Despite Controversy Over Rules, DTC Ads Seen As Effective

Good news, pharma marketers! Despite continued controversy over the rules and regulations of direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads, more than half of American consumers think they're done responsibly and are an effective way of conveying a medication's benefits and risks.

According to publisher Rodale Inc.'s 11th annual survey gauging consumer reactions to DTC, 56% of consumers believe DTC advertising is currently conducted responsibly. Moreover, many consumers view them as useful.

The survey found that about three-quarters of consumers believe magazine print ads are "somewhat/very useful" in conveying the benefits and risks of a prescription drug. Around the same amount said TV ads were also effective, although only 69% said they were effective at highlighting the benefits, while 78% said they were effective at conveying the risks.

"With a print ad, a consumer can control the pacing," Cary Silvers, Rodale's director of consumer insights and strategy, tells Marketing Daily about the disparity. "Any broadcast ad is here and gone in 30 seconds."



But putting a doctor in an ad doesn't convey effectiveness or safety. According to the survey, three-quarters of American consumers said having a doctor appear in an ad makes no difference in efficacy claims, and nearly as many (72%) said an appearance didn't enhance its perceived safety.

But they did talk to their doctors about them, as suggested in the advertisements. Over a 5-year average, 73% of those who saw a DTC ad talked to their doctor about it, while 25% asked their doctor to prescribe it. Of those who simply talked about the drug, 25% received the prescription, while 77% of those who asked for a prescription received it.

But advertising isn't consumers' only outlet for information. When seeking information about a prescription drug, more than half of consumers (53%) use the Internet for research--up from 47% last year. Half of this year's respondents said they had visited a pharmaceutical company's Web site when seeking information, and 40% said they had gone specifically to a medicine brand's dedicated site. Ten percent of consumers said they had clicked on a prescription drug ad, doubling the 5% who clicked through in 2006.

"The good news for pharmaceutical companies is that a good portion of consumers are going to [the companies'] Web sites," Silvers says. "The next question is, where else are they going to get their information?"

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