Drugs: Pills with own Web pages key to marketing

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Pharmaceutical companies and advertising agencies agree that TV and print will always be the first components of a direct-to-consumer campaign. But that doesn't mean Web sites get short shrift.

At least two pharmaceutical marketers said they have bolstered their online capabilities specifically for direct-to-consumer drugs.

"These are still difficult economic times, but we were able to figure the budget to the point where we increased online spending this year about 15%," said one e-business director for a major pharmaceutical company. "You have to consider this a viable part of your marketing."

Nearly every major pharmaceutical marketer has spun off a separate Web site for its major brands, such as Astra Zeneca's purplepill.com for its heartburn drug Nexium, or Pfizer's viagra.com for its erectile-dysfunction medication.

"People created these Web sites with the mind-set that they were like fabulous parties and people would automatically come," said Janet Carlson, president of New York-based One Eleven Interactive, an online pharmaceutical-marketing firm. "But it initially didn't happen. Now what we're trying to do is convey to them that it's like a 24/7 kiosk. We're trying to reach out to the consumer to say that information is always available."

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