Programmatic display is increasingly making up a larger part of digital ad spending. In fact, by the end of this year programmatic display will make up a majority of digital ad spend (55%), according to eMarketer forecasts. In 2016 that will increase to 63%—representing almost $20.5 billion.

The meteoric rise of programmatic display is due, in part, to key attributes that ad technology offers to advertisers: More specific targeting opportunities and a biddable, fluid marketplace that offers buying efficiencies. Despite these advantages and growth, healthcare and pharma have been slow to adopt the model. For comparison, the retail category will spend roughly $3.71 billion in 2015, while healthcare and pharma will spend $0.19 billion—coming in dead last (eMarketer, May 2015).

Most of the trepidation has come from insecurity about data use and whether the ad industry is able to accommodate the regulatory complexities of the category. So, is programmatic right for healthcare and pharma? Yes it is, and it should have an impact on the channel mix in significant ways over the next few years. Here are four ways that pharma marketers can start using programmatic.

1. Use as Much Or as Little Data as Possible

Healthcare and pharma marketers ultimately decide how much and what types of data they want to use in any sort of online targeting. Programmatic is really about how the media is bought, so it is a great opportunity to get focused with audiences and messaging in a safe and compliant way. If you are using data for direct buys, you’re ready for programmatic.

2. View Programmatic as its Own Slice of the Channel Allocation Pie

Programmatic requires a broader view of the channel mix. Investment should be considered alongside search, direct display, custom programs and traditional media. Allocations should be based on how well programmatic is performing, compared with other digital channels. Earmark programmatic dollars early on in the media planning process at the channel allocation stage and optimize that budget throughout the year.

3. Be Prepared for Programmatic Mobile and Video to Break Out

Another way programmatic will change the channel mix is in the ability to buy mobile and video inventory on the exchanges. In 2015, mobile will take over desktop/laptop in share of total programmatic digital display dollars. Similarly, programmatic video ad spending is rising quickly and is estimated to grow more than 200% in 2015 vs. 2014 (eMarketer, October 2014). As audiences move to consume more content via mobile and video, programmatic becomes a great way to efficiently test these formats and make decisions about their broader use in the channel mix.

4. Keep an Eye on Inventory

As programmatic becomes the leader in how display ads are purchased across desktop, mobile and video, publishers will continue to delineate their inventory between direct buys, private marketplaces and open exchanges. It will be important to understand the trade-offs between efficient and quality inventory.

A great opportunity exists now for healthcare and pharma to enter the programmatic space in a meaningful way—let’s hope 2015 is the year it happens!

  • Jedd Davis

    Jedd Davis is Chief Operating Officer at Publicis Health Media. Jedd leads the agency’s work in the U.S., bringing nearly 20 years of experience in advertising, media and digital marketing. He has held strategy roles at full service agencies, large media buying and planning agencies, and digital agencies including Carat, OMD and Razorfish/Razorfish Healthware.


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