Video has transformed online engagement across brands throughout almost every industry, and new approaches to content and delivery are poised to transform pharmaceutical media. According to AdWeek, pharma brands receive more shares and comments per video than any other type of content, and generally speaking, the market for online video is growing at an incredibly rapid rate. Forrester estimates that online video ads will grow from about 21% of the market in 2018 to 34% in 2023, rising alongside the amount of time consumers will spend watching streaming video.

According to Forrester, around 200 million viewers in the U.S. will watch online video in 2018, not too far off from the TV audience of 258 million. Over the next five years, the TV audience is expected to erode, while online viewing is poised to rise. Additionally, it’s noted that Americans remain exceptionally tolerant of advertising in video content. Almost 194 million users watch free, ad-supported streaming video.

“Free streaming remains dominant, as most viewers are willing to accept ads to view content more cheaply and with greater recency,” the Forrester report says. “Two-thirds of U.S. online adults say that they don’t mind seeing ads in online videos in exchange for free video content; 72% say that they would rather watch a TV show that contains ads immediately than wait for an ad-free version.” That is a huge opportunity to engage with consumers for pharmaceutical brands.

Additionally, video presents an opportunity to engage with consumers at any place and at any time. In the first-ever report of its kind from eMarketer, a global digital video forecast predicts 78.4% of digital video viewers will use their mobile phones to watch digitally streamed content in 2018. This year 2.38 billion people will watch streaming or downloaded video content via any device. In total, almost a quarter of the global population will watch video over a mobile phone this year—nearly double the penetration registered just four years ago.

Traditionally, the pharmaceutical industry has used video to educate healthcare providers on drugs, new indications, and disease states as a support element for patient engagement programs. For most brands, online video as an element of their engagement strategy delivers succinct information with high recall.  Studies have revealed video content recall in the range of 95%, with recall of that same content as text at around 10%. Simply put, it’s the most powerful medium online and highly effective for bringing new drugs to market. More than 70% of consumers who watched a branded video said it left them with a positive impression of the product or company.

Connecting at a Visceral Level

The type of healthcare content that is being developed for this increasing wave of consumers is set for a paradigm shift. While pre-roll and short form ads are seeing a major increase in opportunity to reach a brand’s target audience, more engaging and immersive video content has been challenged with finding an audience and a place to live. This is changing, however, as companies are beginning to see the need to connect with an audience on a more visceral level.

When first diagnosed with a condition, some consumers want clinical information regarding their treatment options. However, significantly more want to understand how other real people are dealing with it. This understanding about why people engage with content provides an opening for transformative companies such as TV4 Entertainment’s Digital Health Networks, which will be the first healthcare-specific over-the-top (OTT) network.

Based in Los Angeles, TV4 is led by heavy hitters from Hulu, Fox Networks, and Starz. Through Digital Health Networks, they are changing the way people traditionally think about video by providing inspirational content and real stories that allow people to have an emotional and personal connection to the content, while delivering educational resources about their condition. The company will operate numerous therapeutic-specific channels such as diabetes, chronic pain, autism, and many others. In addition to standard OTT video offerings—including television digital on-demand, internet-based digital streaming, and mobile platforms—Digital Health Networks is also in advanced conversations to deliver their content through physician office screens, telehealth platforms, and syndicated partnerships through existing health-centric web-based platforms.

A Multi-device Approach

OTT video can provide some unique transformational opportunities for pharma companies to engage with their audience by creating engaging longer-form content that connects with the lifestyle needs of their patients. It also has significant advertising advantages, including considerably more viewing time. Unlike traditional TV ads, OTT advertising offers a multi-device approach, meaning marketers can access customers whether they’re watching TV, enjoying a lunch break, riding the train to work or any other time someone is likely to stream video content.

It also provides opportunities for precise targeting, which is key for pharmaceutical brands. Instead of basing your ad buying decisions on traditional demographics and look-alike targeting, you can target segments of an audience that are most likely to be interested in your brand based upon the specific therapeutically relevant programming they are watching.

OTT also provides enhanced viewership data. When you know the time, place, and devices people are using to consume your ads, you can make data-backed decisions to optimize on the fly and improve future campaigns.

Empowering and engaging audiences through video is not without its challenges. Pharma marketers and educators face the dual task of cutting through the clutter to reach healthcare professionals, caregivers, and consumers while simultaneously meeting increasingly stringent regulatory, localization, and audience data requirements. Companies are doing it though, and it requires working cooperatively with regulatory teams to understand the medium and how to connect with the audience.

The fact remains that in Q1 2018, media companies created and processed nearly three times as much video content as in Q1 2017. Long-form video over 20 minutes exceeded 50% of time watched on every device and screen. On smartphones, viewers watched long-form content between 20-40 minutes to completion 57% of the time, and ultra-long form content over 40 minutes more than 45% of the time. All of these statistics point to an exciting future for pharmaceutical media, with new ways of connecting and engaging with our audiences in meaningful, lasting ways.

  • Jeffrey D. Erb

    Jeffrey D. Erb is President at Healix. Jeffrey leads the healthcare division of IPG Mediabrands. For over 16 years, Jeff has defined new strategies for clients in both HCP and Consumer marketing from media and analytics to digital and pricing strategies.

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