Contextual targeting for pharma

A privacy-compliant solution for pharma advertising

July 17, 2023

Contextual targeting keeps pharma marketing campaigns strong while maintaining compliance with evolving privacy regulations.

Contextual targeting for pharma

Pharmaceutical marketing is due for a privacy checkup.

We’ve been having a lot of conversations with our colleagues in the pharma marketing and media space. They’re reasonably concerned about reaching their target audiences while maintaining compliance with evolving regulations – and with good cause.

While we’re not dispensing legal advice or compliance strategy here, we believe it’s time for pharma marketers to embrace targeting options beyond personal data, conventional cookies and tagging. We’re convinced next-generation contextual targeting is an effective solution to reduce regulatory risk, extend reach and outperform, even in an increasingly regulated market.

Data privacy pains

The global push for data privacy has been especially impactful for health-related advertisers, with increased regulations and intense scrutiny around the use of private information for health targeting. We’re seeing significant regulatory pressure on certain uses of personal data, especially around the use of that information for health targeting.

Notably, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) recently issued guidance strictly limiting the use of online tracking technologies by HIPAA covered entities (such as healthcare providers or pharmacies) and their business associates (including Facebook, Google and other vendors). This means they can’t use common tools like cookies or tracking pixels to collect or share anything that might be considered protected health information (PHI).

At the same time, a startling number of telehealth startups have been the subject of high-profile lawsuits regarding the distribution of sensitive data to other big tech companies. Policy makers and privacy regulators are taking note, and platforms like Google are severely restricting health-related advertising and data usage.

Contextual targeting: A compliance-based option

Contextual targeting enables media planners to target pages instead of people, reducing the risk of violating privacy regulations for healthcare advertisers. It analyzes the content of billions of pages using advanced semantic analysis and natural language processing to understand and target the precise information companies need to reach specific audiences.

By seeing significant terms, phrases and keywords in context, contextual targeting algorithms can detect their meaning, helping pharma companies reach users with a specific interest on the pages they visit – without using sensitive data.

Contextual targeting can also be taken one step further by connecting target-specific content with relevant, peripheral content users are already consuming. This enables pharma marketers to reach their ideal audience more cost effectively and in places where the competition isn’t advertising.

This approach is based on the notion that people dealing with health issues refuse to be defined by their condition. They want to maintain their lifestyles and sense of self while managing their symptoms.

Someone suffering from migraines might visit pages related to understanding and treating migraine headaches, but they’re also likely to be interested in holistic well-being content like diet, recipes, fitness, exercise and mindfulness.

“Migraine sufferer” is sensitive personal information, but “wellness enthusiast” is a target audience. That’s the difference between traditional tracking and contextual targeting.

Best practices for contextual targeting

A successful pharmaceutical marketing campaign goes beyond regulatory compliance and risk management. For highly effective advertising, pharma companies must follow best practices for contextual targeting.

  • Make the greatest impact with a semantic – not taxonomic – approach. To see the full picture of context, use keywords to build semantic topics and target based on the holistic meaning of a page. For example, “natural pain management,” “arnica” and “joint stiffness” are all of interest to a patient with arthritis. By managing and optimizing a 360-degree perspective, it’s still possible to reach an accurate target audience without the use of personal data.
  • Conquer competitors by understanding their strategies. Generate a semantic topic using product names or URLs to uncover relevant keywords from pages showing competitive products. Understand the nuances of their messages and then create semantic topics that enable you to find where they advertise. Then, decide whether to beat them at their own game with strong campaigns on popular pages or extend your reach to those consumers (and new ones) in other, more cost-effective venues.
  • Target consumers where they spend time online. Meet users where they already are and align your message to their mindset. Someone researching arthritis might read an article on a healthcare website, but they might also look at flexibility tips on a fitness blog, or even recipes for reducing inflammation. Engaging target audiences beyond category-specific content has the added benefit of lowering costs and competitive clutter while retaining relevance – even with those who are hard to reach.
  • Leverage your resources for powerful performance. Reaching your audience is essential, but costs and efficiency are important for outperforming KPIs. And it is possible in a privacy-first world. A leading global pharmaceutical company wanted to target users interested in a specific medical treatment but had limited media activation options due to PHI tracking restrictions. Using contextual targeting, they were able to build a custom contextual audience that outperformed other tactics by 55-75% and reduced their CPA by 75%.
  • Choose your path forward. The power of contextual targeting is that there’s no “one size fits all” solution. Determine how you want to reach your audience, whether that’s advertising on mainstream websites, matching your competitors’ strategies, finding customers on less costly pages, extending audiences into contextual targets or any combination. Focus on making the most of your marketing tactics without wasting time and resources worrying about compliance.

Improve the health of your pharma campaigns with contextual targeting

Proactive pharma marketers are moving off third-party identifiers and focusing on solutions to identify audiences while maintaining compliance with privacy regulations. Striking the balance between direct context (like “arthritis”) and peripheral content (such as “pain relief” or “flexibility exercises”) enables marketers to drive both impact and topline reach.

Fyllo has helped some of the biggest pharma companies find their audiences with contextual targeting solutions. Our technology makes it possible to extend your reach and find new consumers in untapped places, all while reducing the risks of using personal data and without breaking the bank.

Contact us to learn how Fyllo can energize your next pharma campaign with compliant, contextual targeting.

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