Is programmatic advertising the answer to reaching pharma consumers?

When people are sick, they visit their health care providers for diagnosis and treatment. If patients require medications, doctors will prescribe the ones that they feel are best. However, what if the physician doesn't know about certain pharmaceuticals?

There are a plethora of treatments available for a variety of health conditions, and the pharmaceutical industry is a competitive field. If pharma representatives want to spread the word about their products and make the most of their marketing strategies, they will need to create campaigns that reach their target audiences. However, this can prove difficult if they follow traditional practices. With the increasingly popular programmatic advertising, pharmaceutical companies may be able to create a more efficient promotion.

The outdated methods of the past
Prior to advanced algorithms and technology, businesses spent money on advertisements that had no specific audience. While companies knew who they wanted to reach, they weren't always able to with the tools at their disposal, Harvard Business Review explained. With newspapers, radio and television ads, they were unable to market to the people who really needed their products. Instead, they used their funding to the general population, potentially wasting their budgets on consumers who didn't require the brand or its items. Pharma knew who it wanted to target, but wasn't able to do so with the technology of the past.

This untargeted marketing strategy was also a lengthy process, according to the source. Advertising employees had to take time out of their days to go meet with the businesses and media companies from whom they wanted to buy ad space. The two groups had to negotiate prices and deals, and this could hold up the marketing campaign. Even the Internet couldn't speed up the process, and employees from various companies had to arrange meetings to discuss contracts.

With the increasing popularity of the Internet, pharma companies found new outlets for their ads. They had a variety of websites on which they could market their products to select audiences, Harvard Business Review explained. However, the abundance of sources available to advertisers also caused problems, as they couldn't negotiate deals with everyone they wanted to work with in a timely manner. This led to a need for more advanced technology.

Traditional media sources of the past didn't offer pharma many options to reach its target audience.Traditional media sources of the past didn't offer pharma many options to reach its target audience.

Programmatic media revitalizes marketing
In 2007, programmatic advertising hit the scenes, and, according to a survey from Magna Global, the practice is anticipated to make up 83 percent of ad spending by 2017, PM360 reported. Programmatic media involves automating parts of the advertising and negotiating process to shorten the time it takes for ads to appear and to increase effectiveness and efficiency. Instead of people having to make deals to get their campaigns to be displayed on websites, there are now ad exchanges that participate in auctions to win the right to the open space. This frees up time for ad employees and allows them to create more in-depth and customized advertisements, Digiday explained.

With programmatic marketing, pharma companies have direct-to-consumer capabilities, according to Medical Marketing & Media. The use of cookies collects information about the websites consumers visit, the products they research and the interests they have. This allows pharma to create more targeted campaigns so that only the people who potentially require their medications will see the ads on whichever pages they visit. This ability to customize ads based on the consumer's needs permits businesses to use their funds more effectively and efficiently. Programmatic advertising also applies to all devices, which gives pharma the opportunity to reach customers across all channels.

"Programmatic media may make up 83% of ad spending by 2017."

However, this collection of data may lead to problems. While people may like to see customized ads for consumer-packaged goods, they might feel differently about health products, PM360 explained. Instead, pharma companies must figure out ways to reach their customers without compromising someone's privacy.

There may be a way to avoid overstepping the boundaries between consumers and pharma, however, according to MediaPost contributor Bill Jennings. Instead of targeting individual people, companies can mark certain websites. Businesses would be using the context of Web searches and pages to know when to display their ads. If someone searches for the symptoms of a condition, that doesn't necessarily mean he or she needs a treatment for it. However, by collecting information from site visitors and using cookies, that may be what is assumed. The Internet user could see ads for certain medications even if he or she doesn't need them. By using page retargeting instead, programmatic advertising only appears on the websites where the content is similar. A page about a disease may show ads for related treatments, but social media wouldn't.

Advertising to everyone can be a waste of time and money for pharmaceutical companies, and cookies can lead to consumers feeling that their information is no longer private. However, programmatic media can take the context of searches and Web pages into consideration and display ads only to those people who actually require the treatments.