FDA crackdown on TV ads emphasizes patient perspective in marketing

When discussing the patient perspective in healthcare marketing, advertisers are usually urged to adapt to concerns and questions of a medically naive patient to then craft materials from that viewpoint. Many marketing professionals view multi-channel marketing strategies as the best way to engage with modern consumers, but such an intimate knowledge of consumer behaviors and desires is also an effective way to avoid penalties from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

According to a recent filing in the Federal Register, the FDA is planning on studying how consumers are affected by television advertisements for pharmaceuticals. In particular, the FDA will investigate whether viewers can comprehend the level of risk inherent in each product from broadcast advertisements, and some experts believe the results could have a strong impact on direct-to-consumer advertising in the future.

FDA and the airwaves
The prospective FDA study would use three distinct experimental groups filled with participants who would view mock DTC ads at differing frequencies during a 42-minute television program. One group would view the advertisement only once, while the most frequently screened group would see the same clip six times.

The FDA noted in the study proposal that the first viewing of an advertisement captures consumers' attentions, while the second actually imparts information. Researchers will measure perception, memory and judgment on the mock advertisements.

"When DTC advertising was first approved by the FDA, the model was that patients would see an ad on TV and ask their doctor for or about the product," Richard Meyer, director of Online Strategic Solutions, told the Wall Street Journal. "That model is no longer valid. Patients are reading the risks and deciding if it is a product they want to consider."

Don't give up on multi-channel marketing
Increased scrutiny from the FDA has caused some squeamish marketers to shy away from digital spheres of healthcare marketing. The New York Times reported that, from 2007 to 2011, budgets for television advertising fell 23 percent from just under $3 billion to $2.4 billion. 

However, engaging with the modern consumer requires targeted and personalized educational materials delivered across every platform accessible to the patient. In a patient-centric world of medicine, outreach materials should cater to every individual's preference - whether that be for digital or physical content, or perhaps a mix of both.