Pharma Brands Encounter Trust Issues

MakovskyKelton-Consumer-Trust-Pharma-Sponsored-Websites-Mar2016Fewer than 1 in 3 US consumers would trust completely (9%) or a good amount (22%) a website about a disease that is sponsored by a pharmaceutical company, while 1 in 5 would not trust the website at all, per results from a Makovsky PR and Kelton Global study [pdf]. Indeed, almost one-fifth of respondents said they would never visit a website sponsored by a pharmaceutical company to find information about a specific disease or medication.

There was only one source that might motivate a majority of consumers to visit such as site: a recommendation from a doctor or other healthcare professional. Interestingly, though, ads were found to be a potential motivator for more consumers than recommendations from friends, family members or colleagues (37% and 32%, respectively). Among the various advertising types listed, TV ads would spur the greatest share of respondents (20%), ahead of an ad on a website (14%), a social media ad (9%) and a newspaper ad (9%).

Figures from Kantar Media indicate that pharma advertising was on pace to reach $5.6 billion in 2015, which would be an all-time high, driven by new product launches. In Q2 2015, pharma was the only top-10 advertising category to increase its year-over-year ad spend, while in Q3, its 18% growth came in spite of an average decrease of 3.4% in ad spending by the top 10 categories.

However, pharma brands continue to suffer from low reputation, with a recent Harris RQ study showing that the industry’s reputation has declined for the second consecutive year. In fact, just one-third of consumers surveyed felt that the industry had a positive reputation, putting it 8th on the list of 10 industries, ahead of only government and tobacco.

Meanwhile, separate results from the Makovsky survey demonstrate why consumers would be most willing to visit a pharma website on a doctor’s recommendation, with their peers further behind. When asked how much they would trust a variety of sources for information about their medication, 95% said they would trust completely or a good amount their doctor, while fewer (56%) would trust their family member, friend or other contact to that degree.


Pharmacists (85%), public health agency or health system websites (78%), and advocacy groups (71%) are also highly trusted by many, per the report, though few trust peer recommendations online (24%) and celebrity endorsements (13%).

About the Data: The results are based on a nationally representative survey of 1,035 US adults.