3 Things We’ve Learned Testing Music for Pharma

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Over the past 24 months, we’ve tested thousands of pieces of music, for hundreds of TV spots. These include many spots for the pharmaceutical industry, including both “over the counter” and prescription medications. We’d like to share some of what we’ve learned.
 

Mood Matters

 
First, Mood Matters. Most pharma spots follow a similar script, familiar to the advertising industry, beginning with the introduction of a problem: a condition or ailment that needs treatment. The solution is then introduced, typically either a product or medication being marketed by the pharmaceutical company, which leads to a resolution.  
 
Mood in Pharmaceutical AdsThe United States introduces an additional wrinkle for pharmaceutical ads. These types of ads are generally regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires that these types of ads generally “present the benefits and risks of a prescription drug in a balanced fashion.” TV and online video ads generally do this by presenting the risks of the drug in a short section the FDA calls the “major statement.”
 
These statements of risk present a real challenge for marketers. How do you talk about a risk that your product poses to your audience, while generating and maintaining enthusiasm for the product? One answer lies in carefully calibrating the emotions that the spot evokes — and music is a crucial lever for performing that calibration. A marketer we worked with recently wanted the start of the ad to be happy and calming; for the music to be slightly nervous during the major statement; and the spot to end with happy, upbeat music.  The Veritonic platform measured the occurrence and intensity of the emotions and feelings the music evoked in the marketer’s target audience.  Evaluating the music with this approach allowed them to optimize the emotions and associations that the audience felt during the spot.  
 

Timing is Key

 
Veritonic Pharmaceutical Advertisement TestingSecond, Timing Is Key. That same spot had very precise spots where the emotions had to change.The first 10 seconds of the ad needed to be happy and calming; the second 10 seconds to be slightly nervous, coinciding with the presentation by the voiceover of the risks of the drug; and for the final 10 seconds to have a happy, upbeat resolution.  Using data about the emotional profile of the tracks, the agency and the composer were able to refine the music to precisely shape the tracks to evoke the emotions in exactly the manner and scope that the marketer wanted.
 

Regulated Industries Must Pay Extra Attention

 
Third, regulated industries like the pharmaceutical industry may need to pay extra attention to emotion and other attributes that their ads and music may evoke. For instance, Veritonic was asked to evaluate the music for a TV ad marketing an over-the-counter sleep aid. Unsurprisingly, the music in the spot built off a lullaby-style theme. But playing too heavily off the lullaby theme risked making it seem as if the product was targeted to children. That’s a real problem for pharmaceutical marketers: it misses the mark, audience-wise.  
 
Timing in Pharmaceutical Ad TestingPerhaps more importantly, it risks making the spot appeal to a demographic, in this case, children, that the drug was not approved for. Since the product is available without a prescription, the ads don’t have the same burden of presenting the risks. However, the marketers are still forbidden from pitching the product to an audience — children! — that it’s not tested and approved for.
 
Happily, using testing data the marketer was able to identify two tracks that jumped out as being for adults, while sticking with the lullaby and sleep theme that their marketing strategy required. But this happy resolution merely underscores the importance of the emotion and other attribute data when selecting music for advertising pharmaceuticals.
 

Do you have other insights or questions from selecting music for pharmaceutical ads?  Please share them in the comments below!