Americans tuning into the Republican National Convention didn’t hear much about health care — except during commercial breaks.
Prescription drug makers like Pfizer and Novartis were among the top advertisers during TV broadcasts of the convention when ranked by number of ads, according to the media research firm iSpot.tv.
Nearly 40 percent of the spots that ran during ABC, CBS, and NBC’s broadcasts of the convention touted pharmaceutical companies, prescription medications, or over-the-counter drugs. Lots of those ads also popped up on cable networks CNN and Fox Business. All told, about 80 such spots ran during convention broadcasts over the week, according to the data from iSpot.
Among the most frequently aired ads across networks: A spot from Pfizer lauding its scientists. Novartis highlighted its heart failure drug Entresto and psoriasis drug Cosentyx. And the drug maker Eli Lilly ran ads for erectile dysfunction drug Cialis on CNN and Fox Business.
Drug makers likely paid a premium for the airtime. CNN, for example, bumped its prices to between $40,000 and $100,000 for a 30-second spot during the convention, up from about $7,000 for a normal prime time spot, Fortune reported, citing a source familiar with the matter. (The iSpot analysis didn’t include spending data.)
Some viewers in Cleveland, where the convention was held, even saw a parody of all those drug ads: A 30-second spot hawking a little red pill called “Republixan” that “relieves the stress, guilt, and shame associated with voting for Donald Trump.” It was created and funded by a small super PAC started by Democratic media consultants.
The flood of convention marketing comes at a time when the industry is under fire for spending more than $5 billion a year on advertising, up from about $3 billion in 2012. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be nominated at the Democratic National Convention next week, has called for ending tax breaks for drug advertising and requiring drug makers to get their ads cleared by federal regulators.
Correction: An earlier version of this story was based on data from iSpot that did not include a complete analysis of ads that ran during the RNC. It has been updated with the full data set.