Pharma's share of US online adspend stuck at 4%, says study

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Drug industry advertising spend is set to make up just 4% of all US online ad spend through 2014 as regulatory uncertainty hinders investment, an eMarketer forecast says.

The firm's analysis, which drew on data from Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers along with research from other sources, anticipates that pharma online ad spend will rise 10.6% to hit $1 billion this year and grow to $1.5 billion in 2014.

That's steady, double-digit year-on-year growth, but it's not enough to make online advertising more than a wafer-thin slice of the overall marketing mix.

 “Online DTC marketing will grow as a piece of the promotional spending pie, but not dramatically,” the eMarketer report concluded. “Though the marketing mix is slowly shifting toward digital tactics, DTC advertising will remain rooted in traditional media over the next several years.”

The firm identifies FDA enforcement fears as the primary culprit, along with a steep learning curve, noting the industry's poor performance in a recent “Digital IQ” analysis by think tank L2 and stating: “Sophisticated digital and social marketing has yet to become widespread at the brand level.”

For what it's worth, as eMarketer notes, Forrester Research, which doesn't use the IAB data as a benchmark, has issued a much more rosy forecast of $1.5 billion in online ad spend for pharmas in 2010, and there are digital marketing experts who think the industry is ahead of the curve online.

The eMarketer forecast covers online advertising in banner ads, search, rich media, video, classified, sponsorships, lead generation and email, but excludes mobile.
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