Long Time Coming: Pharma’s Progress in Mobile Advertising

Dear House Rules,

I’m a marketer for a major pharmaceutical company, and it feels like we’ve done it all when it comes to promotion: eDetails, websites, product animations, email blasts, journal ads, consumer ads—you name it. I’ve wanted to join my colleagues in other industries who are taking advantage of the opportunity afforded by mobile. Pharma, though, has really been dragging its feet. Do you think this is changing?


Is mobile really happening?

Dear Mobile: After plenty of false starts and missteps, it finally is. There are two primary reasons for this: a shift in supported ad formats and some critical guidance in the collection and activation of privacy-safe date.

Big Change #1: Farewell to Flash

• Flash has been the standard mobile advertising platform since the technology became active. Problem is, Flash isn’t interchangeable between devices (i.e. iPhones and Androids), while HTML5 is. Last year, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) updated their guidelines for Display Creative to encourage the broader ad tech industry to transfer from Flash to HTML5.
• The IAB’s suggestion essentially became a mandate on September 1, when Google’s Chrome browser began blocking ads built with Flash technology in favor of those using HTML5 formats. For pharma, an industry that spends an estimated $1.9B in digital advertising annually, this announcement had a profound effect.1
• Until now, the time and cost of med/legal reviews of advertising assets resulted in many pharma companies focusing solely on Flash ads for desktop and not developing HTML5 versions for mobile, which of course severely limited their mobile advertising options. Google’s policy change basically forced the issue. Now, pharma marketers can program all their digital content in HTML5 instead of having to do “double work” with separate platforms.

Big Change #2: Privacy Policy Guidance

• Beginning in late 2013, several major pharma companies updated their public privacy policies to allow for data collection and user-level data targeting. The updates came directly after jointly released self-regulatory codes by the Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) and Digital Advertising Alliance (DAA), which included guidance on the complex process of determining the sensitivity of different types of behavioral and medical data and brought clarity to its use for targeting purposes.
• These updated privacy policies have helped marketers a great deal in responsibly activating a wide range of granular data that is essential for locating patient populations on smartphones—from site retargeting to behavioral data and geo- and propensity-based modeling. When activating such granular data, marketers be sure that their media partners adhere to the NAI and DAA codes and also employ privacy safeguards like anonymous user profiles. By taking these precautions, pharma marketers can more ambitiously engage consumer populations without fear of violating consumer privacy mandates.

As the mobile channel continues to command the majority of consumers’ digital consumption time, pharma marketers must move quickly to further develop their mobile strategies. While there will undoubtedly be challenges along the way, it seems clear that pharma marketers are equipped to make 2016 a massive year of growth, learning, and innovation for mobile and data adoption.

In order to reach your patients using a mobile platform, be sure you’re partnering with an agency with expertise in new and emerging technologies as well as the “old standards” of pharma marketing. Do that, and you’ll no longer be playing catch-up, but leading the pack.


House Rules

Reference: 1. Per eMarketer “U.S. Healthcare & Pharma Industry Digital Ad Spending 2014-2020” projections for 2016.

Categories: advertising, pharma marketing,

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Founded in 2013, Xavier Creative House (XCH) is an award-winning healthcare creative agency specializing in pharmaceutical, biotech, and medical device. XCH’s global team of brand builders and healthcare marketers, tech-savvy go-getters, and innovative dream-vetters are passionate about the big idea that changes behavior in the healthcare marketplace. They believe life is about connections and that healthcare is about life. That is why XCH delivers bold and evocative creative solutions, amplified by meaningful technology, to energize brands and authentically connect with patients and HCPs.

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