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Survey Finds DTC Ads Have Little Influence Over Consumer Behaviour

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DTC Ads

The results suggest that DTC advertising of pharmaceuticals may have less influence over consumers, than previously thought.

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April 22, 2016 | by Sarah Massey, M.Sc.

According to a survey conducted by market research firm Treato, only 7 percent of consumers reported talking to their doctor about a drug they saw advertised on TV. The number is down from 21 percent in last year’s survey.

The Treato survey also found that 76 percent of consumers did not pay more attention to a direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug ad featuring a celebrity. In addition, 80 percent of those surveyed said that ads featuring animated characters were no more likely to catch their attention than traditional ads.

Interestingly, 46 percent of respondents said they’d like to see drug ads banned from the Super Bowl. The results suggest that DTC advertising of pharmaceuticals may have less influence over consumers, than previously thought.

According to Kantar Media, pharmaceutical companies spent almost $3.7 billion on DTC ads on TV last year – a 31 percent increase since 2014. Total advertising spending jumped by 19 percent from 2014 to 2015, with the industry spending $5.4 billion last year.



DTC advertising practices have been a hot topic lately, following the American Medical Association’s call for ban on drug ads. Some government officials have proposed removing the tax breaks available to pharmaceutical companies advertising their drugs.

Various consumer groups and physicians have argued that DTC ads can have a negative effect on patients who may ask their doctor for inappropriate or unnecessary medicines. The American Medical Association and others also maintain that spending on drug ads is contributing to the growing issue of drug pricing.

“Pharma marketers need to think of more innovative ways to engage directly with health consumers,” said Ido Hadari, CEO of Treato. “It's clear that consumers are rarely responsive to the one way communication of TV advertisements.”

While the sample size of the survey – more than 500 Treato.com users – pales in comparison to the total number of individuals exposed to DTC ads across the country, the statistics do provide some insight into the effectiveness of the promotion tool. As DTC advertising spending increases substantially on an annual basis, the survey results suggest that pharmaceutical companies may be better off spending their promotion dollars elsewhere.


Keywords: DTC Ads, Pharmaceutical Industry, American Medical Association


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