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​Programmatic Buying: Data-Driven Media and Creative Synergy for Pharma

Tricia Vivona

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The combination of data and programmatic technology is driving monumental change in the advertising landscape. Programmatic media buying, via the automation of a platform, provides the technology needed to process and leverage the vast amounts of actionable data available. Site-direct and network media purchases are still valuable, but it is becoming increasingly important to include programmatic as a part of an overall media plan.  

The key benefit of data-driven advertising is increased advertising effectiveness. Advertisers can set up very specific targeting, including contextual, behavioral, retargeting and prospecting (i.e., finding new users) segments. Each segment can have a specific creative message, resulting in increased ad relevance per consumer. eMarketer reports that the leading objectives driving interest in programmatic approaches for advertisers include: 

  • More effectively targeting consumers across digital media
  • Efficiently valuing and transacting digital media
  • Improving operational efficiency
  • Delivering a better customer experience 

There are challenges to implementing a programmatic approach, especially for the pharmaceutical vertical which must consider heightened regulatory factors around data and targeting. The pharmaceutical vertical is often slower to adapt new technology; however, programmatic is important to consider as it will ultimately lead to increased value per advertising dollar and a better user experience for consumers.

This POV serves as a primer on programmatic media buying, describes the opportunities that it presents, and explains how pharmaceutical marketers can take advantage of this growing trend.

Real-time bidding (RTB) fits underneath the programmatic buying umbrella but has distinct qualities. The RTB auction model has been utilized for years within entities such as search engine marketing, eBay and the U.S. stock market. Within this dynamic cost model, price per individual ad impression is dependent on market value. Instead of paying for bulk impressions to a certain context or audience upfront, the algorithm looks at every person on the table and decides, in that moment, if that specific person is going to have value to the brand and at what exact bidding price. The algorithm analyzes a multitude of variables in its assessment, including geography, device, time of day and any other data points that have been included in the targeting parameters. This is extremely important in order to increase the effectiveness of the campaign and minimize waste.

RTB can be used to purchase media across both the open and private (more premium) marketplaces to secure different tiers of exchange inventory. According to eMarketer, 79 percent of U.S. executive marketers plan to use the automation of premium digital media buying processes in the next two years, compared to the 59 percent currently using it. The private exchange is often used for branding purposes but is effective for direct-response as well, especially in niche categories. Programmatic can also be used in a guaranteed situation (non-RTB), where the traditional, site-direct negotiations still occur, but the media is run through the technology so that data can be leveraged on top of the plan. 

Traditional media channels have begun to mimic the online programmatic progression. Although progression is occurring within digital out-of-home and radio, television will see the greatest growth and evolution this year, using audience data to target by household (also called addressability) or through linear television, with results measured digitally. According to research firm Strategy Analytics, 20 percent of television ad dollars are projected to be spent programmatically by 2018, up from 1 percent in 2013. Set-top box companies and cable networks are already supplying data and inventory to programmatic companies that are building TV solutions. The ability to use the same data across channels is invaluable, and many TV advertisers are excited at the prospect of moving past simple age/sex targeting into richer, more specific user data segments. 

For instance, the prospect of allowing advertisers to layer and leverage different data points on top of programmatic TV media, including:

  • Demographic and consumer data
  • Audience propensity (i.e., likelihood to start on brand)
  • Proxy-for-access data
  • Longitudinal Rx data (e.g., health conditions, payer type, physician specialty)

is exciting as it will narrow the overall volume of impressions to reach relevant users, resulting in targeted television. Based on patient population and investment levels, studies can be conducted alongside the media to tie doctor visits or script conversions back to the media.

Integrating TV into the programmatic space will enable multichannel campaigns to become more holistic and flexible. Data segments that are working via display can be utilized via TV, and just like with display, optimizations could be made in-flight, reacting to campaign performance. Finally, reporting will be more robust than ever, both qualitatively and quantitatively, in contrast to traditional television reports which often aren’t available until well after a campaign ends.

As Adweek put it, “The question ‘Will TV embrace programmatic?’ misses the reality: The medium already embraces it.” It is a way for advertisers to purchase inventory within an online platform and create more effective buys by streamlining ads to particular audiences. Many programmatic companies, such as Turn, that have historically focused on their demand-side platform (DMP) efforts are expanding their capabilities and building programmatic TV solutions. There will still be a need for broad-reaching campaigns, but for the more niche brands, audience targeting in TV can provide increased effectiveness.

"The question 'Will TV embrace programmatic?' misses the reality: The medium already embraces it." - Adweek, June 24, 2014

Data-driven advertising is positioned perfectly to spur the next era of creativity and ad effectiveness in the pharmaceutical vertical. Standalone messages will begin to diminish as storytelling and sequential messaging begin to become more prevalent. Data will lead the way to ensure the best message reaches the person most likely to be receptive to it. This is especially important given that users interact with an ad two times more frequently when it is relevant to them, according to a Magna Global Media Economy report. This means that multiple creative versions are needed so that each audience group feels it is personal to them. These efforts will make a brand’s campaign stand out among the 1.41 billion dollars’ worth of ads that will be shown online in the U.S. this year. In essence, it will become increasingly important for creative collaboration between the media and creative teams to ensure the data and content can work in unison for the best consumer experience.

There are many different kinds of data, and the challenge is to sort through what’s available — both first- and third-party — and use what’s actionable. Pharmaceutical campaigns can already take advantage of programmatic buying, both from an RTB and a guaranteed perspective. Although behavioral targeting is limited, especially for branded consumer-targeted campaigns, there are viable options that can both reach the correct audience and meet regulatory guidelines. Besides retargeting off-of-site actions or using third-party contextual segments, there has been increased industry interest in non-cookie data — such as location-based data, especially given the increased transition to mobile — and CRM data. 

Furthermore, a recent study by Crossix Solutions disproved the common belief that Rx and OTC consumers are harder to find online vs. offline, demonstrating that they are either just as active or more active online than the general population. Their solution makes it possible, without relying on cookie pools, to match media exposure to Rx conversion using their extensive data network, a manageable option for pharma brands and one that Intouch has already successfully deployed. 

Regardless of where the data comes from, data management platforms (DMPs) are crucial, as they offer a one-stop shop to housing, configuring and utilizing data across campaign types and channels. Clients can input their own data into the DMP, alongside a library of third-party data, in order to organize and use it all in one place. 

Data-driven advertising is positioned perfectly to spur the next era of creativity… Standalone messages will begin to diminish as storytelling and sequential messaging begin to become more prevalent.

2014 has also been a big year regarding verification of the ad plan and what media dollars are actually purchasing. Did the ads reach the correct audience? Were they in-view? Optimizations can be made in-campaign toward more viewable, on-target and brand-safe impressions. According to a 2103 comScore study, pharmaceutical online advertising beat out all other industry verticals in terms of highest viewability. This will need to be monitored as more media is bought programmatically and additional viewability measures are taken both pre- and post-bid. Increased measurement means the media team has more levers to pull to influence the relevance and appropriateness of ad placements and performance. The increase in data and technology is leading brands away from the negative stigma of display banners and into the more quantifiable world of heightened targeting, messaging and ad placements across the Web. 

The Intouch Solutions media team works together with our clients to determine how programmatic buying can augment the media we manage for specific brands. The combination of actionable data, corresponding creative, and an effective media plan execution results in an increased return on investment. Intouch Solutions’ unique model is set up for programmatic success, with the benefit of housing the creative, website development, media and analytics teams under one roof. We are positioned to formulate these decisions together and execute the best plan possible. 

As programmatic becomes increasingly present in the industry, each brand must determine what works best for their specific guidelines and targets. There is no one-size-fits-all approach, but the programmatic means to an effective and efficient end are present and ready to be utilized.


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