DTC spend leveling off, marketers say

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DTC spending may have hit a plateau, according to research firm Optas, but integrated direct-to-patient programs combining in-office, e-mail and Web channels will see significant growth. 

The firm's annual survey of DTC marketers found that 55% of respondents said they expected spending on consumer advertising to remain flat or fall in 2006. Among manufacturers, that number rose to 68%. Three-fifths of respondents said marketers should spend less on national TV advertising. 
Paul Buta, vice president for the Dendrite company, said consumer and physician backlash loomed large in the minds of DTC marketers. “As a result, we're seeing many DTC marketers turning to more integrated marketing approaches that target direct-to-patient or direct-to-physician approaches, rather than the mass-market, television advertising approach of the past.”

But concerns over government regulation were the biggest factor, being cited by three-fifths of respondents as their overriding concern.  

Asked where marketers should be spending more, 65% said Web sites, while pharmacy and doctor's-office programs came in second, with 58% saying there should be more spending on these channels. 
Patient education and assistance programs are expected to drive spending in 2006, with 81% of respondents projecting spend on patient education materials, 54% planning to use newsletters, 53% planning patient assistance ads and 50% more patient education events.  

Those marketers decreasing spend said they were more likely to spend on rebates or coupons and patient assistance programs than those increasing spending but were also more likely to use mass media and DRTV to reach consumers. Those increasing spending were more disposed toward patient education events —a more expensive proposition. 

The survey's 118 respondents were divided between manufacturers (32% of respondents), consultants (31%), agency execs (23%) and others (14%). 
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