Emotional Pharma DTC Marketing Is Highly Effective

The Pharma industry is waking up to the idea that emotional Pharma DTC marketing works. That is, when the emotional hook is well connected to the rational benefits of the brand. These ads will be noticed and are most likely to drive discussion with a doctor, which will result in a script. For example, recent Chantix ads that featured Ray Liotta were extremely effective. Positive reaction to the ad was not based on the delivery of facts, but rather on the establishment of "trust." If you go on YouTube, you will find an interview with Ray Liotta where he talks about doing these ads. He admits that he was paid well, but goes on to say that he wanted to do the ads because he really believes in the product. And he wants others like him to have a better future free from the fear of cancer. Ray's honesty comes through in these ads and it is highly effective.

Which Emotions Work Best?

For years, ad agencies have sought to substantiate the effectiveness of emotional Pharma DTC advertising. With the advent of more advanced research techniques, conclusive evidence has emerged. Our research demonstrates that Pharmaceutical ads that evoke emotional resonance are most likely to be successful.  The impact is nearly always greater than ads that focus mainly on rational benefits. DTC marketing that successfully conveys feelings of "leadership," "honesty," "trust," and "love" is more likely to resonate with the audience. The emotional context captivates the patient, prompting them to actively seek assistance.

Connecting the Emotion to Brand Cues

Not to overstate the role of the emotional hook, it is also critical that the ad has a strong connection to the brand so that when the patient talks with their doctor, they can identify the brand. This is demonstrated by Ray's role in the Chantix advertising.  If a patient references him connected to problems with smoking, the doctor understands the connection to Chantix. However, By comparison, it was necessary for Eli Lilly had to establish the "tubs" as a brand cue. Once that connection was made, patients no longer needed to remember the brand name, Cialis. It is easier for patients to remember cues like these than brand names.

Why Emotional DTC Marketing Is So Effective

The primary task of DTC advertising is to educate patients about treatment options available to them... but, as with advertising for all categories, the first task is to get their attention. In the early days of DTC, much of the advertising took a highly rational approach. And it was not very effective. Or in some cases, it took the wrong emotional approach. For example, when Lipitor ads stressed the fear of a heart attack, CV patients tuned it out. They did not want to be scared. "Fear" is not a motivator of patient action; "love" is. This is demonstrated by the very positive emotional theme developed by Brilinta advertising feature Bob Harper. With celebrity recognition, Harper shows how treating his condition helps his family.
When talking with a doctor, patient involvement in the selection of a therapeutic approach varies by category. In many categories patients play a key role in the selection of the therapy for their condition.  Especially in the CNS, Respiratory and oncology categories, our research clearly shows that patient involvement is extremely important.  These patients will typically look for information outside of the doctors office and use this as part of their discussions.  Thus patient education and marketing will play a crucial role in patient/doctor discussions.  This leads to strong ROI (2:1 to 5:1 return on investment) 

Vraylar Portrays The Emotional Roller Coaster of BPD

Vraylar demonstrates how emotional DTC advertising can catch patient attention. But it also flags the potential backlash to the emotional approach. In the an early Vralyar TV ad, we saw how a woman was riding the emotional waves of her condition. Allergan executives working on the campaign noted that "the intention is to help more people who may be living with the condition recognize the symptoms and talk to their doctors to seek appropriate treatment.” However, the ad risked disconnected with patients because it evokes feels of "fear." Patients in this category already experience acute fear. They avoid feeling it.
Taking An Elevator Up and Down - Sparks Unacceptable Fear?

Patient Suffering Is Highly Emotional

Patients experience a diverse array of emotions in connection to their health conditions. In the development of DTC marketing, companies should carefully weigh the emotional triggers that align with the nature of their category. For instance, cancer patients seek "hope" and may respond unfavorably to communication that evokes "fear." Similarly, cardiovascular (CV) patients also grapple with fear. Initial advertising efforts by Lipitor proved ineffective as they attempted to instill fear in patients. One such ad showed a family around a table where one chair was empty.  Suggesting a family member had died.  Our testing showed that response to this ad was very negative.  CV patients seek "reassurance" and positively respond to marketing that portrays positive familial relationships.
Pharma can take lessons from the approaches used in the CNS category many years ago. We learned that a stress on "fear" is not successful. Unlike ads for other depression medications, Zoloft empathized with the patient and showed that there was hope for their condition.  The ad uses a cartoon to humanize depression for patients, showing them that they were not to blame for the condition. More recently, Abilify showed how patients could overcome the gloom of their lives. Both campaigns gave patients a sense of "honesty" and "love" most likely to trigger action.

Poor Communication in the Diabetes Category

DTC advertising falls short in certain categories due to a failure to target the right emotional triggers, with diabetes serving as a prominent example. The disease affects over 25 million Americans, and while a significant number manage their condition effectively, a majority do not. Despite pharmaceutical companies investing substantial amounts in advertising to reach these patients, the overall effectiveness is limited. The primary reason behind this lack of impact is the emphasis on the rational benefits of the medication, such as A1C, which fails to resonate with many individuals grappling with the condition.  While patients may recognize that this information is true, it does not inspire them to properly treat the condition.
In a major segmentation project, we found that a very large group of diabetes patients ignore DTC advertising which stresses functional benefits. For these patients, the primary emotional associations related to the condition are "failure/stigma" and "hopelessness." They often feel that they brought this problem on themselves. They avoid information that reminds them of their failure.

Emotional DTC Marketing Can Address The Diabetes Epidemic

Pharmaceutical companies can play a crucial role in tackling the diabetes epidemic. By strategically leveraging their communication efforts, they can reassure individuals with diabetes that they bear no blame for their condition.  They should inspire hope. The effectiveness of emotional direct-to-consumer (DTC) marketing becomes evident as it resonates with our emotions, alleviating fears and fostering trust. While providing information about available treatment options is vital, instilling belief in the effectiveness of these treatments stands as the pivotal first step.  Resulting in the outcome of hope.