Previously in our series on closed-loop marketing, my colleague Virginia Evans and I have provided in-depth recommendations for promotional planning, targeting, and in-market execution. In this final article, we advise on how to maximize the value and return of your marketing investments from media campaign measurement.

Companies have been investing significantly in measurement. According to the pre-pandemic 2019 CMO Survey,1 marketers invested 6% to 8% of their marketing budget on marketing analytics and planned to spend 10% to 13% over the following three years. Thus, if your brand is spending tens of millions on media, your measurement investment could be seven figures. Given this commitment to measurement, what should you expect in return?

Of Course You Need the Bottom Line

The first requirement many pharma marketers have from their measurement solution is calculating return on investment (ROI). What is the incremental revenue you are obtaining per dollar invested? In pharmaceutical DTC advertising, the additional revenue stems from additional new patient starts, as well as increased patient adherence. A related concept is return on ad spend (ROAS); the primary difference is whether your “dollar invested” includes all marketing expenses, or just the ad media costs.

Three leading methods for calculating the incremental revenue in pharma DTC advertising are:

  • Marketing Mix Analysis, which utilizes a time-series statistical model. For example, weekly new-to-brand Rx (NBRx) is expressed as a weighted sum of prior weeks’ DTC media spend variables across channels, together with weekly levels of other promotions such as field force detailing and sampling.
  • Test vs. control analysis, where a large representative sample of exposed consumers is compared to a matched control group, for rates of conversion to new patient starts or incremental adherence.
  • Holdout sampling, which is similar to test vs. control, but care is taken at campaign design to not expose a subset of consumers—the holdout may be implemented via geography, identification code, or other means.

We find the test vs. control analysis especially valuable, as it allows campaign reach to the entire target patient population (important for rare diseases), and allows for additional insights on the tested population, which we further describe below.

Regardless of the approach, the ROI or ROAS gives you a ratio, such as 3.6:1, indicating $3.60 in incremental revenue for each $1 spent. However, ROI and ROAS are not the whole measurement story. Keep reading for more metrics that matter.

Don’t Settle for Just Numbers. Demand Insights.

While bottom-line metrics are critical, you also need insights from your analytics investment that lead to actions and optimizations. Your company deserves to learn from each promotion, growing increasingly savvy and efficient over time. With the correct setup, promotional measurement can provide such in-depth insights.

First, let’s talk about the data you’ll need access to either from within your own pharma company or your measurement partner. For U.S. DTC campaigns, you’ll need a combination of three main data assets, all collected and matched in privacy-complaint ways:

  1. Media exposure transactions: Time-stamped impressions with channel-specific information such as device type, network, viewability, and engagement where appropriate.
  2. Longitudinal behaviors: De-identified patient-level data with diagnosis, medical procedures, and prescription transactions. Make sure the records are recent and that you have several years of history.
  3. Consumer attributes: Person-level information covering demographics, lifestyles, attitudes, and media preferences.

Given the right data assets, actionable insights fall into these straightforward categories:

Who is your advertising campaign reaching?  

By profiling your reached consumers, you can understand if they are indeed the targets you planned on. These profiles can be multi-faceted: do they have the right medical history (e.g., diagnosed with the disease, treating on competitive drugs); do they have the right attitudes and lifestyles for your treatment (e.g., diet, exercise, innovation); and do they fit your creative (e.g., demographics, socioeconomic status, favorite leisure activities).

What actions do they take after seeing your ad? 

Are the exposed patients visiting the relevant specialists who are educated in prescribing your brand? Are they getting lab tests that can assist in diagnosis? Ultimately, are they filling a prescription for your brand at a net positive rate? Are those brand conversions driven by the campaign exposure?

Why is your campaign performing?

Do you have sufficient ad frequency to drive patients to physicians? Are the patients you reach engaged in the health system? Is your drug on formulary for the exposed patients, or are payers issuing rejects?

How can you continually optimize your advertising?

Which media channels drive the most new patient starts most efficiently? Can weights of audience segments be switched? How is ad frequency impacting specialist visits? Would alternative creative or messaging resonate more with your target audience? Are certain payers having a greater negative impact on brand conversions?

A Short Case Study

We’ve recently measured a pharmaceutical oncology brand’s consumer digital media campaign that covered a range of channels, including endemic health publishers, programmatic partners, social media, paid search, and connected TV. In the process, we discovered multiple insights applicable to mid-campaign optimization and longer-term promotional process improvements. Below is just a sample:

  • The targeting precision to diagnosed patients was nearly three times that of a broad-reach national campaign, and for ages 65 and over, that precision rose to over five times the baseline.
  • Exposed patients visited oncologists at high rates, as expected, but also significantly visited pulmonologists, cardiologists, and gastrointestinal specialists. This suggested coordinated efforts between the sales force and non-personal promotion.
  • The campaign generated sufficient net new patient starts to cover media costs at more than a three-to-one rate.
  • Creative could be improved from multiple consumer insights related to attitudes and lifestyles. Figure 1 shows that the reached and diagnosed audience (green, right) is far less likely to adopt new technologies, participate in yoga, or be on a specialized healthy diet compared to the national baseline or compared to all reached consumers. On the other hand, the reached diagnosed audience are highly rated as conscientious information seekers, meaning they would benefit from additional patient education materials. Collectively, these findings can stimulate a re-thinking of messaging and imagery in the next ad revision.


Closed-loop marketing is an ongoing business cycle where you gain expertise and optimize at each turn. Measurement is the fuel that drives this continual improvement, and therefore requires the right data assets and a broad approach to gathering maximum insights.

The measurement approach herein is a framework that can be extended and automated with machine learning across campaigns and channels. This will serve as an excellent topic for future articles.


1. Deloitte, Duke Fuqua Business School, and American Marketing Association, The CMO Survey, 2019, Topline report:

  • Ira Haimowitz

    Ira Haimowitz is Senior Vice President of Analytics Services and Insights at Medicx Health. After his doctorate in data mining and artificial intelligence, Ira has spent over 20 years in product leadership and consulting across pharmaceutical manufacturers (Pfizer and Merck), agencies, and healthcare analytics firms. At Medicx, he is responsible for developing innovative data-driven planning, insights, and media measurement solutions.


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