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Spent wisely, direct-to-consumer advertising has been proven to have a major impact in driving brand sales.

And in the process, DTC continues to move toward the advertising mainstream..

Of course, U.S. Food & Drug Administration regulations ensure that DTC will always be a somewhat odd advertising category.

"We recognize it'll always be slightly different based on the regulations, but in general we look for newer and better ways to communicate through DTC marketing," says Patrick J. Kelly, senior VP-worldwide marketing at Pfizer Pharmaceutical Group. "

In the last year, Pfizer has continued its aggressive campaign for erectile dysfunction drug Viagra. It also joined with Monsanto to launch arthritis drug Celebrex with the help of a major DTC effort. And it shifted its Zyrtec allergy drug account to Deutsch, New York.

Zyrtec sales continue to grow, but the drug still trails Claritin in the $1.1 billion allergy category. Claritin is perhaps the best example of an Rx drug with a DTC program resembling package goods advertising.

Under the leadership of Stephen Andrzejewski, VP-marketing on the Rx side, Schering-Plough Corp. uses celebrity Joan Lunden in its ads and this fall launched a campaign supporting Claritin as the official allergy medication of Major League Baseball.

David Pernock, SmithKline Beecham's senior VP-sales and marketing of pharmaceuticals for North America, says DTC works because American consumers increasingly want to take charge of their own health. That hunger makes a comprehensive Web site a staple of a successful DTC effort.

"I think that's why health care-related Web pages are so frequently visited by people in the U.S.," Mr. Pernock says.

SmithKline Beecham launched two additional DTC efforts this fall: a print-driven campaign for diabetes drug Avandia and an estimated $30 million TV and print

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