The new NNN database is the most recent in what is expected to be a series of more sophisticated media planning tools for targeting pharmaceutical and healthcare related products and services, a sector that is expected to be one of the fastest growing advertising columns due to a confluence of factors including the aging of the Baby Boom generation, and increased R&D in prescription drugs. On Wednesday, VNU, the world's largest marketing research supplier unveiled details of its acquisition of IMS Health, the largest provider of health industry research, including a plan that would seamlessly integrate it with VNU's Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen units. The company said the acquisition would create new products and consulting services that run the gamut of communications planning, from product development to media buying, and would become a major part of VNU's future.
The timing of both announcements comes as regulators are scrutinizing the role of marketing in general and advertising in particular in the direct-to-consumer prescription drug industry, and as the major pharmaceutical companies are adopting new guidelines that call for greater restraint.
Yet new marketing and media research is making pharmaceutical marketing incredibly effective and efficient. For example, among the new tools available from the NNN's GeoTargetign system is a method for analyzing the reach of medications based on the distribution of medical savings accounts.
"Essentially, it's a data-rich model by geography," Jason Klein, president-CEO of the NNN, told MediaDailyNews. "It answers questions such as where are brands the weakest and where competitors are vulnerable, as well as looking at factors such as how many people have a specific condition in a particular market."
Asked if he thought the effectiveness of the new tool would be at all undercut by recent congressional moves to regulate direct-to-consumer advertising of drugs, Klein was optimistic.
"It's in everyone's interest for pharmaceutical advertising to provide relevant info clearly to consumers, and for the industry to think carefully about how they use direct-to-consumer advertising," Klein said. "And print is an incredibly effective medium for communicating complex information."
Last month, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist had called on pharmaceutical companies to observe a two-year moratorium on direct-to-consumer advertising during a drug's first two years on the market. Frist also called on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) oversight of prescription drug activities, and the pharmaceutical industry's spending on advertising.
Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Christopher Dodd proposed the Food and Drug Administration Safety Act this year, which mandates that advertisements for drugs that have been on the market for less than two years and drugs with a known safety risk be reviewed by the FDA before the advertisements air to the public.
The NNN was formed in 1994 as a collaboration between various newspaper companies by a cross-industry effort to reverse a long-term decline in national advertising in newspapers.
-- Joe Mandese contributed to this story