“We think the pharmaceutical category to double over the current levels over the next four to five years,” said Eric Bolesh, marketing director for research firm Cutting Edge Information. “Pharmaceutical companies will make more resources available to for advertising.”
By most accounts the pharmaceutical category will end this year up more than 20% over 2001. In a year where break even or marginal increases can be seen as victory over a tough economy, you could make the case that big advance pharmaceutical ads saved the media business from a second year of negative numbers. Cutting Edge is preparing a report that shows major drug firms are racing to launch major drugs in a similar fashion to a Hollywood studio launching a blockbuster film. Losers in the market the report says, struggle out of the gate and fail to achieve maximum impact among consumers.
Another recent study for IRI, provides “reassurance” that the $2.8 billion spent by pharmaceutical manufacturers on DTC advertising during 2001 was well-noted by sufferers and non-sufferers alike.” The study concludes that since the Federal Drug Administration's relaxation on pharmaceutical advertising guidelines in 1997, targeted consumer advertising has positively impacted consumer awareness of pharmaceutical products. However, consumer perceptions of DTC advertisements are mixed. Two-thirds of those surveyed indicate that DTC television advertisements are incomplete and 47% find the ads confusing.
“Study findings clearly support that the ability to motivate consumers to initiate discussions with their physician about a particular brand remains a distinctive competency for DTC advertising and a significant opportunity for manufacturers,” said the IRI study.
Bolesh expects the Internet to benefit from the pharmaceutical commitment. “It is the perfect media for this category,” he said. “It has no limit in terms of the amount of information it can include. It encourages communication. Websites promoting drugs will become more popular next year and advertising to drive traffic to them will be more important.”