Generics and the DTC media outlook

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How will generic erosion to prescription drug brands (such as Zoloft, Zocor, Pravachol)—as well as generic threats (Plavix and Norvasc)—affect spending on direct-to-consumer advertising?

AJ Storinge
Managing partner, strategic planning dir.,

It is a challenge to forecast the impact of generic erosion, or other pressures in the market, upon the DTC media landscape. However, the strength of new product pipelines does give us a sense of how robust spending will be in the next 3-5 years. The high level of competition, fewer ad dollars and limited number of blockbuster launches is forcing DTC marketers to evolve to a level of innovation and media creativity that goes beyond the traditional “spots and dots” media plans. This is also driving the development of new research to gain ROI insights across all channels since each dollar needs to work harder. The pressure is constant to find innovative ways to break through the DTC media “sea of sameness.” In today’s market, embracing the consumer and building a brand’s communication architecture that effectively makes connections is the key in driving continued success.

Bob Greene
Director of media services
The Cement Works

DTC has been dominated by blockbuster products, appealing to a large population. More targeted DTP efforts are also employed to develop patient loyalty. Generic erosion of branded sales has generally been driven by pricing issues. A reduction in consumer spending will occur due to competitive forces, but greater emphasis on DTP efforts can increase existing loyalty and help maintain sales. DTP loyalty and incentive programs can maintain and expand branded patient populations by blunting the pricing pressure, improving compliance and offering assistance and information not available with a generic switch. We are firm advocates of integrated communication venues, including use of e-media, place-based and patient-oriented print. These, combined with professional ads, have proven invaluable.

Lynn Fantom
ID Media

If brand managers of off-patent drugs follow traditional protocol, DTC will plummet. But what is different about today’s media environment that indicates there may be opportunities, through lower-cost ads, to extend a blockbuster’s life? The proliferation of cable networks has yielded such an inventory that innovative brand managers can save significantly by making pre-emptible buys in broad rotations and using TV to stimulate a Web visit where the brand can offer a value proposition that combines lifestyle content with financial incentives provided—for example, by partners in the weight loss or exercise equipment categories. We’ve been hearing a lot about consumers in control. This extends to patients who speak to docs about the value of a brand that’s “more than medication.” Through a mix of price reduction and consumer engagement, there may be life beyond patent expiry.

Jake Yarbrough
Group director
GCG Healthcare

Brands sprang forth from a need to differentiate products with similar attributes. And there will always be a need to differentiate products and establish trust with customers. We will see generic intrusion have an impact on DTC ads in two primary ways—via a strategic modification of messaging to reinforce the need to trust the branded drug and through a slight increase in media spend from branded products to expand frequency against the drug’s target patients. Regardless of what happens, successful products will continue to leverage the intimate doc/patient relationship. We have been very successful doing just that through innovative tools we have created. The more a manufacturer can provide meaningful connections, the less it will need to compete directly with generics.
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