ONLINE DRUG ADS: Drug Makers Look to Internet to Streamline Marketing
Pharmaceutical advertising is expanding to cyberspace, with "giant Omnicom Group" leading the way, the Wall Street Journal reports. Omnicom has purchased minority stakes in five health care-related Internet companies, such as theDailyApple.com and WorldMedicalLeaders.com , in order promote its pharmaceutical clients on the Internet. Omnicom's move foreshadows a larger shift in pharmaceutical marketing strategy. In 1999, despite a "record $1.9 billion ... spent on advertising ... less than 1% was put toward Web sites." But research recently conducted by New York based Jupiter Communications says 90% of pharmaceuticals plan on increasing their Internet spending, with 20% intending to double it. Jupiter health care analyst Charlene Singer said pharmaceutical makers are better off following Omnicom's lead and advertising or sponsoring "general health or medical sites" rather than drug specific sites, saying customers don't "want to give data to a pharmaceutical site" but might be willing to give personal information to a third party Web site. Previously, when drug makers did invest in the Internet, sites primarily focused on brand names, like Pfizer Inc.'s Viagra.com.
Omnicom's move is not without controversy, as the firm plans to "develop a database of the visitors [to the Web sites] to help the drug companies ... fine-tune their promotions." But Omnicom executive Tom Harrison believes that by providing original material written by physicians and services, such as the ability for surfers to check laboratory test result online, Omnicom will attract consumers even if the sites are "loaded with sponsorships from drug companies." And Harrison believes that by providing "up-to-date medical information" to both physicians and consumers, Omnicom will be able to build an unparalleled visitor database. He said, "We will be able to give, down to patient and doctor, the kind of audience [pharmaceutical companies] want. We're going to be able to cut this so many different ways. They must go through us" (Kranhold, 8/24).