Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Did Pharma Really Spend $3 Billion on Internet Advertising in 2015?

According to FiercePharma Marketing, "Digital ad spending last year was just shy of $60 billion, with pharma accounting for about $3 billion of that, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual ad revenue report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers" (read "Mobile Ad Spending Up, But Pharma's Share Remains Small"). Here's the data from IAB/PWC from which this conclusion was drawn:

Click on image for an enlarged view.

Without looking at the devil in the details, you might be impressed by that number considering that according to Kantar Media, pharma industry spending on direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising (excluding Internet DTC spending) totaled $5.4 billion in 2015 (read "Annual Spending on Direct-to-Consumer Drug Advertising Ties an All-Time High"). That would mean that pharma spent a total of $8.4 billion in 2015 and 36% of that was devoted to digital/Internet.

But the devil in the details puts the kibosh on that conclusion.

Firstly, not all of the $3 billion cited is specifically spent by the Rx drug industry because the category includes "pharmaceutical products, facilities, services, researchers, and biological products. Also comprises establishments providing healthcare and social assistance for individuals as well as personal care, toiletries, and cosmetic products." Considering that "personal care, toiletries, and cosmetic products" are in the mix, I estimate Rx ad spend was just 50% of $3 billion, or $1.5 billion.

Secondly, about 50% of that is devoted to search on mobile and non-mobile platforms.

Thirdly, not all of what remains was focused solely on consumers. Some ads were no doubt focused on HCPs; let's say 25%, which leaves us with 0.75 X 0.5 X $1.5 billion = $0.56 billion spent on consumer-focused digital advertising (excluding search).

Therefore, if you compare traditional media apples (measured DTC spending via traditional media, which is what Kantar measured) to Internet media apples (DTC display ads, etc., minus search), you get $5.4 billion vs. $0.56 billion; i.e., pharma digital DTC spending (excluding search) is only 10% of what it spends on traditional DTC ads.



  1. John: You are wise beyond your years. I an assure you that there is no way in hell pharma has spent that much.

  2. Sheryn MacMunn10:01 PM

    I agree with your numbers, John. Thanks for putting your thoughts together so concisely.


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