Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer, the global pharma giant, is radio’s top advertiser based on spot count for Nov. 30-Dec.6, the latest example of how major pharmaceutical companies are discovering an elixir for the audience reach shortfalls of broadcast television. The Princeton, NJ-based company aired 60,057 spots on broadcast radio for its highest weekly total yet, after debuting in the top 10 earlier this fall.
The ads don't mention a specific brand. The ad copy instead explains the symptoms of two conditions – atrial fibrillation and deep vein thrombosis – with a message to seek medical help if the listener is displaying any of the symptoms. This is a classic "patient education" approach, also known as "unbranded" advertising in which the usual side effects disclaimer copy is not required.
Separately, Pfizer is marketing prescription medication Ibrance, which is used to treat breast cancer, with 13,943 spots to rank at No. 43.
AbbVie, which in concert with Ironwood, has been using radio to market irritable bowel syndrome drug Linzess, is No. 35 with 15,157 spots, according to Media Monitors which tracks national advertising in 110 markets. They’re joined by a pair of major pharmacy chains in the latest Top 100: Walgreens at No. 18 with 25,982 spot occurrences and CVS at No. 32 with 16,591.
Together they are part of a trend of big pharma making radio a more significant part of their ad budgets, after years of under-using broadcast radio.
As earlier reported by Inside Radio, ad spend for prescription medications on radio jumped 34% to $22.3 million in the first half of 2020, up from $16.7 million in the same period one year ago, according to data from Kantar. This is in addition to spending on over-the-counter medications from Procter & Gamble and other consumer packaged goods companies that have grown into major radio users during the last few years. In the latest tally, P&G’s over the counter Vicks cold medicine is No. 9 with 35,779 spots.
Meanwhile, the body of research is growing that shows investments pharma companies are making in radio are moving the needle in terms of key metrics like brand awareness, increased site traffic and ultimately, incremental lifts in sales.
Also noteworthy in the latest tally is the use of radio to drive consumers to competing media. Both CBS (at No. 22 with 21,727 spots) and ABC (No. 84 with 7,472 occurrences) are using radio’s wide reach to drive tune-in for their new fall TV programs. They’re joined by satellite broadcaster SiriusXM at No. 24 with 21,032 spot detections. Of course, iHeartMedia has been using promos on its 850 broadcast stations to introduce audiences to its podcast offerings with “Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know” again in the top 10 this week. It is joined by Solve HQ’s “Solve” podcast, spun out of the interactive true-crime and mystery studio, at No. 11.
For Nov. 30-Dec.6, 2020, the top 10 on the Media Monitors compilation are Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer at 1 (up from 11 the week prior), Bank Of America at 2, Progressive at 3, GEICO at 4, iHeartRadio at 5, Merrill at 6, the Home Depot at 7 (down from 1 the week before), “Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know” at 8, Vicks at 9 (down from 5 the previous week) and State Farm at 10.