Two people cut a TV cable cord

Redefining DTC Advertising:
Capitalizing on a multi-dimensional, largely digital experience

David Shronk

David Shronk Senior Vice President, Media

By David Shronk
Senior Vice President, Media – Health Union
April 30, 2019

The way people consume television – and advertising – is changing, quickly. When reaching people living with chronic health conditions, the complex and fragmented media landscape, along with fragmented attention spans, creates challenges for pharma marketers who are trying to drive awareness and interest in their brands.

A 2019 media habits survey conducted by Health Union, across our 21 condition-specific online health communities, reports that 39% of people are cutting the cord, abandoning traditional cable and satellite TV service in favor of digital streaming services. This is up from the 21% who identified themselves as cord cutters in a 2017 survey. The trend toward cord-cutting is even higher in the younger generations, Millennials and Generation Z, with 56% only using streaming services. As this shift occurs, we see 47% overall using a mix of digital and TV to watch shows and movies, and only 14% using pure cable or satellite TV.

For pharma marketers, relying solely on TV no longer achieves the awareness it once did, especially as consumers continue to invest more time watching programs on services with little to no commercials, such as Netflix and Amazon Prime. In fact, TV advertising alone misses half of the audience. According to this recent survey, only four in 10 people with chronic conditions reported seeing a commercial for a condition they have. While these viewers may have been effectively targeted with DTC advertising – via the most appropriate show or daypart, for example – their viewing behaviors and fragmented attention could be to blame.

While six in 10 survey respondents reported using multiple devices to watch or stream in their homes, 94% — so, virtually everyone — use a second screen while watching TV. In addition, many people are paying for the added benefit of being able to fast forward through commercials. So, regardless of whether a show is holding a viewers’ attention, they are reaching for their phones to engage with something else in that moment, most often searching online or checking social media. With the flexibility for people to avoid messages they don’t want to see, pharma marketers must understand how to capitalize on other ways to be where people are when they are open to messages or actively looking for treatment options.

So what does this mean for pharma marketers? In short, refocus your advertising efforts.

Driving interest in a prescription therapy takes education and motivation, at a point in time when those messages are most relevant. Media habits are shifting, and given the environment, it’s time for pharma marketers to think more critically about how to reach people. If commercial breaks equate to social media time and fragmented media drives fragmented attention that disrupts delivery, the solution is to integrate and connect the experiences.

Marrying TV viewing, online search and social in a way that is relevant to consumers’ media habits – and the context that supports those habits – ensures pharma marketers can be there when people are open to accepting the messages. This ultimately exemplifies the understanding of what people need. Connecting the experiences, instead of pushing a message when the consumer isn’t receptive, will be the difference between enhancing versus undermining consideration.

Click here to learn more about Health Union’s digital DTC advertising offerings for industry partners.