Inside the Disconnect Between Pharma Marketers And Boomers

Direct-to-consumer (DTC) pharma marketing used to be simple: Run a TV spot on news or late-night talk shows and wait for consumers to contact their doctors.

That strategy no longer works the way it did 10 to 20 years ago.

In 2018, TV ads simply can’t do all of the heavy lifting. They can raise awareness, but face an uphill battle in driving consumers through the middle of their healthcare journeys, where significant research enables them to make more informed decisions.

The Internet has a lot to do with changing the DTC landscape, but a majority of consumers age 50+ use 18 different resources of healthcare information, among them several print resources. 

With three-quarters of DTC advertising dollars devoted to TV, pharma marketing is missing the mark. In a recent study, two-thirds of people 50+ took no action in the last year after seeing DTC ads. Just 19% talked to their doctors, and only 11% learned anything new. 

Explaining this disconnect is simple. TV ads only scratch the surface of the information today’s 50+ are seeking. Internet and print do a much better job, and today’s 50+ consumers know it. What’s troubling is that DTC marketers don’t seem to know it. Over the past three years, DTC TV ad spending has risen by 22%, while budgets for online and magazine ads have dropped. Clearly, it is time for DTC marketers to rethink their strategies. 



What 50+ Consumers Want

The effort to gather detailed, actionable information is an integral part of the ways people 50+ strive to stay healthy. Working toward a proactive role in partnering with their doctors to best manage their health, they gather information that makes them more knowledgeable about their conditions and aware of their treatment options.

But they need help: nine in 10 people would value a checklist of topics to discuss with their doctors before using a new prescription. Topics they consider critical: 

  • Is the drug working as it should?
  • What happens if I miss a dose?
  • How do I minimize the impact of side effects?
  • When should I stop using this drug?

What’s alarming is that a majority says their doctors did not discuss these topics and others the last time they received a new prescription.

Savvy pharma marketers will recognize the proverbial white-space opportunity created by doctors’ negligence, AND understand that TV ads can’t effectively leverage this opportunity to better engage consumers.

Three key reasons TV spots aren’t enough:

1. Media handicap. TV’s format doesn’t lend itself to providing the detailed information consumers want.

2. Consumer apathy. TV is NOT among the 18 resources a majority of people 50+ use for health information.

3. Engagement limitation. Mass-market TV ads can’t establish relevance among a 50+ market whose healthcare needs change dramatically from age 50 to 60 to 70+.

Pharma marketers face a golden opportunity to provide the critical information most consumers are not getting from their doctors. 

Developing synergistic, cross-platform marketing customized to consumers’ life stage needs will stimulate doctor consultations, improve patient/doctor and patient/pharma brand relationships, empower consumers to make better decisions, and increase patient adherence to prescribed usage of medications. 

Everyone benefits.

4 comments about "Inside the Disconnect Between Pharma Marketers And Boomers".
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  1. Rick Rogala from Bespoke Media, August 21, 2018 at 2:16 p.m.

    Hi Mark- Great post! Question: what's your source for the statement: "the majority of consumers age 50+ use 18 different resources of healthcare information"? Thanks!

  2. Robin Raff from Boomer Business and Beyond, Inc., August 21, 2018 at 2:40 p.m.

    Great article, and great points! Particularly agree with,"Pharma marketers face a golden opportunity to provide the critical information most consumers are not getting from their doctors."  In addition to educating consumers in a way that their doctors are not, there is also an opportunity to help consumers ask ask their doctors about new products.  Iworked on the launch of a new digital health product and the first step for most consumers was wanting information to share with their doctors. We provided a downloadable pdf from the website for sharing with physicians.  So many opportunities to help move this along between all parties!

  3. Lori Raskin from Frontline Medical Communications, August 21, 2018 at 5:45 p.m.

    Yes, the source would be most appreciated!

  4. Lori Raskin from Frontline Medical Communications replied, August 21, 2018 at 5:46 p.m.

    Did AARP fund the study?

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