Television Advertising: Getting Big Results With Smaller Budgets

Despite all the buzz and fanfare for digital advertising and social media, television still dominates the media strategies of big pharma. The massive reach of TV and persuasiveness of sight, sound and motion are part and parcel of the successful marketing of prescription medications like Nexium, Lipitor and Viagra. So, is it realistic for midsize and smaller over-the-counter (OTC) pharma brands to engage TV as a lever without the luxury of big budgets? First, let’s set the record straight about the tube.

Is the King Really Dead?

While Internet advertising has skyrocketed 5,000% in the past year, it’s a myth that TV is “dead.” Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, in 2010, TV represented 39% of the $153 billion spent on advertising. 2010 was also a year that saw spot TV spending increase 24.2%, network TV grow 5.3% and cable TV gain 9.8%. The story in OTC drugs is even more pointed. Take pain remedies, for example. Of the $254 million in media spending last year, 87% was invested in television (primarily network TV). Thus, rumors of the King’s demise can be dismissed, at least for now.

Can I Play?

At our company, we face this reality every day on smaller brands, ranging from upset stomach remedies to skin care and menstrual bloating medications. These brands can’t afford to spend their way to success. We have to be smarter, more nimble, more resourceful and more creative if we want to find a way to advertise on this stage.

Is it possible? It is. But it’s not easy.

It starts with TV sales rep relationships that span decades. These relationships are built on trust, understanding and empathy for the client and its challenges. Another part of the mix is creative negotiating. Finally, we find that getting in on the ground floor of newer, smaller networks puts us in a unique position to achieve lower rates and exceptional efficiencies. We capitalize on “introductory pricing,” while late adaptors pay the price of standing on the sidelines.

However, it’s not all about price. The most efficient media buy is a waste of money if we aren’t reaching the right prospect at the right time in the right place. At our firm, we call it “aperture.” It’s the concept that we need to reach prospects at a moment in time when they are “open to buy.” A prime example of this is in the menstrual diuretic category. There’s no time of year when women are more sensitive about menstrual bloating than during swimsuit season. And there is no time more precious than the few warm weather days of summer when the beach is her destination. Consequently, we concentrate our TV spending on Fridays leading into the weekend, so we can reach women when their aperture is wide open.

We couple these kinds of insights with the very best syndicated data in the business. We invest heavily in GFK research and its nationally representative annual study of more than 28,000 American consumers. We glean insights from these data that allow us to pinpoint target demographics, product usage, psychographics, attitudes and beliefs.

Vertical or Horizontal

Diversification is crucial when making a small budget look gigantic. Like any great investment strategy, a well-balanced portfolio enhances our likelihood of long-term growth and success. Television networks are classified as either “vertical” or “horizontal.” A “vertical” network typically delivers a homogenous audience. Some familiar examples are MTV and Bravo. Other networks are classified as “horizontal,” where the programming is different depending on the time of day. On a network such as TBS or TNT, viewers vacillate by program, time of day and day of week. Going vertical or horizontal at any given time is fundamental to success.

Look Like a Big Spender

When it comes to media-buying for pharma products with limited budgets, it is not only the commercial production team that gets to be creative. These strategies have proven to be so successful for our clients year-over-year that we see our spending budgets increase annually due to direct success with television campaigns. Creativity, application and impeccable timing can help you take small change and look like a million dollars. 


1 comment about "Television Advertising: Getting Big Results With Smaller Budgets ".
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  1. Maggie Hall from Legacy Health, November 28, 2011 at 1:41 p.m.

    Neil - did you mean to say "...while late adopters pay the price of standing on the sidelines." rather than use the word "...late adapters..."?

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