochures at point-of-care (e.g., doctor's office, pharmacy).
"Lean-forward" communication platforms become increasingly important in helping a sufferer to decide to seek diagnosis and treatment. Websites about conditions (like Asthma.com) as well as branded websites are critical at this stage.
The moment of truth is the point at which the knowledge and attitudes of the sufferer confront the preferences of the physician. By the time this meeting takes place, the sufferer is aware of the condition and has some knowledge of treatments.
At this point, any material that facilitates a discussion between the sufferer and the physician -- in advance of the visit -- raises the likelihood that the conversation takes place. One example would include brochures or other materials found in the doctor's waiting room prior to the visit. A second example would be materials obtained from a condition or branded website, for example, the "Asthma Action Plan" from Asthma.com which the sufferer completes, prints, hands to doctor.
Adherence is highly dependent on the encouragement of the physician, continued dialog with other sufferers and their immediate social network. Online sites provide tools for monitoring treatment/adherence. Online continuity programs provide materials pertaining to condition management as well as economic incentive to promote adherence. Examples include Walgreens Diabetes and You (magazine) and Diabetes Monitor (web site).
The final stage is advocacy where those being treated discuss their success with others. This is best accomplished through discussion groups and social media platforms such as Facebook.
In conclusion, directing DTC marketing communications to sufferers of low incidence conditions needs to extend beyond inefficient mass channels to leverage "lean-forward" channels in which the sufferer initiates the contact. The role of mass media for building condition and brand awareness will continue. The responsibility of driving consumers through the later stages of the purchase pathway will gradually shift away from mass channels to point-of-care, digital and social channels. Mass channels continue to play an activation role, driving sufferers and their communities to digital and social channels.