What Does DTC Spend Really Mean?

Aug. 21, 2012 – A recent article posted on Pharmalot.com suggests that pharmaceutical company direct-to-consumer (DTC) spending tells a story about the company’s product marketing strategy.

For example, the article states that data released by Cegedim Strategic Data – charting DTC spend by the top 10 pharma companies from July 2011 to April 2012 – demonstrate that Pfizer “boosted its [DTC] spending considerably in the weeks leading to the patent expiration for its best-selling Lipitor cholesterol pill and then, overall, curtailed that spending in subsequent months.”

According to the article, the company spending the most money on DTC advertising during this period was Eli Lilly. “This likely reflects, in part, a need to keep its corporate head above water in the competitive diabetes market,” the Pharmalot article states.

“It is important to watch these developments on DTC measured media, but we need to recognize that they are just estimates, and only estimates of some consumer outreach,” remarked Coalition for Healthcare Communication Executive Director John Kamp. “Moreover, they don’t present a full picture of marketing spend and miss many emerging consumer media.”

Mark Tosh, managing editor, BTP Insights, agreed that reported DTC spending totals do represent a way to gauge the broader DTC advertising market across a period of time, but he told the Coalition that “the numbers should not be viewed as the absolute measure of spending by an individual company or brand.”

Tosh noted that print and even broadcast advertising space is discounted from the rate card, and “there really is no way to accurately calculate these discounts or to know which company (or whose media agency) drives the hardest bargain at the negotiating table.”

Also, there is an area of DTC spending – point-of-care marketing – that passes “mostly under the radar,” he said. This marketing includes an array of materials available at doctors’ offices and pharmacies, and is a growing segment of the market, according to Tosh.

“So, while it’s interesting to get the ‘best guess’ total on the overall DTC sector, the numbers are likely far from the actual spending reality that companies report internally,” he said.