Still, publishers and advertisers are predicting that print and TV spending soon will balance out.
Only two years ago, direct-to-consumer prescription drug advertising in print vehicles brought in more than double the revenue of TV advertising, and magazines were enjoying unprecedented growth in the pharmaceutical category.
MAGAZINE SPENDING DIP
According to Competitive Media Reporting, through November 1998, magazines took in $458.5 million in pharmaceutical advertising compared with $521.7 million during the same time period in 1997. Newspaper ad spending was $54 million for the period, a drop from the $83.8 million earned during the same time the year before.
Meanwhile, network TV won a whopping $393.9 million through November 1998 compared with $156.2 million through November 1997. Spot, syndication and cable TV also saw huge gains: $49.6 million from $34.9 million, $32.8 million from $13.3 million and $147.6 million from $67.1 million, respectively.
Consumer magazines' stronghold started slipping in the summer of 1997, when Food & Drug Administration relaxed its rules regarding TV advertising.
"The lure of TV is huge for these guys -- they told me that," says People Publisher Peter Bauer, referring to DTC marketers. "They were anxious to have the opportunity [to use TV] -- when they got the opportunity, they jumped at it."
DTC HITS $1.24 BILLION
Through November of last year, TV had overtaken newspapers and magazines. CMR estimates total DTC advertising through November 1998 -- led by TV's growth -- reached a record $1.24 billion.
Consumer magazines last year watched drug advertising falter 2.2%, to 9,270.68 pages, according to Publishers Information Bureau, which follows magazine ad trends. Pharmaceutical was the magazine industry's seventh-largest category in terms of pages -- trailing direct-response companies, automotive, computers/software and ready-to-wear.
Although magazine numbers were down last year, many titles, including health-related books such as Rodale Press' Prevention and Men's Health, recorded strong increases in DTC business. Large consumer books such as Time Inc.'s Time and People and Washington Post Co.'s Newsweek saw declines in pharmaceutical advertising.
'LIFE' GETS LIFT
But others, such as Time Inc.'s Life, achieved high double-digit gains.
Life and other titles were actually helped along by stronger TV advertising, as FDA rules require that TV commercials for prescription drugs reference more-detailed product information in magazine ads.
"See our ad in Life magazine" has become a familiar refrain in broadcast ads.
Life's DTC prescription drug ad pages shot up 85.1% in 1998 to 137.36 pages, according to PIB.
While prescription drug marketers continue flocking to TV, some marketers -- such as Schering-Plough Corp. -- will continue to rely on print.
"Our sense is that print is always going to be a part of the mix for any smart company. With print, you can deliver more depth, more information than you ever could with broadcast," says Matt Giegerich, president of the Quantam Group, Parsippany, N.J.
Quantam handles Schering-Plough's allergy remedy Claritin, Eli Lilly & Co.'s Evista for osteoporosis and SmithKline Beecham's diabetes drug Avandia.
REACH A NICHE
Mr. Giegerich says that by using print, marketers can target narrow segments of the population -- a harder trick to pull off with TV, where reaching the masses is the name of the game.
"We will see print used in a very focused way, much more smartly than in the past. I think that for the narrower audience, print continues to make a lot of sense," says Mike Guarini, managing director of Ogilvy Healthcare, New York, the healthcare marketing arm of Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. Ogilvy Healthcare's clients include Merck & Co., marketer of the HIV/AIDS drug Crixivan and hair-loss remedy Propecia.
Mr. Guarini says marketers looking to provide more detailed information on their products, and those with limited ad budgets, still find print a "viable medium." He predicts "a real balancing out" between print and TV spending this year.
Publishers are praying that prediction comes true.
"I think the TV-print thing will sort of settle into a somewhat normal distribution between the two media," says Prevention VP-Group Publisher Ken Wallace. "The more universal drugs -- like allergy medicines -- will probably keep spending more on TV because they're after a wider range of people. But makers of heart medicines and cholesterol medicines may use more print because they're looking for specific audiences."
'PREVENTION' SEES GROWTH
Bucking the industry trend, Prevention's prescription drug advertising soared 23.6%, with 215.28 pages.
Prevention's sister publication, Men's Health, also saw prescription drug ad gains grow by 26%, to 34.32 pages for the year. Advertisers that helped Men's Health achieve that bounty included Merck for Propecia and Crixivan, and Schering-Plough for Claritin.
Men's Health Publisher Jane Core Turner says pages so far this year are up. For the first quarter, pages are running 24% over the same period in 1998.
"The old myth is that women are the healthcare gatekeepers, so the [drug] companies marketed to them," says Ms. Turner. "But marketers are beginning to recognize that men are making their own decisions in this area."
Other publications have not been as lucky as the Rodale titles.
In recent years, the array of HIV/AIDS treatments coming on the market have created an advertising windfall for Liberation Publications's gay news magazine The Advocate.SUBHEAD
In fact, those drugs have made pharmaceutical the magazine's largest category. HIV/AIDS drugs such as Crixivan, DuPont Pharmaceuticals Co.'s Sustiva and Unimed Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Marinol do business with the magazine.
But last year, Advocate's DTC pages plummeted 16.2%, to 231.68 pages. The first quarter of this year is flat, according to Publisher Joe Landry.
People -- which counts Glaxo-Wellcome's smoking-cessation drug Zyban and Pharmacia & Upjohn Co.'s bladder-control pill Detrol among its advertisers -- faced a 33.5% drop to 189.48 pages in prescription drug advertising pages last year.
At the same time, People is attracting new business. In early February, SmithKline Beecham launched a print campaign for the new Lyme disease vaccine Lymerix in People and Time, says Ariyapadi Krishnaraj, senior product manager at SmithKline Beecham for the drug. Print ads are also running in Life and National Geographic.
While the company favors TV, it plans to keep using print to get the word out about the first-ever Lyme vaccine. Mr. Krishnaraj says health-related books and outdoor sporting magazines are also being considered.
"Print is coming back, but we don't know to what extent," says Mr. Peter Bauer. "It's not like TV's going away, but the pendulum is swinging back toward the