Search “the best tagline of all time” and you’ll find hundreds of well-crafted messages.
The most effective tagline isn’t even mentioned on these lists, but we hear it everywhere. The best tagline of all time is:
“Ask your doctor if this medication is right for you.”
This doesn’t just sell a product; it has fundamentally changed doctor/patient relationships forever.
- The tagline single-handedly reframes a patient’s thoughts from, “What should I do?” to “Is this the right drug for me?”
- It creates a therapeutic expectation in which patients only feel cared for when a doctor writes a prescription, and
- Since only expensive medications are advertised, costly drugs, rather than the most effective drugs become the top-of-mind priority1.
I have asked a whole lot of people whether they knew a more effective tagline. No one has ever challenged the number one position of “Ask you doctor…”.
After advertising regulations were reduced in the early 1990’s the annual direct to consumer (DTC) advertising costs escalated from $166 million in 1993 to $5.4 billion in 20062.
With this rapid rise in DTC ads, doctors became frustrated by how much the advertising infringed on their relationships with patients. Five years after DTC was legalized, I designed a focus group to learn how their attitudes had changed.
Our findings were startling. Physicians were still unhappy with the ads, but had come to the conclusion that fighting them was impossible. Instead, they changed their mindset to consider the ads as free marketing – a way to bring more patients to their offices. They also explained that the ads generated so much patient expectation that not writing a prescription often resulted in angry patients. Therefore, they wrote more prescriptions, explained how to take the pills and their side effects, and then sent their patients happily on their way.
One way or another, nearly everybody pays for the reduced quality of care this “innocuous” tagline causes.
A recent study3 demonstrated the subtle changes that result from “Ask Your Doctor…”.
It showed that if a specific drug was requested, the doctor was twice as likely to prescribe it, even if it cost several times more than an equally effective drug.
Even more concerning, if the requested drug is generally considered inappropriate (i.e. a narcotic for chronic non-cancer pain), doctors were twenty times as likely to prescribe the drug than if it had not been specifically requested.
What has happened to drug sales since the increase in DTC? Prescription costs rose from $40 billion in 1990 (before the ad increase) to $298 billion in 20144. This increase is not all from direct to consumer advertising, but in my opinion, it is at the bottom of most of it.
This Conversation has touched on only one of multiple factors reducing healthcare effectiveness. If you are a self-insured employer that wants to fight back – check into Switch.
Breakthrough To Better,
Switch Conversations is a bi-weekly blog exclusively for potential employer partners.
Edition 1 – Solving a Well-Entrenched Problem
Edition 2 – A Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Edition 3 – Best marketing tagline of all time?
Edition 4 – Post-Truth Killed a President
Edition 5 – What’s an employer to do?
Edition 6 – Profiting From the Opioid Epidemic
Edition 7 – The Keys to Unlocking Better Decisions
Edition 8 – When Difficult Things Need to be Done Well
Edition 9 – Fixing Healthcare
Edition 10 – Beware of a Singing Cow
Edition 11 – Wise Reflections
Edition 12 – Warning: Reader Discretion Advised
Edition 13 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 1)
Edition 14 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 2)
Edition 15 – Can AI save healthcare? (Part 3)
Edition 16 – Embracing Reality to Improve Healthcare
Edition 17 – Everything I Needed To Know…
Edition 18 – The Eighth Circle of Hell
Edition 19 – So… What’s Our Solution?
Edition 20 – Protecting Integrity as a Core Strategy
Edition 21 – An Unadorned Legacy
Edition 22 – Time to Grow Up
Edition 23 – Against All Odds
Edition 24 – When Everyone Has Stopped Listening
Edition 25 – Focusing on What’s Important
Edition 26 – Don’t Give Up Your Shot
Edition 27 – Join the Goodhood
Edition 28 – Fixing Healthcare (Recycled)
Edition 29 – Taming the Healthcare Beast
Edition 30 – Leadership
Edition 31 – Better Health Requires Good Sense
Edition 32 – Little Decisions With Big Consequences
Edition 33 – Transformational Courage
Edition 34 – Transformational Courage – Part 2
Guest Post – Happy Thanksgiving! By Jeff Novick, RD
Edition 35 – Transformational Courage – Part 3