The world of pharmacy digital marketing is made up of two main channels, both of which are almost fundamentally different from each other.
Due to Advertising Standards Agency guidelines and MHRA rules on medicine advertising, only over-the-counter medicines are allowed to be advertised directly to consumers, with prescription medicines marketed directly to doctors, clinics and Clinical Commissioning Groups.
When marketing directly to the medical industry, the focus is on the facts, such as the active ingredients, dosages, clinical trial results and regulatory approval, as this information is prioritised by medical stakeholders when making a decision.
By contrast, marketing directly to consumers has a very different approach, different medicines that can be advertised and rules on what can and cannot be said.
These adverts can be separated into three main types, which each have a different priority to them but most all follow the ASA and MHRA regulations.
These are adverts that focus less on the medicine in question but on describing the symptoms and effects of a condition, typically ending with a call-to-action to ask your pharmacist.
Help-seeking adverts are more common in the United States, where prescription medications can be advertised directly to consumers, but you do see them on occasion with over-the-counter medicines that do not need a prescription but can only be bought at a pharmacy rather than being on the shelf.
The key identifier of a help-seeking advert is that they seldom talk about the effects of a medication and instead focus on the effects of a condition and how to identify it.
Rarely seen in the UK but occasionally seen in the United States, reminder adverts cover the price, dosage and strength of a medication but do not contain information about its effects or how it works.
The reason why these are used in the US along with help-seeking adverts is that they can be shown without displaying a long list of side effects as is required by the FDA. In the UK, all adverts need to include the following regardless of intention:
- The product name,
- Its active ingredient,
- What the medicine is used for,
- Some variation of ‘always read the label’.
Because of this, having adverts with the dosage but not the effects are pointless, so most will have both.
Product Claim Adverts
The most common medical advert in the UK, these are the ones that are the most familiar to viewers and often the most bizarre, varied and creative.
This is where adverts such as Gaviscon’s firefighters, Covonia’s bull and the odd tornado effect you see with adverts for lozenges come from.