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Dear Pharma. Stop that.

For years now, Pharmaceutical brands have been dumping billions upon billions of dollars into marketing with the end goal of reaching their ideal target audience. They cross their fingers, hoping the masses will remember their cosmetic commercials of forced smiles and John Doe’s eerily attempting to personify us and our health concerns — especially when we attend our routine doctor’s visit.

Of all that money though, why TV is still deeply engraved in pharma marketing executives brains as the “go-to” solution for promoting their product brand…I’ve no idea. I hope to someday soon write a short piece detailing why executives make their decisions regarding their digital marketing strategies, but until then — I literally can’t tell you what they’re thinking. But I think we can all agree — when it comes to TV ads, we’d like pharma to stop.

The reason it bothers us is because WE KNOW TV is dead. If the data we saw on a day to day basis told us that TV ads were the leading revenue driver for pharmaceutical brands, I wouldn’t be writing this. But it’s not. In fact the reality of TV is that the majority of ads seen by their intended target are slim to none. When we see a pharma TV ad pop up, most of us exit the room to do something else, or whip out our smartphones. Not to mention, there’s no way to capture true metrics on your audience with TV ads. From a marketing perspective, you literally have no idea who is seeing your ad. It’s a pretty big bottom line gamble for your marketing ROI, if you think about it.

So why push TV still? Is it because you’ve been doing it for years and its past influence, or because you’re still not familiar with other options? Stop that. Stop everything, and let’s really talk about it.

I always tell my clients that you have to go where your audience lives. Do they actually live on TV? Radio? Newspaper? Or are they like millions of other people nationwide flocking to social media? With the latter, you don’t have much of a choice there — but the same question applies. Where is your audience living online..? And because this is healthcare we’re talking about — what is your caregiver audience look like? Are you even aware that your audience might have an audience through whom you must reach…? Welcome to the age of digital marketing strategy, my friends.

Globally, there are about 2.3 billion active social media users [1] and that number continues to climb month over month, year over year. It simply can’t be ignored — almost every few months it seems like there’s a new social media platform set to revolutionize the industry, or new marketing add-on that promises to turn your ROI troubles upside down. We call it innovation — we’re constantly innovating how we use our time on a daily basis. Our needs are for the new that not only saves us time, but controls what peaks our interest. TV can’t do these things. Why stick to old school when the new school is what brings us closer to other’s lives and experiences, and gives us a unique voice.

So as a marketer within the healthcare/pharma space, put yourself in your audience’s shoes:

Pharma ads on TV are shown too often, are too long, and the lengthy side effects and disclaimer diatribes make us want to take drugs — but not yours. So stop that.

Go where your people are! Maximize your insight by utilizing platforms that capture actual data, insights, engagement, conversations, community, and more. TV data is merely speculative, barely quantifiable, and is limited in its reach.

You need feedback about your brand, your product, and your content. I understand the stigmas surrounding social media — it’s a wild west full of adverse events and compliance wielding mayhem. But that game has changed, and it’s easier now than it was in the advent of the digital frontier; monitoring and compliance is far simpler than its origins.

It may be in our nature as humans to fear change, but it’s also in our nature to evolve. If healthcare brands want to truly know what their audience is doing, what they’re saying, what they’re seeing, and who they’re turning to — ditch the roundabouts and go straight to the source. Stop airing TV ads that the majority of people won’t acknowledge, don’t connect with, and won’t take seriously (let alone sit through).

Yours truly,

Every person who’s watched a pharma TV commercial and this social media dude.

[1] Simon Kemp, We Are Social (2016)

Christopher Warden

Chris is CEO and Founder of Liquid Lock Media, where he specializes in paid social, community, and persona development solutions for healthcare and biotech brands

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