Yes, You Should Be Paying Attention to Programmatic Buying

Dear House Rules,

Recently, a friend of mine who’s in marketing for a different industry was talking about this new tactic she’s using called “programmatic buying.” I’ve never even heard of it. Am I missing the boat or is it a form of advertising that’s not right for pharma?


Looking for the Next Big Thing

Dear Looking,

Programmatic buying isn’t too hard to explain, but it’s been slow to catch on among pharma companies. Basically, programmatic ad buying refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves RFPs, human negotiations, and manual insertion orders. Basically, it’s using machines to buy ads.

For industry as a whole, about 20% of all digital advertising is now sold by programmatic buying. However, pharma marketers have been slow to adopt it because of perceived regulatory risks, for one thing. And although the risk of violating HIPAA privacy rules is real, it can be logistically prevented. Programmatic buying is not designed for every brand, either. The smaller the target audience, the less likely programmatic buying will help.

Controlling the message: There’s plenty to like about programmatic ad buying. “Knowing exactly who we are reaching provides transparency that we have never had in online display media,” says Becky Frederick, executive VP, managing director, CMI; formerly president, Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media. “Accuracy of targeting among prescribers has actually evolved into a positive attribute of programmatic buying among legal and medical regulatory departments, because we can control the message and report exactly which HCPs have been exposed.”

Ms. Frederick characterizes pharma’s involvement in programmatic buying as a “widespread interest and cautious adoption,” and CMI does have pharma clients who are using programmatic platforms, mostly to target prescribers as opposed to consumers.

Although programmatic buying certainly represents a new tactic for how you reach your audience, it hasn’t changed what they should see when you do reach them. An outstanding creative presentation of relevant clinical information via a well-thought-out strategy remains the core of any good marketing campaign. To that end, be sure you’re partnering with an expert!


About Xavier Creative House

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.

Where Healthcare Brands Live®

For more information, contact

Sunny White
Founder & CEO of Xavier Creative House