DTC spend lags as firms scrimp on launches, says TNS

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Spending on direct-to-consumer launch campaigns fell significantly this year as companies waited longer to market fewer new drugs with more limited indications, said a TNS Media Intelligence report.

The market research firm found that spending on launch campaigns accounted for a tenth of overall DTC ad spend for the first eight months of 2008 – down from the 13%-15% typical in years past. That drop was a major driver in slowing DTC spend, down 6.3% for the first eight months over the same period in 2007 to $3.3 billion.

It's the second consecutive drop in DTC spending, which was down 3.1% for the same period last year.

TNS said prescription drug advertising, which accounts for over 90% of DTC spending, slipped 3.6% for the first eight months, reversing a 3.5% gain for the same period last year.

But the drop in launch spending, with aggregate spending down $155 million for the first eight months, may be more momentous, said TNS.

“Launch introductions are a bellwether indicator,” the report's authors wrote. “Marginal swings in introductory spending, up or down, can move the needle for the entire Rx category and represent the difference between category growth and decline.”

Companies are skimping on spending for launches, presumably as marketers take their share of across-the-board cost-cutting exercises. But companies are also waiting longer to market new drugs to consumers, in accordance with PhRMA guidelines on DTC and in response to pressure from regulators. And an increasing share of launches are for narrow new indications, not new drugs, making for more targeted campaigns.

TNS also found TV spend on the upswing as marketers grow more comfortable with product and risk information requirements in the medium. Spending on TV accounted for 63% of all DTC spend for the period – up from 59% for all of 2007. Meanwhile, magazine advertising was down 19.5% for the year to date as advertisers sharply cut down on inserts while continuing to favor multi-page units.
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