Ethnic ad agencies are getting more invitations to pitch for direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical accounts, even as sales executives for ethnic magazines win increased drug advertising.
In the past "we would get in the door but would be told they were advertising in other magazines and didn't target the black marketplace," said Barbara Britton, VP-national advertising director for Essence Communications' Essence. "Now they've got it."
In 2000, DTC ads accounted for 5% of Essence's business. For 2001, Ms. Britton projects a rise to 7%. New advertiser Roche Laboratories is running an unbranded ad in the March issue of Essence directing parents to visit a Web site to learn more about teen acne. Others new this year include Pfizer's Estrostep and Pharmacia & Upjohn's NasalCrom.
Essence isn't alone. Industry observers see a more concerted move by pharmaceutical marketers to reach ethnic groups.
"I'm going to project three years out, many marketers in America will begin to approach their plans in a different way. Instead of planning general and using leftover [money] for multicultural, we will see ground-up `I want to sell it to every person in America, not every white person in America,' " said Larry Moskowitz, director of strategic planning at Kang & Lee, New York, an Asian specialist agency owned by WPP Group's Young & Rubicam.
Mr. Moskowitz explained it this way: By the time he gets to his office in the morning, he's seen or heard AstraZeneca's "purple pill" advertising for Prilosec five or six times. "I know about the purple pill, so every dollar they're spending on me is wasted. In Flushing, Queens, Mr. Lee, a hard-driving entrepreneur with two cars in the driveway and acid reflux, is not seeing the purple pill advertisements."
Kang & Lee last year received nine invitations to educate pharmaceutical advertisers about the Asian-American market vs. none in 1999, Mr. Moskowitz said. So far this year, he has already held one educational seminar and has another planned.
Getting pharmaceutical companies to buy into ethnic markets is an education process. "We're really trying to get them to understand-it's a very different sell than a fashion sell," said Christy Haubegger, CEO of Latina Media Ventures, which publishes Latina. She believes the education is getting through and expects Latina to double its DTC ads this year to 50 pages. Advertisers include Pfizer's Vaniqua and Pharmacia's contraception drugs Lunelle and Depo-Provera.
At Kang & Lee sibling agency Bravo Group, its Spanish-language BravoMed healthcare division "has been invited to participate in a half-dozen new-business [DTC] pitches in the last three or four months," said Patricia Alvarez-Scutt, VP-account director.
Publishers and ad agencies say it's not just dollars, it's sense and responsibility that send them out knocking on pharmaceutical company doors.
Once information on drugs is directed toward these markets-in their native languages or at least using the faces of their communities-these consumers listen, Mr. Moskowitz said.
Schering-Plough Corp. allergy remedy "Claritin was very aggressive last year and the year before," said Lisa Quiroz, publisher of Time Inc.'s People en Espa¤ol. "They did a good amount of print and TV advertising. Marketing efforts sometimes center on educational programs.
Mr. Moskowitz said informational campaigns have been produced to target Asian-American markets and "that's exactly what's needed." Two campaigns, from GlaxoWellcome (now Glaxo-SmithKline) and Roche, were non-branded efforts and were created to build "relationships with doctors in the community, and provided in-language 800-numbers and informational brochures" for consumers, he said.
For Pfizer, BravoMed is conducting a community health initiative. The company is working on a non-branded informational outreach program that offers "ways of empowering the Hispanic population," said Ms. Alvarez-Scutt. The campaign does not mention a particular drug, but aims to raise disease-awareness and encourage people to seek out doctors.
"Pfizer has been interested not just in marketing products but in investing in how to get health messages out to Hispanics," Ms. Quiroz said. "It helps them build brand credibility and is an incredible public service." Ms. Quiroz is a member of Pfizer's Hispanic Corporate Advisory Board.
"One of the things that is easy to take for granted is that there are 5 million books to read in English and a whole host of magazines. For Hispanics [in the U.S.], there is a complete vacuum. [Pharma-ceutical companies have the chance] to communicate basic health messages," she said. "We've added a service and advice section in the magazine [about health, money, and love issues]. We recognize that our readers are more interested in learning about health information and they're looking for the magazine to provide a big service element."
"It's already getting divided up with specialty magazines, cable TV, the Internet-the old premise of mass marketing is gone," Mr. Moskowitz said. "The only color that matters should be green."