Cancer, a disease long considered too devastating for the glare of television advertising, has emerged from the marketing shadows.

More specifically, pharma manufacturers’ direct-to-consumer (DTC) campaigns have taken to broad-based media to promote their immuno-oncology drugs, among other therapies and product offerings, in fresh ways.

One proof point: Television spending on DTC oncology ads tripled from $163 million in 2015 to $504 million in 2017, according to intelligence firm Kantar Media.

“What accounts for such a dramatic, relatively sudden, and significant shift?” asked Catherine Goss, svp/managing director at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide, during the 2018 DTC National conference in Boston.

“As the cancer conversation continues to grow across national television and other channels, we believe understanding this shift is imperative,” she explained. “As such, we initiated research to uncover insight into the impact and role of today’s DTC efforts in this once taboo category. Our work included a combination of quantitative and ethnographic research with cancer patients and their oncologists.