Limits on DTC TV are Inevitable and Welcome

By February 24, 2008Uncategorized

I was reading a post by Bob Erhlich’s DTC Perspectives about DTC scenario planning given the coming change in the White House. Bob casts percentages around for different possible outcomes — he always make a good argument. I am glad he used the scenario planning approach. it is safe way to encourage the forward-looking debate that needs to happen on this subject. 

But let me build on it. and cast my stone: DTC TV WILL change. It is inevitable. And maybe that is a good thing. Like any 11-year-old, it could be time for DTC to grow up.

The facts? DTC has helped millions of people deal with conditions and have a greater possibility of living healthier lives. This is often overlooked, but it’s very real. Thanks to DTC, an enormous number of people have gotten themselves into their doctors’ offices for conversations that might now have happened otherwise.

Yet, the spending levels of some brands have raised more than a few eyebrows, as has their direct tie to sales. This looks mighty suspicious in the face of the very ugly reality that for all this acquisition effort, once patients have been acquired, they’re basically ignored. — oh, those nasty dipping compliance curves! That is just plain old bad PR. In a politically charged environment, it makes DTC TV just look obscene.

Remote One scenario could be that DTC TV becomes only unbranded patient education? I think this could be a very real possibility. Helping create a better-informed, better-educated and more prepared patient aids them in understanding why thy should stay on a treatment, not just try it. And in the Age of Consumerism (check out to P&G,, or any number of sources that show how companies are ceding control of their brands to consumers for their loyalty), the patient wants better control of their purchases and decisions — perhaps health most of all. And loyalty = compliance = sales. And oh yeah, it’s good PR.

Here’s another scenario: DTC TV becomes all about acquisition — but not to trial. No, I am talking about acquiring patients to enroll in programs that make it easy for them to stay on the treatment they are taking. In the mass market world, we call that loyalty acquisition; and in a competitive environment, acquiring the names and profile’s of your customers is both golden AND responsible for pharma and biotech companies.

Here’s my last one for today: the industry and take a unified lobby approach. What would be the best scenario? Focus on the healing part of the marketing equation and take on the lousy compliance rates once and for all. Develop a national campaign to keep people taking the medications that are proven to make their lives better.

How to do it? Create a single Adherence Institute that all the pharma and biotech companies contribute to. Brand marketers still do the acquisition, but after 3 months, they hand over the patient file to the Adherence Institute and they handle the patient from there. And no, we would not use Montel for the ads. Let’s get Oprah.

There is much more that needs to be debated on this topic, but I sincerely hope that by casting out a few more scenarios, pharma brand marketers and my agency brethren see that the anxiety can be turned to opportunity.