Programmatic has seen explosive growth over the past five years and now accounts for over 80% of the display market in the U.S. This trajectory has, however, been much slower in healthcare—mostly due to risk aversion. Some advertisers and agency partners have, in the past, effectively adopted the misconception that programmatic simply could not be done in this vertical.

The reality is just the opposite. It’s not only possible—in some discrete cases, it can deliver uniquely better results. Healthcare is perhaps the most data-rich of any industry—tight Rx script data enables healthcare marketers to measure ROI with a degree of precision that other verticals will likely never enjoy. In some cases, it’s easier to reach an HCP programmatically than it is to get in front of someone in the market for a new car.

Moreover, the compliance risks associated with programmatic buys can be effectively managed by agencies with relevant experience, tried-and-tested processes, and deep healthcare expertise. For healthcare marketers who understand exactly how it intersects with HIPAA, Consent Management, and Digital Advertising Privacy Standards, programmatic represents an imminently viable option.

We’ve come a long way from using keywords as the only method by which to message in-play audiences. Programmatic capabilities continue to evolve, and pharma manufacturers are growing increasingly comfortable with data-driven tools. Many are already using technology stacks that include a CDP, DMP, Direct DSP instances, and CRM databases—programmatic represents yet another activation aspect with which they can take strategic action on their data.

Programmatic’s Future in Health

The industry is beginning to recognize that programmatic can deliver deep audience insights and allow for an agile buying ecosystem that puts more control into the hands of advertisers. The amount of time that patients and physicians spend researching conditions makes up a small—and, for advertisers, costly—percentage of their digital diet. That means the populations pharma manufacturers want to reach can be targeted with a variety of tactics in much less expensive areas of their online surfing behavior.

For years, the idea of combining programmatic with healthcare seemed like a non-starter. But healthcare’s adoption of the data economy and privacy-safe methods has actually given patients and HCPs greater anonymity at the same time as it’s given advertisers greater precision. In many ways, healthcare represents programmatic’s final frontier—and while it’s an evolving activation approach for healthcare, it’s a relatively mature ad technology ecosystem. And as it improves and gains market share, programmatic will put more and more pressure on historical tried and true tactics.

The bottom line: Programmatic has the ability to generate ROI and deliver substantive reach with competitive cost efficiencies. It is unquestionably part of the future of pharma advertising. For a number of us, it’s the present too.

  • Brad Rosenhouse

    Brad Rosenhouse is GVP, Programmatic at Publicis Health Media. Brad leads the programmatic practice at PHM. He’s passionate about driving innovation for healthcare marketing through the evolutions taking place in today’s data and technology landscape.

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