Television advertising (on network TV) by drugmakers fell by 10% (about $44 million) for the first quarter of 2005 as compared to the same period in 2004. This represented the sharpest quarterly decline in two years.

The decrease in network TV ad expenditures appears to be the result of a combination of factors which include the significant controversies affecting a number of major prescription drugs and some companies’ rethinking of the value of 60-second network TV ads.

Many pharmaceutical companies appear to be concentrating on more focused ad campaigns on the internet, cable TV, and by direct mail. The broad approach provided by network TV ads is being challenged by the ability to target particular audiences using specific marketing approaches.

The decrease in spending by the drug industry occurred while all network TV ad revenue was actually increasing by some 4.2%. The decline was comprised mostly of cutbacks in some of the larger ad campaigns, including:

•    Viagra – Following an FDA warning in November 2004 that Pfizer’s TV ads for the anti-impotence drug were misleading, all TV ads were pulled. Last year Pfizer spent about $11 million in the first quarter on Viagra ads alone.

•    Previcid – Down from $18 million to zero for this TAP Pharmaceutical heartburn drug.

•    Celebrex – Pfizer pulled all consumer ads in December 2004 after the well-publicized COX-2 cardiovascular problems surfaced. The ads went from $12 million to zero.

•    Crestor – AstraZeneca’s controversial cholesterol drug went from $9.4 million to only $1.1 million. New ads that started in April place more focus on the drug’s serious risks.

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