Pharma Drops Reluctance and Leans Toward Programmatic

Programmatic continues to proliferate with adoption among digital advertisers growing exponentially, as the industry embraces addressable media and the ability to reach hyper-targeted audiences across devices. Pharma and healthcare advertisers have kept a keen eye on programmatic, but have been reluctant to embrace it, and with good reason.

The reluctance for healthcare and pharma advertisers to leverage programmatic has been shaped by nuanced industry obstacles, which include concerns pertaining to brand safety, transparency, medical and regulatory compliance, data and targeting, and consumer privacy. That said, healthcare and pharma will need to tackle these nuanced industry obstacles directly by confidently integrating solutions that mitigate concern and risk. This will allow healthcare and pharma advertisers to deploy programmatic and recognize its comprehensive value.

1. Brand Safety: The amalgamation of programmatic and brand safety technologies allow for real-time decisions to be made on each and every impression to ensure the buy is brand-safe before a bid is placed. Specifically, ad verification, geo compliance, ad fraud, viewability and ad collision tools should be fully integrated within programmatic campaigns. Tools like these mitigate concerns inherent to healthcare and pharma, which run the gamut from limiting ad creative distribution to the U.S. only, and disallowing brand adjacencies within unapproved user-generated content areas. These tools ensure campaigns only appear alongside premium brand-safe content, thus mitigating any foreseeable and anticipatable risk.

2. Transparency: Transparency into every transaction should be required for healthcare and pharma campaigns. This allows for quick action if ever required to run corrective action. Transparency allows brands to duplicate buys or audience segments to re-engage those previously exposed to the original campaign, which is often required as part of corrective action. Moving forward, programmatic direct and private marketplaces will play a paramount role as they offer transparency in real-time versus open exchanges, which should be considered with healthy skepticism and caution.

3. Medical and Regulatory Compliance: Each client’s medical and regulatory requirements are nuanced, so consistently seeking flexible programmatic workflows and identifying platforms that support the complexities of individualized submissions and ad creative is paramount. At this point, tremendous opportunity exists within programmatic platforms to better standardize healthcare and pharma specific ad units, especially for black box brands.

4. Data and Targeting: Cookie targeting has historically been ostracized by healthcare and pharma advertisers, so the industry turned to contextual and semantic-based targeting. However, cookie-based targeting is now more commonplace within select therapeutic categories when deemed appropriate. At this point, an increased emphasis is placed on leveraging first- and third-party data sources to better inform targeting and cookie-targeting strategies. The ability to combine applicable data sources and to overlay it throughout your programmatic campaigns is where the opportunity lies. The opportunity exists to further merchandise a client’s databases to develop look-alike modeling for multiple patient types at different moments throughout their patient pathway.

5. Consumer Privacy: The industry isn’t able or willing to use personally identifiable information, as that would be invasive.  Instead, a tremendous value lies in leveraging health interest data and combining it with the aforementioned first- and third-party data sources. The combination of data sources allows hyper-targeting, but does not cross the line of invasively intruding consumer privacy.

Healthcare and pharma advertisers are just starting to adopt programmatic, but are eager to realize the efficiencies and hyper-targeting value that it provides. As health-centric programmatic direct and private marketplaces prosper, I expect our industry to significantly expand its adoption in 2015.

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