The U.S. is one of only two countries that allow pharma ads to run on TV, so it’s no surprise that $3.5 billion was spent on TV buys last year. More than 770,000 ads run annually and are mainstays in the lives of 305.4 million U.S. TV viewers.

With the FDA approving more drugs than ever before, competition is fierce within pharma. And non-traditional competitors are emerging too. While the deal is in its infancy, Amazon announced a partnership with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase to enter the healthcare space.

To stay relevant in an increasingly crowded market, pharma companies are reevaluating marketing strategies and finding new, impactful ways to use their two most powerful marketing assets: TV and search.

The Role of TV

Pharma doesn’t just throw money at TV and hope it works; there is concrete evidence on its efficacy. A Wharton study found that a 10% boost in TV ad exposure increased the number of prescriptions purchased by 5% and drug adherence by 2%.

TV is also ideal for reaching broad audiences, as well as targeted segments of the population. For example, IQVIA reported that people over the age of 50 account for 70% of dispensed prescriptions. Interestingly, that generation is also the only one that actually watches more TV vs. a few years ago.

TV has proven itself to not only work for brand awareness and recall-ability (staying top-of-mind for patients during doctor visits), but also for driving digital response. In the case of pharma, that could be website visits, text activity, savings offers, or search.

The Role of Search

When it comes to digital advertising, pharma is constrained by privacy and regulatory issues. But search is a growing marketing channel for the industry, which is expected to spend $1.8 billion on it this year in the U.S.

Getting the top search position is expensive, but important. The top spot gives advertisers, by far, the highest click-through rates, with everything below it dropping significantly. On Google, the first ranking gets 36.4% of all traffic, which is 83% higher than the second position. The importance of securing and maintaining that top spot is clear.

Optimize TV…

With the lion’s share of marketing spend going to TV, pharma needs to measure and optimize campaigns to ensure effectiveness, strengthen response, and maximize spend.

It means analyzing real-time spot and response data to find the days, times, networks, programs, genres, creatives, and audience segments driving response. This type of analysis needs to be done continuously (not weeks after campaigns air), and the insights should be applied to improve performance in-flight.

…and Sync It with Search

Rather than TV and search operating in silos, they should be working together!

About 90% of people watch TV with second-screen devices in-hand or nearby, which has turned TV into a primary driver of search. In fact, most TV-driven searches happen in the minutes after a spot aired.

Pharma companies are syncing TV spots with search campaigns to capture response in the critical minutes after ads runs. It also ensures efficiency of search spend, by only grabbing the top spot in the moments when consumers’ intent-to-engage is highest. I’ve even seen companies sync search to competitors’ TV spots, essentially, taking TV-driven traffic away from them.

We know that TV and search work, but as it becomes ever-more difficult to capture and maintain market share, it’s critical that pharma marketers make these channels work harder. It’s time to optimize TV and sync it with search to maximize awareness and response.

  • Kevin O’Reilly

    Kevin O’Reilly is the Chief Strategy Officer of TVSquared. For more than 15 years, Kevin has been helping companies navigate the path from data and analytics to insight and strategy. As Chief Strategy Officer at TVSquared, Kevin brings his skills in coding, modeling, team building and leadership to ensure the company continues to provide the industry’s most accurate, same-day TV measurement and optimization technology.


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