“Ask Your Doctor” Ads Work as Well on Digital as on TV

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Findings from a new study reinforce the need for healthcare organizations to prioritize their digital presence.

For years, TV ads have led the pack for pharma. Consistently, healthcare brands that have spent the most on their TV presence have also been the most recognized by consumers and thus among the most requested at doctor visits. However, while TV ad spend still dominates most medical marketing budgets, the impact of digital ads is quickly climbing.

Digital has been increasingly gaining ground on TV in terms of patient awareness and influence for years, and 2018 represents digital’s best year yet, according to a new study from Decision Resources Group. TV is still the king of healthcare marketing, but medical marketers would be wise to invest in their digital strategy now — not only to reach customers online, but also to ensure that their TV spend isn’t wasted.

Digital Ads Are on the Rise

The fact remains that TV ads are still seen and and remembered more often than digital ads. DRG reports that 65% of consumers recall seeing a specific drug advertised on TV in the past twelve months, while only 49% remember the name of a drug that they saw advertised online.

However, across conditions, digital ads have proven significantly more effective at converting impressions into specific drug requests. For example, patients with multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and Alzheimer’s Disease were particularly likely to remember TV ads, while patients with hepatitis C, type 1 diabetes, and severe asthma were more likely to recall online ads.

The study reveals another interesting finding – ads asking patients to “ask your doctor” about prescription medication are more effective online than they are on TV. 42% of patients who remembered seeing a digital ad later requested a specific prescription from their doctor, but only 22% of patients who remembered seeing TV ads did the same. This disparity is likely because patients who go online to research prescription drugs are already actively searching for the best solution to address their particular condition, indicating that digital is a “conversion channel” whereas TV is an “awareness channel.”

The Importance of Smart Digital Marketing

Even among patients who researched drug options online, those who visited pharma websites were far more likely to request a specific drug than patients who only looked at general sites like WebMD. This indicates that medical marketers’ primary goal on digital should be to get patients to their sites’ landing pages.

This requires investing in paid and organic search and social strategies to drive patients to the site prior to a doctor’s visit. But while getting your healthcare organization to the top of the search engine results page is a great first step, marketers must also ensure that their landing pages are optimized to help patients find information that they need — otherwise, patients may bounce soon after arrival.

Healthcare marketers also need to pair their TV spend with smart digital strategy or risk wasting that spend altogether. Unfortunately, some brands will buy up search terms related to competitors’ brand names soon after the competitor launches an expensive TV ad campaign. This means that consumers may see one brand’s TV ads, search that brand online, and find their competitor instead. If you’re launching a TV ad campaign, make sure to complement the ad with an appropriate PPC campaign.

Though TV is here to stay for now, pharma marketers have all the incentive in the world to incorporate digital marketing into their strategy. Together, the two channels guide more patients toward asking for a certain medication than either could on its own.

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