DRUG ADS ARE A KEY TO MAGAZINES' HEALTH

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Direct-to-consumer campaigns for prescription drugs have played a key part in consumer magazines' record ad revenues over the past two years, and most industry observers expect the bounty to continue.

Ad pages for prescription medications were up 65% to 4,428.79 in 1996, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

"What you have is an entirely new paradigm emerging," said Ed Tedeschi, partner at Messner Vetere Berger McNamee Schmetterer/Euro RSCG, New York.

"Creating consumer demand for prescription pharmaceuticals is now an attainable marketing objective," said Mr. Tedeschi, whose agency handles Abbott Laboratories and G.D. Searle & Co.

He estimates DTC advertising will hit $700 million in all media when the final numbers are tallied for '96, with about 75% going to magazines.

Mr. Tedeschi said 1995 marked a dramatic crossroads for drug marketers, the first year their DTC ads outpaced advertising to the medical and pharmaceutical professions.

"It's been our fastest-growing category over the last five years," said Jack Haire, publisher of Time, which was third among consumer magazines last year for prescription remedy ad pages, at a total of 202.72.

BOON TO MEREDITH

Jerry Kaplan, VP-group sales at Meredith Corp.'s Better Homes & Gardens and Ladies' Home Journal, said the category growth has been "explosive" for the women's service magazines. Better Homes alone scored 115.67 ad pages for prescription drugs in '96.

The bounty is being shared by most of the mass-circulation books, including the Seven Sisters, news-weeklies and other vehicles such as TV Guide, Reader's Digest and People.

Special-interest health magazines including Prevention, Health and American Health for Women are also benefiting.

No one is willing to speak publicly about how much of a discount publishers are giving on the additional b&w pages needed for the "brief summary" required by the Food & Drug Administration, but industry executives estimate the page runs at discounts of anywhere from 30% to 50% off most publishers' normal b&w page rates.

"I don't think anyone is making any money on" the contraindication disclosure page, said one publisher.

The FDA is likely to have an impact on future prospects for DTC advertising. If "regulations are relaxed to permit more television, I think all of media would benefit," Mr. Tedeschi said. An "explosion in broadcast would be followed by a second explosion in print and then by direct marketing."

At least one publisher worried that more TV would siphon money from print.

"All magazines would lose revenue" to TV, he warned, "but the biggest losses would come from the big-reach magazines."

"We'd still get a very big part of their business," countered Carlo Vittorini, publisher of Parade, which drew more than 10% of its ad revenue from

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