Internet Pharmaceutical Ads Prove Effective

A study by Cyber Dialogue on the return on investment from Internet pharmaceutical ads found online ads are more effective and give more bang for the buck.

In their attempt to influence the market of 34 million adults who request specific prescription medications from their doctors, pharmaceutical companies spent an estimated $915 million on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising in the first half of 1999, according to Cyber Dialogue. While $530 million was spent on television ads and $370 million spent on print, Internet advertising spending totaled an estimated $10 million — accounting for slightly more than one percent of total DTC spending.

Cyber Dialogue’s Cybercitizen Health survey found the return on investment (ROI) from drug sector expenditures reveals a dramatic difference in online versus offline effectiveness. According to the study, the amounts spent to drive a single specific drug request by a consumer differs greatly across the three media studied. The cost to a pharmaceutical company amounts to $220 per specific drug request for print ads, $197 per specific drug request for television ads, and $14 per specific drug request for the Internet .

The per prescription costs cited above do not reflect the total cost of generating a prescription request (which includes medical journal advertising, sales force detailing, public relations, etc.), but are an indicator of the power of the Internet to target and reach the growing number of health consumers online.

“These findings provide pharmaceutical product managers with a benchmark to help them to assess the relative value of their marketing dollar. More broadly, these data also underscore the necessity of a coherent, comprehensive Internet strategy at every company,” said Thaddeus Grimes-Gruczka, vice president of Cyber Dialogue’s Health Practice. “Businesses cannot afford to underestimate the impact of the Internet on health consumer behavior.”

Other Cyber Dialogue Cybercitizen Health findings include:

  • Of those consumers requesting a specific drug from their physician, the Internet spurred two percent of consumers to request a specific prescription drug from their doctor as compared to five percent who were influenced by print ads and eight percent from TV
  • Cyber Dialogue projects more than 33.5 million adults will seek health info online in 2000
  • Among the 89.5 million U.S. adults that indicate they take prescription drugs, 31 percent are currently online
  • 9.5 million adults currently taking prescriptions have already ordered products online
  • Adults retrieving drug information on the Internet are nearly twice as likely to have made a request from their doctor for specific brand-name drugs than the U.S. adult population at large.
  • 49 percent of adults seeking pharmaceutical information online report being very satisfied with the health information they gather online, versus 25 percent who are very satisfied with health information in magazines and newspapers and only 13 percent for television.

The Cybercitizen Health study is based on in-depth interviews with more than 2,700 US. adults. The study was fielded in July 1999 and is accurate within +/- 2.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.

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