P&G, Bristol-Myers Squibb swap ads for subtler tactics

CINCINNATI and NEW YORK: Two major advertisers are scaling back their mass-market outreach in favor of a more targeted communications approach.

CINCINNATI and NEW YORK: Two major advertisers are scaling back their mass-market outreach in favor of a more targeted communications approach.

Media reports surfaced last week that Procter & Gamble is cutting its ad spend, and the consumer goods giant has confirmed that it's looking for more efficient ways to reach consumers with other techniques, such as influencer marketing.

"This is a continuation of the work we've been doing in our consumer response model," said Charlotte Otto, global external relations officer. "We're reaching the consumer where she is when she is most receptive."

For instance, P&G has been seeking grassroots opportunities to connect with consumers on a local level. A campaign earlier this year for a new variety of Tide included a website where consumers could see how many people in their area tried the new product.

In addition, its pharmaceutical division has distributed information about bone health in doctors' offices, Otto said.

The Wall Street Journal and ad-industry trade titles reported last week that P&G plans to cut up-front ad buying for the fall TV season by 5% with broadcast outlets and 25% with cable networks.

The company has not confirmed those numbers.

At the same time, Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) is responding to the backlash against direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising by boosting its focus on physician education and the promotion of assistance programs. The drug company released its revised DTC Communications Code on its website last week.

Brian Henry, associate director of corporate communications, noted that the effort "was not necessarily part of an image campaign," in the same vein as initiatives recently announced by Merck, Bayer, and others.

"We've seen research and polls and heard patient feedback about their concerns [with] DTC advertising," he added.

Henry declined to speculate on whether the changes would affect PR. "It's tough to say whether there will be more or less" non-advertising activity, he said, adding that PR is considered part of the DTC marketing mix.

The changes put a moratorium on DTC advertising during the first 12 months after a product's launch. During that time, BMS will educate physicians about the product.

In addition, all communications from the company also will include information about patient-assistance programs.

BMS is currently soliciting feedback about the changes. A link at the top of its home page allows the public to send an e-mail directly to the corporate communications department.

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