Pharma brands start following ambulance-chasers' marketing model


Ethical drug manufacturers are reshaping their marketing in the image of a group not exactly known for  ethical standards – ambulance-chasing personal-injury and class-action lawyers.

It’s an approach designed not to sell a product, but to achieve “a measurable call to action, most often a phone call or click to a website” that “provid[es] disease awareness, education and resources with the goal of starting a dialogue with patients that can grow over time,” according to MediaPost’s November 19 Marketing:health e-newsletter [link not available].

Selling the problem, not the solution

In this, it strongly resembles a model we reported on here, that inverts the customary brand advertising structure by selling the problem instead of the solution.

Just as would-be plaintiffs are not necessarily shopping for an attorney, consumers are not necessarily shopping for little purple pills.

Law-firm advertising, we noted, builds on the insight that there’s a difference between consumers seeking legal counsel (or, for this new model, prescription meds) and people seeking information about a problem.

Counsel seekers neither need nor want to scroll through lots of information about whatever they’ve decided to sue about; they just need to see which lawyer might be best to represent them.

Information seekers, on the other hand, know they have a problem, but not necessarily one that’s worth litigating. To get right into a sales pitch for the lawyer would at best leave them ignorant and confused and at worst scare them away.

The new pharmaceuticals approach that Marketing:health describes embodies this strategy and builds on clinical trials recruitment advertising experience.

The world of patient recruitment for clinical trials has been an expert in this arena over the past two decades. Patient recruitment campaigns connect with people solely based on their disease state, rather than on a particular product. Their goal is to engage patients who fit a certain profile (based on the clinical trial protocol), and, ultimately, have them enroll in the study.

Stressing the positive

In contrast to potentially scary, and borderline unethical, plaintiff-bar advertising and websites, Marketing:health stresses the value of high production values and a positive, rather than negative, message.

Direct response often connotes lower production value and late night ad buys. This is not always true with patient recruitment. Ads should be consistent in production value as other ads running alongside it. For example, TV ads during prime time should have higher production value than those running in overnight.

People aspire to solutions, not problems. Data suggests that while individuals may connect to dark or negative healthcare ads, they are not motivated by them to respond. A positive image almost always generates a greater response.

In one specific example, “replacing an image of a woman looking sick and distressed with that of a woman feeling positive and uplifted…increased website conversions threefold, from 17% to 52%.”

A positive side effect

While Marketing:health didn’t mention it, this information-seeker, stress-the-condition approach has a side effect – one beneficial to advertisers and consumers alike.

The FDA requires prescription-drug advertisers to list every conceivable side effect, and this litany often consumes half the commercial or doubles the necessary print space. But when you’re appealing only to information-seekers by talking just about a condition or disease instead of a specific pill in your ads or commercials, you don’t have to talk about side effects.

So your commercial can concentrate about driving qualified traffic to the website without getting into what to do if your erection lasts more than four hours.


Make your advertising more effective. Visit

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

three × = 18

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>