Should Pharma Brands Go Dark, Stop Advertising And Marketing During COVID-19 Pandemic?

When CMI/Compas asked whether consumers felt it was appropriate for the pharmaceutical industry to continue to provide branded and sponsored information and advertising related to their products during the COVID-19 pandemic, 74% agreed that it was OK, and of those, 36% highly agreed.

The findings from CMI/Compas were fielded April 6 through 8th, 2020 and represent sentiment from 400 respondents.

As the world continues to fight COVID-19, people also must deal with other ailments and life-threatening situations that cannot be ignored, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Consumers still feel the need to stay informed by pharmaceutical companies, when it comes to their choices and options in treating their conditions independent of the virus. Those who take various types of medications want pharma companies to ensure them they are still considering other risk factors and how to best minimize the risk during the pandemic.

Some companies like 3M, which makes N95 masks, have turned from paid advertising to informational marketing to reach their B2B clients, says Uberflip CMO Randy Frisch.

Brands outside the pharmaceutical and medical industries such as Procter & Gamble are boosting marketing spend as consumers stocked their pantries with toilet paper and cough syrup. U.S. sales jumped 10% during the first three months in 2020, P&G CFO said in a conference call with analysts Friday.

People are looking for more content in general. Perhaps that is because consumers participating in the CMI/Compas study say they feel “overly anxious about themselves or their loved ones” -- and this is not limited to the direct effects of the virus, but also encompasses broader topics such as “how do I continue to live while being safe from additional harm that this virus could potentially do to me?”

Per generation, the lowest level of agreement on appropriateness for the pharmaceutical industry to provide branded and sponsored information came from the Silent Generation, born between 1928 and 1945, at 67% with 33% feeling it was not appropriate to advertise.

Gen X showed the highest level of complete agreement to advertise at 42%, compared with 23% not to advertise. Gen Z followed with 26% in complete agreement to advertise vs. 26% not to advertise, Millennials at 31% in complete agreement to advertiser and 25% not to advertise, and Boomers at 38% in complete agreement to advertise and 28% not to advertise.

What sort of messages are appropriate? An average of 50% say public service messages, disease education, and patient assistance programs. Overall medication guides and copay support rank the lowest, and messages specific to prescriptions. Information on how to deal with COVID-19 ranks highest.

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