Earlier this year in June, Pharma in Focus published an article about the Pharma advertising spend surging.

The article noted data from the Standard Media Index (SMI) that showed pharma ad spend had a strong growth rate in 2016. It continued to rise in the first quarter of this year too, thanks to digital leading the way, with SMI stating “ad spend grew from 6.8 per cent to a record 183.2 million”.

In the pharmaceutical category, SMI collects ad spend data for analgesics, brand/sponsorship, skin/respiratory, supplements/vitamins and other pharmaceutical products.

It also gathers data for agency spend across Australia’s medical and pharmacy publications. This data shows how the market has changed since the revamp of GP publication Medical Observer under Cirrus Media, which converted the once weekly newspaper to a monthly magazine in Q1 2016.

SMI data shows that agency spend on Australian Doctor, the only remaining weekly tabloid, has risen 50.5 per cent compared to Q1 2016, with the publication earing $216,566 in the most recent quarter.

By comparison, agency spend on Medical Observers has fallen 41.9 per cent to $69,761.

But although it remains the market leader in terms of dollar spend, Australian Doctor was by no means the leader in ad spend growth.

Agency spend on Medicine Today doubled to $64,510, the RACGP magazine Australian Family Physician was up 87.3 per cent to $119,629 and relative newcomer, Medical Republic grew 143.3 per cent to $43,800 compared to Q1 2016. 


SMI managing director Jane Schulze said the data showed pharmaceutical companies are embracing digital advertising channels but also that the direction of digital spending is changing.

“The SMI data clearly shows that digital channels have become an attractive and effective advertising medium for pharmaceutical companies looking to communicate with their target audiences and also perhaps personalising their marketing for savvy digital audiences,” she said.

Schulze added: “Pharmaceutical brands have moved more of their digital ad expenditure away from quality content sites and into search, social and also programmatic advertising which shows they are continuing to test new digital channels and see it as a strong option for many consumers when they are researching and purchasing brands.”

In the first quarter of 2017, SMI data showed that pharmaceutical advertisers grew ad spend on search (+46.3 per cent) and programmatic services (+91.7 per cent), but the highest growth rate was in social media (+168 per cent). This occurred despite pharmaceutical advertisers historically not being large users of social media. Despite the impressive growth, social share of total category spend still cam in at only seven per cent.

The continued growth of the total pharmaceutical category has seen it become the 18th largest of SMI’s 40 major product categorise, up from 19th place last year. In the most recent quarter, however, its percentage growth was the 12th largest of any of the 40 categorise.

SMI collects actual advertising payments from Australia’s major media agencies.