Pharmaceutical marketing still not focusing on digital advertising

Pharmaceutical marketing still not focusing on digital advertising
Pharmaceutical marketing still not focusing on digital advertising

Like advertisers in every industry, pharmaceutical marketing professionals always need to keep an eye on the most effective methods to get their messages across. Some marketers may choose direct mail services, while others focus on integrated campaigns. The real value in healthcare marketing lies in direct-to-consumer advertising, though marketers are still split over the best way to achieve this.

According to World of DTC Marketing, pharmaceutical companies continue to funnel most of their advertising resources into television and print ads. Even though other – and arguably more popular – mediums such as the Internet exist, the focus that pharmaceutical marketing services give to the electronic space is limited. If advertisers are to succeed in the future, several industry observers are urging for the industry to review its priorities and increase advertising space within the online sphere.

Examining the data
When studying market analytics, a great amount of information can be gleaned from the spending histories of pharmaceutical organizations. According to data compiled by Nielson and reported by World of DTC Marketing, Big Pharma spent almost 10 percent more on advertising in 2013 – $3.8 billion –  than in 2012 – $3.4 billion. While this may seem like good news for those in favor of more digital advertising, a breakdown of the numbers tells a different story. 

Television continues to be the most popular medium among pharmaceutical marketing services. The industry spent $2.48 billion on commercials in 2013, a 12.7 percent increase from 2012. Magazine advertising saw a boost as well, with a 6.6 percent increase to $1.09 billion. Rounding out the top three most popular advertising mediums was newspapers. Even though newspaper advertising fell by 28.9 percent from 2012 to 2012, pharmaceutical marketing services still spent a combined $149 million.

Then, fourth on the list, is Internet advertising. The online space garnered only $59.8 million in funding and saw a 14.4 percent year-to-year drop.

Making a change
The statistics suggest that pharmaceutical marketing services are moving away from digital media opportunities and clinging to traditional mediums such as television and magazines. However, some experts are arguing that this may be the exact opposite direction the industry should want to head in.

"I don't think anyone has figured it out yet," David Adelman, founding partner of Moddern Marketing, told Medical Marketing & Media. "That said, I'd say that probably half the searches being conducted right now are happening on mobile devices."

According to Adelman, a small but vocal minority of industry leaders are keeping advertising services from launching into the digital sphere with as much gusto as possible. Clients may also be reluctant to spend excessive amounts of money on digital campaigns in an untapped medium, preferring instead to rely on tried-and-true methods.

A.J. Triano, vice president of connected health at inVentiv Health's Palio+Ignite, criticized this stodgy mentality and urged the industry to force itself into a risk with digital marketing.

"When it comes to technology and trying new things, the [pharmaceutical industry's] sweet spot is to not be first, but to be a smart second," Triano told MM&M. "[Clients] want to get in after they've seen one or two early adopters try something new without getting slapped with a fine."

Not only did Triano criticize this rationale as backwards, but it may also stifle the innovation the he claimed is necessary to stay in contact with consumers. While millions of people still watch TV, Triano believed that most people simply tune those messages out.

"With mobile, our behavior shifts," Triano said. "We become task-specific seekers. We take in more of what's on the screen."