Yesterday I gave a brief talk at the DTC Perspectives conference held in New Jersey called DTC in the Era of Consumer Choice. I thought I’d outline a few of my thoughts on the future of DTC here as well.
I think that evidenced by the past interest of pharmaceutical market reformers in Congress, a group that is highly likely to increase in number after Tuesday, that reforms will be introduced into the new Congress that if passed, will substantially change DTC advertising and pharmaceutical marketing occur in the future, perhaps in 3 years making it a very different animal than it is today.
There will, for example, be renewed calls for moratoria on DTC advertising after a product is introduce to the market, with some proposing a term as long as 3 years. That kind of moratorium means that marketers may have to resort to other means to introduce a new treatment to patient and physician audiences because filling up the evening news with commercials about launches of new drugs. Even without any moratorium, changes to the way DTC is presented and review of same may become onerous enough to make it a less attractive means of marketing and of educating patient audiences.
That means that marketers should be considering new strategies that not only address the goals of marketing, but also consider the changes that are coincidently occurring in the way people are communicating. In other words, it is time to assess and adapt to both the changing regulatory and communications environments.
As one window closes, another opens. At a time when the rules around DTC are likely to be rewritten, at least to some degree, new opportunities are presenting themselves in the digital realm that may be highly effective in reaching target audiences and allow a viral spread of messages that is not only highly effective, but comparatively inexpensive. Companies like J&J have clearly gotten this and have clearly begun to initiate a digital strategy with the development of two YouTube channels, a blog and presence on Facebook. Their approach is not perfect, but they have been pioneering in this way in the same way that Pfizer has been very pioneering on issues related to transparency. With the coming political tide change, all companies would do well to take on both, become digitally literate, address regulatory concerns with digital, and get moving.