NOTE: The content below contains the first few paragraphs of the printed article and the titles of the sidebars and boxes, if applicable.
Six Prescriptions for Healthier DTC Advertising The DTC playing field has changed. With far greater competition than ever before, DTC advertisers increasingly need to know how consumers read and understand the ad’s message. The DTC ads that have the greatest impact, according to a recent consumer survey, have: eye-catching illustrations, short headlines, easy-to-read copy, message simplicity, flow of creative elements, and product benefits. In a exclusive to PharmaVOICE, Phil Sawyer, senior VP, Starch Communications Group, a RoperASW company, discusses the creative elements of a DTC ad that attract and hold reader attention, as well as the elements that discourage readership. For more than 75 years the Starch division of RoperASW has been conducting advertising readership studies on the country’s leading publications, including: Sports Illustrated, Time Magazine, People Weekly, Fortune, BusinessWeek, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Good Housekeeping, Forbes, Parade, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal, and Better Homes & Gardens, to name a few. The Starch database, one of the largest of its kind in the world, houses the ad readership results from these studies, including data results on thousands of direct-to-consumer advertisements. “Using the knowledge about consumer trends from Roper Reports, we know that consumers are much more self-reliant than in past years and are much more interested in taking charge of their own lives, including their healthcare; are more than twice as likely to contact a doctor to discuss a DTC ad if they see and read about new information on medication or treatment; and are being exposed to an increasing amount of DTC advertising every year,” says Phil Sawyer, senior VP, Starch Communications Group. Starch’s in-person survey measures three metrics: stopping power – referred to as “noted” by the Starch Research – the percentage of readers who remember having seen an ad; brand recognition – referred to as “associated” – the percentage of readers who saw any part of the ad that clearly indicates the brand or advertiser; and involvement – referred to as “read most” – the percentage of readers who read more than half of the copy, excluding fine print disclosures. “Using subscriber names, we recruit respondents to broadly match the magazine’s geographical circulation,” he says. “All respondents are interviewed in person. The interviewer shows a potential respondent the actual publication issue to verify readership and asks: ‘Have you looked through or read any part of this particular issue of ‘x’ magazine’?” Overall Effectiveness of Pharmaceutical DTC Of the 60 product categories that appear most often in print among four-color, two-page spread ads, pharmaceutical DTC advertising ranks 40th in noted score, below public transportation and building materials. For one-page four-color ads, DTC ads rank 47th in the noted category. (For more information, see box on page 40.) Mr. Sawyer says of the DTC ads measured, those that gained readers’ attention were those that used eye-catching pictures, such as a single (vs. multiple) photograph; a single focal point; children and animals; strong colors and contrast; elements seen in total, in other words those that didn’t chop off vital body parts of models; a clear, in-focus uncluttered view; and those that avoided negative stimuli. Powerful Headlines, Copy Hold Readers’ Attention “The best headlines are short and to the point,” Mr. Sawyer says. “Survey results show the keys to great headlines are those that are no more than nine words; are two lines only; avoid all caps, particularly for long headlines; keep font style and size consistent, avoiding the ‘RaNsoM NotE’ approach; and are clear and specific.” It’s copy that sells and the best read copy is clean, easy to read, and uncluttered. “Hard-to-read copy is probably the greatest ailment afflicting DTC advertising,” Mr. Sawyer says. “DTC advertisers should place the copy in a position that allows the greatest contrast between the type and the background. It is particularly important to avoid placing the copy over a variably shaded background, for example, a photograph. Use clear, good-sized type that is easy to read at a glance – and avoid small copy particularly if the target audience is older than 40 and, therefore, presbyopic. Place copy in a position that ‘goes with the flow’ of an ad.” For example, Mr. Sawyer suggests that advertisers avoid placing copy at the top of the page if the illustration is at the bottom because the eye will go first to the photograph, and the reader, once at the bottom of the page, is unlikely to fight gravity and float to the top of the page to read the copy. Keep it Simple There are a couple elements of simplicity, Mr. Sawyer says. “It is preferable to use one, good-sized photograph comprising more than half of the page,” he notes. “The ads with the highest noted scores usually have a single, defined focal point. Avoid extraneous elements or clutter, which can distract the reader’s attention from the focal point. The best ads have a flow in which the creative elements lead the reader from one point to another. The best-read ads, typically, are those in which the creative elements, first, bring attention to a point on the page and then begin to move the reader’s eye to the headline, the body copy, and, finally, the logo. “The order does not matter as much as thoroughness, that is, that as many of the important elements as possible are seen,” he says. “To enhance good flow, avoid placing copy above the photograph because once the eye moves down the page, it tends to stay at the bottom and then move to the right and off the page, rather than move back up to the top of the page.” The positioning of a model can have a great effect on ad flow. For example, readers tend to follow arm gestures. “It is better, therefore, if the model is pointing to a place that will lead the reader’s eye to the top of the copy, rather than to the bottom,” Mr. Sawyer says. “If the ad is a two-page spread, it is generally preferable to place the photograph on the left-hand side and the copy on the right because the eye will move first to the photograph. If the photograph is on the right, the eye tends, as mentioned, to move to the right – and away from the copy, therefore discouraging the reader from reading the argument of the ad.” Selling the Benefits “There is no more important principle of effective print advertising than selling the benefits,” Mr. Sawyer says. “Advertisers who do not answer the consumer’s most important question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ have severely limited their chances of selling the product. This is especially important for ads for medicine, which lend themselves most easily to stating benefits.” The ads that most effectively attract and hold the reader’s attention are those that: present the benefit somehow in a “dramatic” photograph; state the benefit in a clear and concise headline; and emphasize the benefits in body copy that is easy to read and to the point. F PharmaVoice welcomes comments about this article. E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. VIEW on DTC advertising Pharma DTC Ads vs. Other Categories Among four-color two-page spread ads, DTC advertising ranks 40th for its stopping power For one-page, four color ads, pharma DTC advertising ranks 47th for its stopping power Rank Selected Product Categories Noted %* 5 Dairy, Produce, Meat, & Bakery Goods 68% 8 Cosmetics & Beauty Aids 64 12 OTC 62 14 Household Appliances 62 18 Building Materials, Equipment & Fixtures 61 24 Retail 60 27 Personal Hygiene, Health 58 33 Eye Glasses, Medical Equipment & Supplies 54 39 Public Transportation 51 40 Pharma DTC 50 Rank Selected Product Categories Noted %* 2 Ingredients, Mixes, and Seasonings 59% 8 Prepared Foods 56 13 Household Soaps, Cleansers, Polishes 55 17 Household Supplies 53 23 Personal Hygiene and Health 52 32 Retail 50 33 OTC 50 39 Pets, Pet Foods, Supplies 47 41 Government, Politics, Organizations 47 44 Eye Glasses, Medical Equipment & Supplies 47 47 Pharma DTC 45 DTC ads that use copy attract and hold reader attention DTC ads that use headlines attract and hold reader attention DTC ads that use eye-catching pictures attract and hold reader attention DTC ads that keep it simple attract and hold reader attention March 2004 PharmaVOICE