How will COVID-19 impact pharma’s DTC efforts going forward?

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In addition to increased scrutiny on appropriate tone and message in light of social distancing and stay-at-home mandates, tactically, we’re already seeing the impact with brands like Linzess reinforcing telemedicine opportunities by shifting their tagline to “You may be able to talk to your doctor about your symptoms online.” Patient/physician communication, already compromised by time constraints and mixed messages, will take on new challenges as people will be reluctant to be physically in a HCP’s office. Many have referred to the pandemic as a forced “reset” of how we move forward. In terms of DTC efforts, I think we will see, and should see, more emphasis on patient education and disease state information, since we all have a responsibility to positively influence health and wellness – two topics that will be top of mind now more than ever.

– Mary Brown, senior VP and managing director, Ogilvy Health


For bigger brands, I see an increase in the focus on DTC TV’s ability to deliver mass reach and to drive patients to talk to their doctors about treatments which, in turn, drives awareness in HCPs. As previously stated, I expect a shift in spend from linear TV to OTT, which is more targeted. Due to the increase in inventory from an increase in streaming, brand marketers can take advantage of lower than usual CPMs. I also expect bigger pharma brands to invest more in digital tactics to take advantage of the targetability and leverage OTT data to continue the conversation with patients on multiple screens.

Smaller brands will increase their investment in digital based on its increased targetability and ability to deliver the right message to a relevant patient audience. Display, paid search, and social are all assets that can be quickly updated and implemented.

One change in the overall approach that brand managers will need to think about during COVID-19 is how to bridge the gap between patients and HCPs. If doctor’s offices are closed or hours are limited based on local stay-at-home policies, what can the brand manager do to help drive the conversation toward Rx? One idea will be to start to leverage opportunities such as telehealth and support services organizations, or partnering with companies that will allow a doctor to reach out directly to the patient to get them on Rx.

Brand managers also need to think through how their brand becomes an asset to patients currently on Rx. They should actively reach out to patients to address concerns such as drug availability and treatment options, and look for opportunities such as surveys and online focus groups to understand pain points of current patients and develop opportunities to support them during these times.

– Mike Lodge, senior omnichannel strategist, Cambridge BioMarketing