Search “the best tagline of all time” and you’ll find hundreds of well-crafted marketing messages.
Amazingly, the most effective tagline of all time isn’t even mentioned on any of these lists, but we hear it every day. 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 fundamentally changes the doctor/patient relationship.
- The tagline single-handedly reframes a patient’s approach to a medical problem 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 meds become the top-of-mind priority1.
Over the last several years I have asked numerous people if they knew a more effective tagline. No one has yet challenged the number one position of, “Ask your 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 engaged a marketing firm to design a focus group to learn how physician attitudes had changed with the aggressive advertising to their patients.
To say the least, 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 an angry patient. Therefore, rather than buck the system, they just wrote more prescriptions and sent their patients quickly and 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…”.
The study showed that if a specific drug was requested by a patient from an ad they saw, 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 advertising? Prescription costs rose from $40 billion in 1990 to $298 billion in 20144. This increase is not all from direct to consumer advertising, but it has laid the foundation for systematic overprescribing of expensive medications.
This Conversation has touched on only one of multiple factors reducing healthcare effectiveness. If you work for a self-insured employer that could use some help fighting the costs and ineffectiveness of the healthcare system – check into what Switch has to offer .
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