Direct-to-consumer advertising in Europe has been an informative rather than promotional exercise, but this looks set to change, according to new research from Frost and Sullivan. From current estimates of $85.0 million, total DTCA expenditure is poised to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 42 per cent from 2004 -2008, to reach $345.5 million.

In Europe, strict rules against DTCA of prescription pharmaceutical products exist, but

traditional advertising media are used extensively, with print media accounting for 60%, broadcast media about 30% and online media constituting the remainder. Trends now seem to indicate that across most regions a combination of media will be deployed for DTCA, says F&S.

Most active pharmaceutical companies are examining the potential of DTCA.

"DTC is extremely rewarding to the manufacturer in terms of greater revenues,

better prices, increasing end-user numbers and brand awareness," notes

Himanshu Parmar, Healthcare Analyst with F&S. "Companies using DTC advertising need to rapidly learn how to target customers, complete effective product advertisement, and ingrain DTC advertising in product marketing campaigns. The marketing strategy is to create a point of difference that is meaningful to the patient," says Mr Parmar. "The advertising agency and manufacturer's internal regulatory departments should be doing extensive editing to bring out the most appropriate messages, balancing commercial interests and social responsibilities."

Better understanding of drug and consumer life cycle and a more sophisticated brand-oriented approach are likely to parallel greater experience with DTCA. The focus is likely to be on a more developed and integrated DTCA approach. This will augment reach and maximise returns on R&D investment.