We recently pulled and analyzed all media transactions on PulsePoint—the largest programmatic health platform—to understand what’s going on in the programmatic health media landscape. Because of the scale of activity we cover, we believe this analysis gives us an accurate and representative view of what’s happening across the industry. The State of Health Media – H1 2021 report, which we published in September, reflects upon real-world activity between January 1st and June 30th, 2021.

Ten of the most interesting things we learned are:

1. Programmatic is on the rise. Pharmaceutical brands increased their utilization of programmatic media for both HCP and consumer reach, with the number of impressions rising by almost 50% over the first six months of the year, and average campaign size increasing by 30%.

2. Mobile dominates. Seventy percent of all impressions served were on mobile devices. Total mobile impressions, composed of on-site and in-app impressions, were up 49% over the six-month period. Although more expensive and in less supply, in-app impressions grew disproportionately, by 65%.

3. Video leads all digital formats in terms of engagement, and grew 135%. Native, the next most engaging format, and also the least expensive, grew by 313%.

4. Campaigns are getting more sophisticated. The average number of formats per campaign increased by 43%, possibly due to improved creative optimization tools and higher buyer confidence, and resulted in driving higher impressions and engagement.

5. Type 2 diabetes was, by far, the most sought-after condition target across consumer campaigns, driving over 110 million impressions.

6. Healthcare’s long tail is being activated. The number of contextual condition terms being targeted on the platform increased by over 1,000% in the first six months of this year.

7. Oncology was the most sought-after target specialty by pharma brands, second only to general and internal medicine. Neurology, pediatrics, and ophthalmology followed, but by a wide gap.

8. Brands are diversifying their HCP reach. Investments in reaching NPs, PAs, and pharmacists increased over this period. NPs were the highest targeted, followed by PAs. Pharmacists, who don’t have prescribing power, were also targeted, but trailed the other groups.

9. HCP programmatic media delivers. For brands investing in understanding their professional site visitors on a 1:1 basis, programmatic media was responsible for driving about two-thirds of verified HCPs to those sites.

10. Investments in CTV are increasing, as brands experiment with buying CTV programmatically and begin to see its power. Brands studying their professional site traffic on a 1:1 basis found a steady and dramatic increase in the power of CTV to drive verified HCP site visits.

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

While some of these trends may have been catalyzed by the pandemic, they started earlier, and are unlikely to be temporary. Programmatic has transformed itself, from buying undifferentiated inventory to buying highly differentiated health audiences. Health brands tell us they’re investing more in programmatic media because of advancements in technology that delivers more for the needs of the healthcare marketer. Targeting granularity, real-time insights and measurement, and person-level health experience mapping are all fueling this growth.

Brand marketers, as you go into planning season, here are a few recommendations:

  • Lean on programmatic for your strategic and highly stratified marketing needs.
  • Push the technology to deliver exactly what you want in terms of targeting, insights, and measurement (If you can think it, the technology can probably deliver) … and hold it accountable.
  • Set aside an experimental budget for emerging channels and capabilities to capitalize on the breakneck speed of innovation.
  • Maria Simeone

    Maria Simeone is VP Marketing at PulsePoint, a technology company using real time data to transform healthcare marketing. In this role, she drives the marketing strategy and is responsible for brand and communications, growth marketing, and product marketing.


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