Multidimensional DTC

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There was a time when one could set a clock to catch a branded pharmaceutical commercial on TV: just check when the nightly news was running on any network. The theory was, of course, that the news programs draw an older audience, fertile ground for drug marketers.

It's not that simple anymore. Led by consumer-savvy Media Director-Team Leader Donna Campanella, who applied her consumer-goods background from Sony Electronics to a fledging medium known as direct-to-consumer advertising, Pfizer has been at the forefront of the industry when it comes to placing ads. "We like to look at it by saying, `Let's find the connectivity sweet spot,' " Ms. Campanella says. "Could that be the evening news? Sure. But it could also be a talk show. It could be cable. It could be on the Internet on WebMD. People are not one-dimensional."

Pfizer does its media buying through Aegis Group's Carat, New York, a long-term relationship that only strengthened in 2001 following a shoot-out for the business. Pfizer had long used Carat, but the marketer had just acquired Warner-Lambert Co., and with $700 million in billings now up for grabs, Warner-Lambert executives were pushing for its incumbent, WPP Group's MindShare. Carat prevailed.

"We're looking at going beyond the basic media buys," Ms. Campanella says. "There's a lot of information out there, and that means using the entire marketing mix."

Like radio. An ugly stepchild when compared with network TV, cable, magazines and even the Internet, radio emerged in Pfizer's plans when it came time to break a campaign for Relpax this year.

Having just awarded Relpax to Havas' Arnold Worldwide, New York, in January, Pfizer was looking to position the migraine headache medication alongside market leader Imitrex from GlaxoSmithKline. But it not only wanted to differentiate the brand but differentiate the advertising.

Research showed that the consumer Relpax was trying to reach was a working mother, a person juggling work and family who rarely sits down to watch TV. In fact, she's more apt to hear a spot on the car radio while shuttling her kids back and forth to school and soccer.

So Relpax became the first DTC drug Pfizer ever launched without TV advertising.

"Not many brands introduce on radio, but we recognized there was an opportunity there," Ms. Campanella says. "Nobody looks at radio because of the fair balance without the visual like you have in television or magazines. We were one of the first brands to step up because we understood who our target was. We found that connectivity sweet spot."

Pfizer spent $546,000 on Relpax in 2003, all of it in magazine ads. In the first six months of this year, the pharmaceutical company has supported the brand with more than $19 million in measured media: $15.2 million in magazines, $1.3 million in Sunday newspaper magazines and $2.6 million on radio, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. And still not one cent on any kind of TV.

"Donna's very savvy," says one network executive. "There are times, and I'm sure some of those times are unintentional, but there are times when I see a lot of copycatting going on when other people see what Donna and Pfizer are doing."

Part of that is being able to work backward, so to speak. Pfizer's first goal in marketing communications is to spark a conversation between patient and doctor. "By talking about the condition, the consumer is going to the doctor and starting that dialogue, so we think unbranded is as effective as branded," Ms. Campanella says.

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