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DTC in Perspective: A Forum for Only TV and Print?

May 6, 2016 by Bob Ehrlich0

I wanted to explain why after 16 years of developing conferences we decided to run one solely on tv and print this fall. It seems odd that the media with the most spending seems to get the least discussion on the agenda. Our DTC National offers a wide array of topics but most are in new media. I always ask people to submit speaking proposals on television and print but few are received. While drug marketers are anxious to learn the latest on new media, there is a lot that can be improved in the meat and potatoes category.

Bob Ehrlich
“Strive to do it better.”
-Bob Ehrlich

Most of our speakers are on digital, big data, patient relationships, point of care, and technology. While this may be the DTC future, the overwhelming media allocation remains in television and print. After 20 years maybe there is not much left to learn in mass media. I kind of doubt that.

We are seeing great new creative in mass media so clearly agencies and clients are learning how to constantly improve their ads. We are also learning so much more about patient receptivity to ads depending on day part, show type, and where the ad is in the show. We are seeing FDA doing many studies on elements of advertising from supers, cartoon images, how risk is narrated. We are getting new research that dissects effectiveness to new levels of detail.

We are also experiencing growth in mass media for drug categories that never would have used it a few years before. Cancer and rare diseases have decided that the ROI is positive using mass techniques. So there seems to be a renaissance in expanding use of mass media.

We also see print titles doing quite well. DTC ads dominate some magazines. I have always believed there is tremendous opportunity to improve the creative impact in print. Too many ads are still missing a dominant headline or visual, choosing dense copy and too many sub headlines. While FDA mandates make print more difficult, there is no reason any ad should not be visually arresting.

My guess is every media plan can be 10-20% more effective with some simple tweaks. Better creative, more pre-testing, more targeted media planning, and more robust evaluation are all possible and affordable. In 20 years of being involved in DTC I have seen many campaigns that I know are weak, yet somehow they made it on air. Mediocre ads get through for many reasons. It can be bad copy strategy, testing the wrong objectives, rushed creative, forgetting the competitive set, group think, overloading information, or many other factors. Sometimes there is so much testing that the marketers are overwhelmed and miss the need to simplify for consumers.

So in October we will do an entire conference that never mentions social media, mobile, relationship marketing, or personal fitness devices. Instead we will focus on making our tv and print ads better, spending more effectively, and doing better analysis. I am not pushing mass media over new media, just recognizing that if more than 80% of our budget is spent there, we might as well strive to do it better.

Bob Ehrlich


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