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Medical magazines most useful form of communication, say GPs

Published on 06/04/04 at 11:55am

A new survey of GPs shows they find medical publications to be the most useful of all media - results which publishers and media buyers hope will reverse a decline in industry advertising spend.

The survey conducted independently by BMRB asked over 1,000 GPs to rate the usefulness of four media - medical publications, sponsored meetings, company reps and internet/CD-ROMS and found 92% of respondents found publications either 'very' or 'quite' useful. The poll has been commissioned by a panel of medical publishers and media buyers JICMARS (Joint Industry Committee of Medical Advertisers for Readership Surveys) in response to a rapid decline in advertising spend in the medical press over the past few years, including a fall  of over 30% in January and February of the number of pages sold this year compared to 2003.

The survey, conducted in face-to-face interviews with GPs throughout the year discovered 92% found medical magazines either 'very' (33%) or 'quite' (59%) useful. The survey put sponsored meetings in second place, with 80% finding them either very (21%) or quite (59%) useful. Next came pharmaceutical company representatives, with 53% of interviewees saying they were quite useful, but just 7% saying they were very useful.

Internet/CD-ROMS came in fourth, with a total of 59% of the GPs saying the media were quite useful, 22% finding them very useful.

The conclusion of the survey will undoubtedly be contested, not least by companies operating in the competing services, but JICMARS says it demonstrates the power of print media.

"It is clear that promotional expenditure in some areas is likely to be more effective than others and this study goes some way to identifying where the best value for money can be obtained," said Richard Worrall, chairman of JICMARS.

"Apart from the strong performance of medical publications, many will be surprised at the apparent continuing decline of the perceived value of company reps. There are lessons to be learnt here."

The survey does not explicitly ask GPs' opinions on industry advertising or medical education, but JICMARS member and managing director of Haymarket Peter Welland says providing an excellent editorial product will ensure the industry's messages are seen.

JICMARS regularly commissions surveys asking GPs which medical publications they read, and continues to find high levels of readership which are the envy of other sectors.

"If a national newspaper had a readership penetration of 20% they would be performing cartwheels of delight, but in medical publishing, it not unusual to have over 60% of GPs reading your title," says Mr Welland.

"High levels of penetration combined with the fact that GPs rate publications as the most useful source of information is a real double whammy. I think the pharmaceutical industry is very fortunate to have such strong publications in the sector."

But if the argument for medical publications is so strong, why does advertising spend continue to fall?

"Cutting ad spending is the simplest thing to do - you just cross out the allocation on a budget, and there are no human costs to consider," says Mr Welland. "It is the easiest thing to cut but that doesn't make it the right thing to cut."

Publishers and media buyers have noticed that pharmaceutical companies have maintained high advertising spending for product launches, but often reduce spending three or four years after launch, sometimes cutting ad budgets to zero.

"Advertising is an excellent way of promoting a broad range of a company's products for a relatively small investment," says Mr Welland, adding that "it's great for creating awareness and changing attitudes" so sales reps are freed up to talk about the fine detail.

Tell us your views on the survey and the value of different media by emailing Pharmafocus at or call: 01483 515 350.

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