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How Do You Define DTC?

Wendy Blackburn

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This top ic comes up a lot around my agency: How do you define DTC?

Of course, on the surface, DTC in the context of pharma marketing stands for "direct-to-consumer." Its roots likely go back to when FDA first approved the marketing of prescription products to U.S.consumers in the 1980’s.

John Mack’sPharma Marketing Glossary defines DTC as "The promotion of prescription drugs by pharmaceutical companies directly to consumers via broadcast and print media such as television, radio, magazines, billboards, and also the Internet." And according to a number of articles on the FDA website, FDA defines it as:

"Provided by drug companies, these ads are aimed at a general audience, and not at health care professionals such as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. The ads are broadcast on TV and radio, and published in magazines and newspapers. They also appear online."

But still, I hear many, many marketers make "DTC" synonymous with "T.V." And I think that’s an insult to all of the many other options for reaching consumers with information - and yes promotion - about pharmaceutical products.

Making DTC synonymous with TV assumes:

-Other channels aren’t direct

  • Other channels don’t reach consumers
  • Other channels don’t matter
  • FDA doesn’t care about other channels

Of course, none of the above are true.

TV can certainly be an effective way to reach mass audiences for the right product and disease category. But in this day and age, other channels matter. And other channels reach consumers. Often, other channels are more efficient options.

DTC. It’s one of many acronyms for which this industry is (in)famous. What does it mean to you?

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