The use of health audience segments is on the rise. Based on campaign data from Veeva Crossix DIFA over the last three years, 30% of impressions today in life sciences media campaigns are delivered using health audience targeting, up from 15% in 2020. By activating these audience segments across programmatic and publisher channels, advertisers can reach health audiences wherever and whenever they consume content.

The use of privacy-safe health audience segments hits the sweet spot for advertisers. It is more targeted than traditional demographic and geographic segments and provides more scale than endemic and contextual advertising.

Media agencies and pharma brand marketers should prioritize audience quality, privacy, and scaled ROI when using health data for audience targeting across channels and devices.

Audience Quality Is a Leading Indicator

Are the audience segments on your plan reaching the right patients? Audience quality is an important leading indicator of campaign success. Within a few weeks, early measurement can determine if your campaign is reaching your target audience in terms of treatment and diagnosis history.

Audience quality is also a robust predictor of whether or not the campaign will deliver net conversions for your brand. While conversions are a true measure of success, even more important, you want to ensure your campaign is delivering return on investment (ROI).

Privacy Standards Beyond HIPAA

Many health audience vendors claim to comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines. While HIPAA compliance is essential, it is not sufficient, as HIPAA passed more than two decades ago when the use of data for targeted advertising was in its infancy. When the HIPAA law passed, its creators could not envision today’s advertising technology.

The Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) is the leading self-regulatory association dedicated to responsible data collection and its use in digital advertising in the U.S. It promotes privacy and trust by creating and enforcing standards for responsible data usage.

The NAI created guidance for health audience segments explicitly for health marketers (see image below).1 It outlines three criteria to ensure the safe use of data to connect the right message with the right people.

  1. Health advertising segments should be sufficiently large—at least 10% of the U.S. population. This approach ensures that the audience is large enough to protect a user’s reasonable expectation of anonymity, especially for rare or niche conditions.
  2. Marketers can only use demographic attributes, such as age, gender, education level, and residential setting to create a segment. Using health data to target patients is not permissible.
  3. Naming is important—the name of a segment should clearly articulate which demographic elements are used. On most ad platforms, users can look up the segments used to deliver advertising. This transparency allows users to understand why they are seeing an advertisement. It depends on clear and accurate naming.

Scaled ROI Across Channels

As marketers use health audience segments to increase the reach of digital campaigns, scale is a critical element of the equation. Advertisers prefer a 3:1 ROI on a $1 million investment versus a 100:1 ROI on a $1 investment. The ability to reach highly qualified audiences cost effectively and deliver at scale helps explain the fast adoption of health audience segments.

Marketers are also looking beyond digital display in their use of health audience segments. By reaching the same, highly qualified audience across channels, brands can unify both their audience strategy and messaging. For example, brands can reach an audience segment with an awareness ad on connected TV (CTV), then follow up with sequential messaging across digital.

Driving New Patient Starts

To properly achieve the ultimate goal—more new patient starts—health marketers should strive to achieve scaled ROI by reaching highly qualified audiences in a privacy-safe way following NAI guidelines.


1. “Guidance for NAI Members: Health Audience Segments.” The Network Advertising Initiative.

  • Sarah Caldwell

    Sarah Caldwell is General Manager, Crossix Analytics at Veeva. Sarah is responsible for Crossix measurement and optimization and audience targeting solutions at Veeva Systems. Crossix leverages connected health data to help life sciences more effectively activate, measure, and optimize their marketing investments. Sarah joined Crossix in 2007 and has consulted with pharmaceutical brands across various therapeutic areas and business situations, including launch and loss of exclusivity.

  • Jeremy Mittler

    Jeremy Mittler is Head of Crossix Audience Segments at Veeva. Jeremy joined Crossix in 2008 and has more than 20 years of pharmaceutical and healthcare analytics and consulting experience. Prior to joining Crossix in 2008, Jeremy worked with many of the top pharmaceutical companies in leadership roles at Synygy and Campbell Alliance. He holds a BA in economics from the University of Rochester and an MBA from New York University Stern School of Business.


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