Drugs ads miss ethnic groups

6 October 2014

NEW YORK: Direct-to-consumer advertising strategies for prescription drugs may be failing to make the maximum impact among certain groups of multicultural consumers, according to a study in the Journal of Advertising Research.

The paper – entitled "Do Korean-Americans View Drug Advertisements Differently Than Non-Hispanic White Americans?" – drew on data from over 200 participants.

And it found that 61% of contributors did not turn to any of the six direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) mediums assessed – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, online and brand websites – when looking for health information.

"Despite DTCA's increasing presence and potential benefits as an information source, DTC advertisements are not a source consumers actively seek during information search about prescription drugs," the study said.

The percentage of Korean-Americans engaging in this activity, the analysis continued, was "significantly lower" than for non-Hispanic White Americans.

Such a finding seemingly indicates that the typical media mix applied by brands in this sector "may not be optimal for reaching this segment" – or, indeed, other recent immigrant groups with specific characteristics.

Counter to expectations, the study also showed that, across the panel as a whole, "perceptions of DTCA usefulness were not positive but slightly negative."

Jisu Huh (University of Minnesota), Denise E. Delorme (University of Central Florida), Leonard N. Reid (University of Georgia), and Junga Kim (University of North Florida) were the authors behind the research.

And they reported that discernible variation existed between the two audiences when it came to the perceived utility of individual direct-to-consumer advertising channels.

"Three of the six DTCA media showed significant differences between the two cohorts: Korean-Americans perceived newspaper, television, and internet DTCA significantly more useful than Non-Hispanic White Americans," they wrote.

When considering the entire sample, drug-brand websites were the most highly evaluated channel, followed by television. Internet advertising, by contrast, received the lowest ratings – and was also the least-used medium.

"For those implementing multiple-media prescription drug campaigns targeting Korean-Americans and White Americans, this study supports the decision to use DTC brand websites," the authors wrote.

"Other internet advertising forms, however, may need re-evaluation in terms of DTCA media-budget allocation and incorporation in the media mix."

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research