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Beyond the spurt in direct-to-consumer prescription drug spending, advertisers increasingly are examining narrowly targeted place-based media as a relevant part of the marketing mix.

"Of the nearly 100 brands advertising in DTC media, not many have been able to sustain the mass spending of the 'TV brands'," says Frank Hone, exec VP-management director of Rubin Ehrenthal & Associates, New York.

Mr. Hone is referring to drugs that have been backed by multi-million-dollar TV campaigns, such as Schering-Plough Corp.'s Claritin.

"[Placed-based media] are a good way to maintain an ongoing relationship with the customer and deliver a patient-directed marketing program," Mr. Hone says.


One player experiencing growth in the place-based arena is the quarterly MediZine Guidebook, a free publication distributed at pharmacy counters. The publication's editorial content focuses on various diseases and treatments.

Since its launch in 1994, MediZine has more than doubled its circulation, reaching a distribution of three million copies per issue. Accounting for the switch in mid-1998 to a quarterly from an every-other-monthly schedule, MediZine expects to hike up its total circulation to 12 million copies in 1999.

According to MediZine President Trever Hutchins, the publication is customized for its drugstore-chain clients. Distribution includes Albertson's, American Drug Stores, CVS Corp., Kroger Co. and Rite Aid Corp. For its advertisers, including Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., Johnson & Johnson, Warner Lambert Co.'s Parke-Davis Group, Pfizer and Searle & Co., MediZine also provides couponing, sampling and database tools.


Next month MediZine -- prompted by advertisers' requests -- will begin distribution to 75,000 physicians' offices. Mr. Hutchins cites the average waiting time of 45 minutes in a doctor's office as an "ideal educational opportunity" for a drug advertiser to reach the patient.

Charlie Smith, senior director of consumer marketing at Searle, agrees that in the era of a more proactive consumer seeking out healthcare information, pharmacies and physicians' offices remain "very relevant vehicles" for the DTC message.

"We are very excited about MediZine being in doctors' offices," says Mr. Smith.

He points out the move is useful, but "nothing new."

In fact, now MediZine will compete with Data Centrum Communications' Health Monitor newsletters. Established in 1994, Health Monitor publishes 10 editions, each with advertising and editorial content focused on a topic such as cancer care, diabetes, arthritis or heart care.


The every-other-monthly newsletters have a circulation of 4.5 million per issue, according to a BPA International audit, and also are distributed to 75,000 physicians' offices. Advertisers include Glaxo Wellcome, Pfizer, Schering-Plough Corp. and SmithKline Beecham.

Eric Jensen, publisher of Health Monitor, says the newsletter's content carries additional credibility with patients and professionals because it is reviewed by the American Academy of Family Physicians Foundation and features its seal on the cover.

"We've seen competitors come and go before," says Mr. Jensen. "We think we are doing it the right way by targeting our editions."

And how do free place-based publications compare with traditional print media? In an effort to make it easier for advertisers to compare MediZine with paid consumer publications, it is working with Douglas/Jones Group on a publisher's estimate of MediZine's readership, with a full audit from Mediamark Research Inc. to follow in the spring.

For similar reasons, Health Monitor's BPA audit includes not only its circulation but also the take-away percentage, cited by Mr. Jensen at 93%.


"In the context of a loop of communications, targeted media can only work successfully with an integrated mix," says John Singer, senior VP-corporate communications at Lowe McAdams Healthcare, New York. "You have to be delivering a unified message across all distribution channels."

Mr. Hutchins says he hears advertisers' urgent requests for measurable results.

"There is a very strong call out there from the drug companies to identify quantifiably what's working and what's not, " says Mr. Hutchins.

But where measurable return on investment is concerned, narrowly targeted publications claim to have a quantifiable advantage for advertisers. According to the information gathered from reader response cards, readers of both publications have considerably higher disease profiles and disease state interest than the U.S. average.


With the numbers showing the readership to be more responsive to the advertisers' message, Mr. Hutchins says targeted media are the prescription for an effective DTC communication because they allows the drug advertiser to speak to the right patient at the right time.

"With this marketing program, an advertiser reaches an information seeker in a vertical disease state at the time when he wants to take the next step," he

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