Professional Ad Report: On the Up

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This is the part of MM&M where, normally, you would expect to read about the continued decline of medical publishing because of further evaporation of professional advertising expenditures. Not this time.

Almost everywhere you look, the news is good, or, at the very least, better. Overall the total healthcare market (including pharmacy, nurse practioners/physician assistants, managed care, etc) grew by 7.2% to $332.5 million for the first half of 2010. Medical/surgical spending was up 14.3% to $179.6 million, while pharmaceutical spending rose by 13.7% to $184.5 million between January and June. Meanwhile, the Top 100 most advertised pharmaceuticals increased expenditures by a whopping 69.4% to $119.4 million.

Before publishing execs begin launching new print titles and taking lavish lunches, it's worth bearing in mind that revenues are still around 20% short of 2008 levels. Nevertheless, it's been a long time since there has been any good news at all, so the upturn is welcome.

Multi-specialty titles, somewhat surprisingly, led the rebound with 29% year-on-year growth, representing $13.5 million more in the market. Internal medicine, pediatrics, rheumatology and oncology rounded out the top five performing markets in terms of dollar growth over 2009. Of the 38 markets tracked by Kantar Media, 23 showed growth, with nursing—and its dwindling print recruitment advertising base—having the biggest negative impact on ad dollars.

At the individual publication level, the market leaders had an extraordinary first six months of the year, recording both revenue and page-count hikes of anything from 20% to 50%. For instance, number one title, The New England Journal of Medicine, posted almost 500 additional pages in the first half of the year (up 42%), while number two, the Journal of the American Medical Association, did even better with a 54.4% explosion in ad pages.
Meanwhile, American Family Physician bulked up by 45.6%, Monthly Prescribing Reference went up 28.8% and Family Practice News saw an increase of 22%.

So what's been going on this year to cause such a reversal of fortunes? Alan Imhoff, president of IMNG Elsevier, the largest medical publisher in terms of ad revenues, thinks there are a number of factors at play. “There is still uncertainty about how pharma can use the web to promote [brands], particularly when it comes to things like search, so I think that some monies that might have been originally earmarked for digital promotion went to print instead,” says Imhoff, whose company enjoyed a 7.2% gain in ad pages for the first six months of the year.

“Related to that, there isn't a lot of inventory on the digital side, and most of it is sold. Additionally, there have been some significant new products this year, and going against most of the predictions they have been primary care products as well as specialty products, and we have some good old fashioned competition in some categories.”
Other notable gainers were the McMahon Group (up 30% in ad pages), Quadrant HealthCom (up 12%), Jobson Medical Group (up 10%) and Slack Incorporated (up 6% in pages).

Pharma companies
Pfizer (including its subsidiary companies) is—just by a whisker— the top professional advertiser in the first half of 2010, almost back at 2008 levels with $21.4 million, representing a 47% increase over the previous year. Forest Pharmaceuticals is right on Pfizer's heels, with 58% growth to $20.8 million. Next is Novartis, which jumped up from 7th to 3rd on the back of a massive 79% increased in ad outlays.

The biggest increase in the top 10 was by Sanofi-Aventis which spent 156.3% more than in the first six months of 2009. While the top two, Pfizer and Forest, together make up more than 20% of pharma professional spend, collectively the top 10 biggest spenders account for one-half of pharma outlays, having bumped up spending by 45.9% this year.

The top 25 products accounted for just under 20% of all ad spend in the market, with $65.4 million in ad spend. It's quite remarkable that Forest owns the three most-advertised brands—Savella, Lexapro and Bystolic—plus the number nine brand to boot (Namenda) and yet, as we've already discussed, Pfizer is the (slightly) bigger advertiser with a greater depth to its portfolio.

Interestingly, eight of the top 25 brands had no advertising in first half of 2008, and seven did not advertise the first six months of 2009. Hence, this group added $15.5 million in new advertiser ad spend.

New products (or at least new indications/new messaging) continue to help drive the market. Only one of last year's top 10, Abbott's Trilipix, dropped out of the top 25 (to 85th); two of 2008's top 10 also left the top 25 (Lilly's Cymbalta, and Janssen's Invega).
The future
Kantar Media has recently launched an online tracking service and, according to Dave Emery, VP media sales and client service, professional health, an early glance at the data shows Lilly's Cymbalta is the most widely advertised brand on professional health sites this year.

“There doesn't appear to be a ton of overlap between the top print advertisers and those that seem to be spending online,” he says of the initial numbers.

Emery says he is not surprised by the reversal of fortunes in medical publishing. “Our research documents that medical journals in print and online continue to offer pharma marketers an unbeatable combination of reach, frequency of exposure and importance as an information source among the physicians they're trying to communicate with,” he says. “Doctors read their professional publications as frequently and thoroughly today as in the past; they're supplementing them, not replacing them, with a growing range of other information options. So it's no surprise that—even in the increasingly complex, multimedia environment that everyone in healthcare is operating within these days—that leading brands and leading companies are increasing their investment in a proven promotional tactic like journal advertising. It's cost-effective, and it works.”

IMNG Elsevier's Imhoff believes print still has a lot to offer, too. “Let's face it, advertising works,” he says. “All the data indicates doctors still read and get most of their information from publications, and it's hard to launch a product without print.” And “the pages keep coming,” according to Imhoff. “I think the second half might be stronger than the first. It will be interesting to see how things pan out in 2011. There may yet be clarification on the digital dos and don'ts, but I think we'll see a relatively strong market next year as well.”
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