How pharma marketers can reach the right consumers

Reach consumers when it matters with contextual targeting

July 26, 2023

Pharma advertising is good for patients and doctors, but it’s complicated by restrictions. Contextual targeting helps brands reach consumers with less compliance risk.

How pharma marketers can reach the right consumers

The pharmaceutical advertising industry is a massive market. It’s no surprise to the average consumer: turn on your TV, run a quick Google search or visit a website, and you’ll likely be greeted with an ad explaining the benefits of a new drug.

In 2022, pharma marketing overtook the tech industry to become the second largest spending category after consumer packaged goods, holding 14% of the U.S. market share. Advertisers are taking an omnichannel approach, with the fastest growth coming in the digital arena.

However, regulations around pharmaceutical advertising are strict and rapidly evolving, and consumer concerns around privacy are especially high when it comes to their health and sensitive conditions. Healthcare marketers need to reach potential patients without compromising on compliance or being creepy – that’s where direct-to-consumer advertising strategies come in – and where it’s important to rethink more privacy-friendly choices like contextual targeting.

With this approach, marketers cannot only inform potential patients more effectively, but also reach consumers exactly when they’re most receptive to these types of ads - a powerful combination that’s just what the doctor ordered.

The sales route from provider to consumer

There once was a time when people could only learn about medications to treat their conditions from their physician. Prescriptions were recommended based on the doctor-pharmaceutical representative relationship almost as much as they were on the drug’s effectiveness.

With a specific medication recommended to them by their doctor, people often weren’t aware of other options available to help alleviate their symptoms. They had to trust their provider was giving them the best treatment method as they headed to the pharmacy.

While sales reps still market heavily to healthcare providers, pharmaceutical companies recognize the benefits of advertising directly to potential patients reaching customers through channels such as:

  • Digital display ads
  • Social media
  • Brand name websites
  • Video and nonlinear TV
  • Traditional media like radio, linear TV and print

These days, direct-to-consumer advertising allows people to educate themselves about their conditions and different routes for treatment so they can have proactive conversations with their doctor about their health and well-being.

Digital advertising: Good for pharma, patients and providers

Digital advertising allows pharma brands to move beyond the doctor-rep relationship and reach patients where they already are: on their computers, phones or tablets. Users might see paid search ads, video advertisements, display ads or social posts raising awareness about a condition or medication as they browse the web.

Healthcare advertisers are banking on finding new consumers through these omnichannel avenues. There was an estimated $15.84 billion spent on digital advertising in 2022, a number expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2024.

The modern patient is an active participant in their own healthcare. A web search is often their first stop when researching symptoms. A well-placed ad can serve an informational role, educating viewers about medical conditions and potential treatments, leading them to seek help from their doctor.

This can be beneficial for the doctor, too, as it gives them the opportunity to have more meaningful conversations with their patients about their symptoms and possible courses of care. Discussions with patients may raise physicians’ awareness about a new drug on the market, leading them to prescribe that brand more frequently.

Even if patients and doctors choose not to use a particular brand, direct-to-consumer advertising still drives new users into the market. Awareness of conditions can lead to increased funding for research or even have broader social benefits, like reducing illness across a population.

Improve brand health with contextual targeting

Centering the patient through consumer-focused advertising has demonstrable benefits for users, doctors and companies, but it’s not without its challenges. Pharma is one of the most strictly regulated industries in advertising, overseen by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for prescription drugs and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for over-the-counter medications.

Further complicating the field for pharma marketers is the rising concern around privacy, especially when it comes to sensitive personal information. Traditional tracking methods like cookies or pixels can feel especially intrusive when a customer is followed by ads reminding them of their condition, even on unrelated websites.

Proactive pharma companies are moving away from strategies that track individual users and switching to page-based advertising instead. Contextual targeting, a future-proof and privacy-first advertising strategy, places ads on pages with relevant content to reach potential users on websites that align with their interests.

Advanced semantic technologies like natural language processing (NLP) analyze the content of a page to determine the most relevant words and phrases for a given audience. Marketers can target keywords like “migraine” or “sinus relief” or categories as broad as “wellness and healthcare” to find the most relevant pages to display their products - and reach their desired customers without relying on personal data.

For example, a consumers might go online to search for a home remedy for an upset stomach after a night out. But they might also browse pages for digestive issues, soothing meals or hangover cures. A company selling antacid could use contextual targeting to identify the metadata related to stomach issues and find receptive consumers in new places.

Contextual targeting can even factor in the best time of day to reach consumers for precise, efficient use of marketing resources and improved metrics.

Additionally, the contextual approach allows pharma marketers to align ad campaigns with the patient journey. Typically, after a patient gets diagnosed, they may spend more time researching their condition. As they begin treatment, they may start consuming content around alternative therapies or holistic wellness. Over time, the patient may enter a maintenance phase or have a flare-up - both of which may result in the search for new content. By aligning ads with the meaning and relevance of content, pharma marketers can deliver the right message to the right consumers- precisely when it matters most. Patients benefit by receiving messaging and ads most relevant to them based on where they are in their own personal healthcare journey.

Because contextual targeting focuses on content, not people, it reduces privacy risk for pharma companies. It gives marketers control over ad placement so they can target the most relevant content to reach consumers for powerful, effective advertising campaigns.

In those cases where opt-in data is available from prescription or loyalty programs, an advanced contextual data model can learn from real consumers to develop highly indexed and effective contextual segments. Marketers benefit from even more effective ad placement, enhanced precision and increased reach while maintaining a privacy-forward approach.

Pharma and Fyllo: A powerful pair

Fyllo’s contextual targeting solutions give pharma brands a competitive edge in a market with crowded channels and strict regulations. Our sophisticated semantic platform enables pharma marketers to deliver new impact and efficiencies while eliminating the need for tracking or targeting on sensitive data.

We’ve partnered with some of the largest pharma companies to build custom contextual segments for outperforming, low-CPA advertising campaigns – even with limited activation options. Our solutions are up and running in just a few days, improving efficiency and reach without increasing risk.

Contact us today for more information on how Fyllo can help your brand reach new patients.

To learn more about contextual targeting for pharma, check out Contextual targeting: A privacy-compliant solution for pharma advertising.

Go back