Pharmaceutical Marketing Shifts Online

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Pharmaceutical companies plan to shift dollars to online advertising and away from television, radio and other traditional channels this year, two new surveys indicate.

Overall healthcare online ad spending will rise 23.5 percent in 2006, based on a survey of 1,200 advertisers by Outsell Inc., a research and advisory firm for the information industry in Burlingame, CA. Outsell talked with ad professionals responsible for spending in the business, healthcare and consumer markets.

"That growth rate is very interesting ... particularly in the healthcare market," Bette Brunelle, vice president and lead analyst with Outsell. "It is a conservative market ... but now they realize how important it [online advertising] is."

Spending on search engine marketing will climb 66 percent in the healthcare industry in 2006 versus 30 percent in consumer markets and 18 percent in the business category, the study said.

While the healthcare industry is shifting dollars online this year, ad executives plan to spend 2 percent less on television. Print ad spending is expected to grow 8 percent, and event marketing should rise 7.6 percent.

"Print is still healthy," Ms. Brunelle said. "Trade magazines are where there is a lot of growth, as well as print directories."

Separately, a survey from Medical Broadcasting Co., Philadelphia, and DTC Perspectives magazine suggests a shift in direct-to-consumer marketing in the next year from traditional ad venues to online advertising, search and e-mail. Higher spending on search was forecast by 81 percent of respondents. About 85 representatives from pharmaceutical companies, ad agencies and marketing services firms were surveyed.

The shift to online ad spending is prompted by a change in priorities in educating consumers. DTC marketing needs to focus more on disease education than on customer acquisition strategies, 77 percent said.

Difficulty in measuring the impact of DTC advertising and continued negative public opinion about the pharmaceutical industry are two important reasons behind the shift, MBC said.

That shift toward education will result in much less advertising on television, according to the survey. Fifty-eight percent projected less use of television, and nearly one-third said to expect declines in spending for event sponsorship and radio promotions.

Nearly 60 percent expected growth in the use of video on demand, and 50 percent saw a rise in mobile marketing, MBC said.

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