Pharmaceutical TV advertising

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

25 April 2019

Pharmaceutical TV advertising: Why so much of it?

Has anyone else noticed how crazy pharmaceutical TV advertising has become?

I’m not talking about the often outright goofiness. I’m talking about targeting a prospect base.

Just a few of the pharma ads that pop up on my TV EVERY night. Jardiance, Toujeo, Trulicity, Victoza, Otezla, Humira, Cosentyx, Ozempic, Lyrica, Chantix and Entresto. And that’s just a few of them. It seems there’s more pharmaceutical TV advertising more now than ever.

Age-targeted pharmaceutical TV advertising

OK, so I do worry that this is a product of me becoming old. I’m guessing these companies target the shows I watch. And my age demographic is more favorable to drugs treating maladies.

Pharmaceutical TV advertisingI certainly understand all the media spend on NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) like Aleve and Motrin. As you age, aches and pains are everywhere.

Somehow, I would expect them to be missing from the favorite shows of Millennials. That is, if they have not already completely cut the cord on cable.

But the state of today’s pharmaceutical TV advertising flies in the face of mass marketing.

Patients can’t chose them

The patient has influence over the use of over the counter drugs. But the pharmaceuticals being advertised here all require a prescription. So there are two levels of influence over their use. 1) Your doctor. 2) Your medical insurance provider.

Each of these provides a bullet-proof veto when you request a certain drug.

No matter how well informed a patient you are, if you have no faith in your MD you are searching for an MD you do trust.

Insurance? Well, that’s a topic for a different rant.

It’s the use of TV that confuses me

Some of the pharmaceuticals I see on TV have large enough audiences to justify the use of a mass-market medium like TV.

Two thirds of the US population is obese. And obesity leads to type 2 diabetes (diabetes mellitus). So I get why Novo Nordisk pushes Ozempic and its earworm song on TV. Sadly, you know the tune — “Oh, oh ,oh, Ozempic.”



And I get Chantix. Lots of smokers want to quit and Ray Liotta is a good spokesperson. I don’t feel that the smoking turkey Chantix previously used is nearly as memorable. But I’m not a great judge as I don’t smoke and Ray was more interesting to me than a CGI turkey.

So I get that pharmaceutical TV advertising. They each are a response to a widespread condition that you could discuss with your doctor. The need justifies the media expense.



“Those numbers suggest 97% of the viewers have no need of it. And the three percent that does has the same influencers we all do with medications. The MD’s preference and your insurance carrier’s desire to use older and cheaper meds.”

But what about plaque psoriasis?

I’m not a sufferer of plaque psoriasis. But the commercials are so constant that I notice them all the time.

So my assumption is simple. I guess lots of Baby Boomers suffer from the disease. I would imagine it is both painful and embarrassing because I hear (on the TV commercials) that it’s linked to a certain type of arthritis. Must be an age-reflated problem like type 2 diabetes.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

How do they justify the cost?

About 125 million people worldwide suffer from the disease. Eight million Americans. (Including Cyndi Lauper.) And, if you’ve got it, it’s no doubt a real concern. But that is only 2-3 percent of the total US population.

The ad spend seems to be a waste. Unless every MD in the country is watching the same TV programing as I, those pharmaceuticals are just throwing up dust in the wind.

Those numbers suggest 97% of the viewers have no need of it. And the three percent that does has the same influencers we all do with medications. The MD’s preference and your insurance carrier’s desire to use older and cheaper meds.

My only guess is that these drugs have margins so great that they justify the ad expense. (If so, then we DO need socialized medicine.)

If you know why these companies do this, please start a conversation below. I’m as interested as anyone.

See more posts in the following related categories: Branding pharmaceuticals


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