Pharmaceutical advertising poses unique challenges that rarely impact other industries. According to eMarketer, the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry will remain the smallest spending vertical, accounting for a mere 2.8% of total US digital ad spend in 2019 and 2020. Due to strict regulations set out by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), pharmaceutical marketers must be cautious when running digital ads for prescription drugs, and make sure that all important information related to the product is readily available to the consumer.
For many advertisers, including required information can result in limitations to ad units available, or sacrificing other key elements of the ad in order to remain compliant. In a rapidly growing industry, solutions exist that not only help mitigate these roadblocks, but meet the two key criteria of a successful pharmaceutical campaign: visibility and compliance.
The challenge of pharmaceutical advertising
So why does the pharmaceutical industry pose these unique challenges for marketers? There are three considerations to note when exploring the answer to this question:
- There is a need for precise targeting to reach a desired audience
- Ads must be created strategically to not only stand out, but include sensitive content that remains compliant
- Adhering to regulations set forth by HIPAA
HIPAA requires that advertisers (and providers) adopt national standards for healthcare transactions occurring online. For advertisers, this means that CRM data – including patient information – can’t be used, and retargeting individuals that are searching for information online related to their personal healthcare is specifically prohibited.
With 1 in 20 people reporting regular research of symptoms online, it might appear that this targeting limitation would hinder pharmaceutical marketers from effectively reaching anyone.
Online pharmaceutical advertising as we know it: banner & display ads
Traditionally, there are three main ad formats pharmaceutical advertising can be found in: broadcast, ISI-rich banner, and ISI-rich display.
Important Safety Information (ISI), must include the benefits and risks that a drug may have. For broadcast, this information is displayed either verbally or via on-screen text, and within display ad units, this information is included directly within the creative.
Including ISI can often result in a significant sacrifice of ad real estate and can adversely affect the messaging. This could not only hinder the overall visibility for the ad, but also limit engagement from a prospect.
To stand out in the industry, you need to use these tried and true traditional methods, and incorporate additional media into your campaigns that are not just compliant, but engaging and visible.
An alternative: native ISI
With more Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) offering native ad units, there is a new solution for pharmaceutical marketers to consider in the digital age.
Native has evolved into the new standard for effectively communicating brand messages online. Compared to traditional methods, native advertising formats are consistent with form, style, and voice of the platform that they appear on, leading to 3x higher brand awareness and purchase intent.
For pharmaceutical marketers, there are now ISI-rich native ad units available. This means you will benefit from increased visibility, while including ISI at the impression-state; alleviating many limitations related to compliance.
Native seamlessly integrates with, and amplifies, the content in a page. The ad becomes a part of the experience of consuming relevant information – leading to stronger engagement, recall, and influence.
This strategy has become ideal for branded pharma campaigns because they don’t need to sacrifice as much creative space to include required information. Consequently, running a native ad with ISI leads to a greater CTR, and is a non-disruptive means of leading consumers to relevant articles that provide further education.
Next steps for pharmaceutical advertisers
Without ISI-rich native ad units, pharmaceutical advertisers are missing out on valuable engagements and impressions that couldn’t otherwise be achieved. By integrating native into your current pharmaceutical advertising media-mix, you can take a more strategic and compliant approach.
There is no denying that pharmaceutical advertising has been branded as a strict and cautionary challenge within the industry. After all, patient information must be protected, and advertisers need to take ethical and compliant steps when relaying drug information to the public.
Unlike most consumer products, pharmaceuticals aren’t sold online, and the role of advertisers is to guide patients in the right direction. With continued advancements in advertising technology that provide greater access to inventory, meeting the strict guidelines of regulatory bodies is easier, allowing you to focus on running ads that are eye-catching, informative, and engaging.