Big data analytics has played a major role over the past few years in the advanced targeting of advertising. In response, ad agencies have adopted new technologies which allow them to cater to their clients’ expectations with near surgical precision.
Is the agency response enough to fulfill the unique needs of the pharmaceutical industry? Are brands asking the right questions to ensure their needs are met? What does pharma need to ask of their agencies and data partners to drive the most effective campaigns possible?
Unfortunately, agencies take a one-size-fits-all approach to data analytics and micro-targeting. This is a huge problem for the pharma industry—which has drastically different challenges than potato chip advertisers—most notably, in how they can and cannot use data.
There are two key areas where pharma/health brands must demand greater transparency with their agencies: 1) Data Quality and 2) Brand Safety.
Companies often use small sample sizes to develop lookalike models to target. This is an ineffective approach to data, especially for reaching “needle in haystack” patients such as Crohn’s or MS sufferers. While models seem like a deep dive into your audience, they only hypothesize theoretical patients. Models don’t identify actual people who would benefit from your product. This means you are putting advertising budget into a cutting-edge technique of saying “maybe.” But the benefit of implementing big data is not for better guessing, it’s to make strategic decisions based on evidence.
Another challenge with the traditional agency approach is the increased risk of breaching HIPAA regulations. An agency may tout that the data they use is HIPAA compliant, which could lull you into a false sense of security. Having an agency that uses compliant data doesn’t mean you aren’t at risk of a potential breach of patient privacy if that data is mishandled.
Health data providers may start out being compliant, but once the data flows into an agency trading platform, the risk for unknowingly reverse engineering increases exponentially. This is due to the limited controls of a trading platform to prevent data leakage from cross pollinating HIPAA-compliant data with other data. Even if you enter an agreement with an agency thinking the data was compliant, your brand is still at risk if the agency acting on your behalf handles that data improperly. In other words, allowing uncontrolled access of third-party data sources on an agency platform which could be joined with the original HIPAA-safe data opens you up to unnecessary risk.
For the pharmaceutical industry, the traditional agency approach of one-size-fits-all is not one that actually fits. For true measurable success, you need to dig deeper, understand where the data comes from, and how it targets your objectives. You need to understand what your agency does with the data—and be sure it does not put your brand at risk. If an agency is not being as transparent as you need, then ask the questions required to force that transparency.