Study: Long Disclaimers In Pharma Ads Aren’t Turning Off Listeners After All.


More and more branded ads for medications are being heard on AM/FM, complete with the lengthy disclaimers that had long been seen as a listener deterrent. Those federally-mandated disclaimers that can take up a large chunk of an ad have traditionally been a major obstacle for radio because the thinking has long been that they are a listener turn-off. But new research shows the long disclaimers aren’t off-putting to people looking for relief from symptoms described in the spot.


Toronto-based Signal Hill Insights surveyed a group of consumers who were exposed to a 60-second pharma spot on AM/FM radio with a disclaimer. The outcome showed there were no issues with the disclaimer. Less than 8% said they disliked the AM/FM radio ad either somewhat or a lot, according to an analysis of the study by Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus Media. Those suffering from the disease symptoms rated the AM/FM radio ad strongly for likeability with very low negative scores.


The unnamed pharma brand’s campaign ran through most of 2020 on U.S. network radio. To quantify its impact, Cumulus retained Signal Hill Insights to conduct a campaign effect study of 3,069 U.S. adults. A total of 1,497 consumers were surveyed in February 2020 at the start of the campaign and 1,572 consumers were surveyed in October 2020 at the end of the flight.


The results, chronicled in a post on Westwood One’s “Everyone’s Listening” blog, shows the campaign generated brand equity growth. “The comparison of the February and October studies revealed strong lift in brand equity among heavy AM/FM radio listeners who frequently listen to the AM/FM radio programming formats featured in the campaign,” Bouvard writes in the blog post. “After exposure to the AM/FM radio ad, consumers suffering from the condition indicated they would be very likely to visit the pharmaceutical brand’s website and research symptoms medications. About a quarter of listeners said they were likely to speak to their physician about the brand.”


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. Creative testing company ABX in November 2019 stripped out the video from nine 60-second TV ads and tested these audio-only ads against the TV spots. Four were from a blockbuster rheumatoid/psoriatic arthritis drug and five were various Novartis brands. The results showed the audio ads delivered 90% of the impact of the TV ads for between one-fifth and one third of the CPM.


“Explaining the disease symptoms, how the medication can help, and all the side effects and risks associated falls to the audio,” says Bouvard. “It is no wonder that AM/FM radio ads test just about as well as the TV ads.”


These and other research studies arrive as major pharmaceutical companies are discovering an elixir for the audience reach shortfalls of broadcast television. In what experts call a sea change, prescription drug companies, after years of under-using broadcast radio, are now making network and national spot radio a more significant part of their media buys. 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. 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. Spending on OTC remedies grew to $65.2 million in H1 2020, up from $59.2 million, a 10% year-over-year increase to remain the biggest piece of radio’s health care ad pie.


“With cable penetration falling from 90% of all homes to only 62% and a shift of TV viewing to advertising-free streaming video services, pharmaceutical brands need to maintain reach by adding new media platforms,” Bouvard says in the blog post.

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