As direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising spend continues to increase (to $4.5 billion in 2014, according to MM&M), the billion-dollar question remains: Are pharmaceutical marketers effectively engaging the right audience?

Through its 2015 New Realities study, ID Media surveyed a sample population of pharmaceutical consumers that was composed of both prescription users and non-Rx users. The study aimed to determine who Rx users are both in their demographics and in their behaviors, how that population consumes information about prescription medicines and how they feel about that information.

Who are Rx users? The study found that 44% of the population uses prescription medicines—35% of men and 52% of women take prescription drugs. In general, women outpaced men in every age group in terms of Rx use. As expected, prescription use also increases with age: 60% of men and 77% of women between the ages of 53 years old and 62 years old use prescription drugs.

The biggest surprise from the study was how invested men are in their health. Traditional thought indicates that men are not interested in health-related issues; rather, it is women who are the primary household caretakers. The study, however, found that men actually take a vested interest in their own health. Sixty-eight percent of men surveyed strongly agreed that they recognized it was their responsibility to inform themselves about the medicine their doctor recommended. By comparison, only 60% of women strongly agreed with the same statement.

This same population of men was also more receptive to DTC advertising than were their female counterparts. Thirty-six percent of men “strongly agreed” that TV, print and online advertising stimulates them to ask their doctor for more information. Forty-four percent of millennial men, who are between the ages of 18 and 35 years old, strongly agreed that DTC ads spur them into action.

Who is seeking out information? Not only are men more receptive to pharmaceutical advertising, they are also more active in researching medical conditions and treatments than previously thought. In particular, they rely on resources like medical websites for general information on prescription drugs (45% strongly agreed with this) and brand websites for more granular detail (48% strongly agreed).

Millennial men, especially those aged 26 to 34 years old, were outliers in their response to branded healthcare information. The study’s findings include:

1. Millennial men aged 26 to 34 years old responded very positively to TV, print and online advertising, with 64% strongly agreeing that DTC ads stimulated them to ask doctors for more information about Rx drugs.

2. Seventy-one percent of this demographic strongly relies on information published by general online medical websites to make decisions about their healthcare.

3. Sixty-four percent of millennial men research prescriptions on brand websites.

So what does all this mean? DTC advertising typically skews female, as women are traditionally thought of as the primary caretakers in the household. However, we now know that men—most surprisingly, millennial men—take a primary role in decision making regarding their health.

To ensure future growth of their products, then, pharmaceutical marketers must make men a primary target for their media. Not only should creative be modified to be more male-friendly—as brands like Eliquis, Prilosec and Enbrel masterfully demonstrated in their most recent TV spots—but it must also target the audience where and when they consume media. Successfully engaging the undertargeted male audience can mean major market share gains for a brand.

Michael Baliber is SVP and director of media strategy at ID Media.