COVID-19 has disrupted so much in the past year and advertising is no exception. U.S. consumer spending has taken a hit and overall ad spending was down more than 9% in 2020. For those who work in health marketing, it’s not just a time of great disruption, but one of opportunity, as well. That’s because, while many of the largest industries are reducing ad spend—transportation, hospitality, retail—health is on track to do the opposite.

This shift is transforming the media space—as other traditional advertisers are spending less, health and pharma spend held steady in 2020, with a projected increase of 5% in 2021. Healthcare and pharma have long been media leaders, and this changed landscape provides an opportunity for us to prove reliable as well.

As marketers, we can, and should, tap into this available space to create lasting and impactful change for our industry. We should rethink established ways of going to market and how we partner with publishers while embracing untraditional and emerging platforms.

Though pharma has long been a big spender in the media marketplace, it has lagged behind competitors when it comes to available buying opportunities and contemporary buying approaches—particularly those in the video space. Until now.

New Solutions Needed from Media Suppliers

As an industry, we can be nimble in purchasing decisions as unique opportunities arise, but it is also the responsibility of suppliers to meet us with creative opportunities, better pricing, and new thinking. Now is the time for media suppliers to rethink how they develop opportunities for pharma, particularly as other spenders may be hesitant to commit early within the traditional upfront cycle.

Healthcare and pharma can grow partnerships with media partners, particularly as they expand properties in health and wellness. As evidenced by publishers such as Bustle Digital Group, Condé Nast, and theSkimm, creating new content products yields exciting advertising vehicles.

Health and pharma should also consider new digital opportunities including social media, even on emerging platforms such as TikTok.

By working closely with publishers, healthcare and pharma are primed to develop and receive more bespoke and innovative solutions. In this new marketplace, it will take forward-thinking suppliers and willful exploration from buyers to drive the categorical changes needed to support the media marketplace. We can create a marketplace in which all businesses, brands, and consumers can thrive.

  • Andrea Palmer

    Andrea Palmer is the President of Publicis Health Media, a market-leading healthcare media agency. Andrea manages cross-functional agency strategy and activation teams, and significant holding company-level integrations—delivering best-in-class integrated media and content solutions for some of the largest healthcare brands. Her expertise spans pharma, OTC, medical device, and technology healthcare service brands, as well as enterprise-level businesses.