Feb26

Twitter and Google Forge Deal That Reintroduces Tweets to Google Search Results

Social Search Blog Image_This article was co-authored by Buddy Scalera from Ogilvy CommonHealth – Parsippany, NJ.

Twitter announced recently that it will be providing Google with access to its microblogging service for search indexing. Although Twitter activity appears in Google’s search results now, the staggering volume, more than 6,000 tweets per minute, makes crawling and organizing the data impractical.

The new partnership between Twitter and Google will grant the market-leading search engine access to Twitter’s “firehose” of data. This data is generated from the stream of 140-character tweets produced by Twitter’s 287 million users. Google’s unique access will enable it to parse, arrange, and develop rank and relevance for the social content in real-time.

It is not clear how Google will present Twitter’s data in search engine results, but the real-time and topical nature of the social network will make it especially relevant for breaking news, cultural subject matter, and rising trends. It will also likely be aligned to searches for individuals and personalities. It seems natural to index a person’s Twitter account, recent posts, and other activity in Google’s Knowledge Graph. It is also likely that user activity provided by Twitter will help determine if Twitter data is shown at all and with what prominence.

Of course, Google and Twitter have both been smart about how to monetize their offerings. We expect them to maximize their shared advantage for advertisers on both platforms.

What does this mean for healthcare brands?

For brands that are participating on Twitter, this continues to extend the reach of those messages into keyword-oriented searches. It also gives added pause to those concerned about the impact of influencers and popular Twitter users who mention brand names and conditions. Although it is not likely that a rogue Twitter handle will appear in a product search return in the first few pages, it will be extremely relevant to the nature of searches surrounding patients, their discussion of their disease, and treatment options.

For brands not active on Twitter, there is still the need to monitor activity on social networks, especially those that are publically searchable. Users who share brand information may be competing with your brand for users’ attention. Those users may also be candidates for influencer engagement, or an opportunity to correct brand misinformation.

The new inclusion of timely social posting would work to tremendous advantage for those brands that seize conventions and meetings for social sharing and engagement. The timely nature of event hashtags and the limited shelf-life for this type of communication create an ideal pairing for topical search and brand engagement.

Brands that have not engaged in social media marketing or listening programs are likely to be surprised by the changes in search results for their brand names, disease state terms, and other organic search results. Brands will now be competing with many more voices and another variable of timeliness. As with many of the changes Google has introduced for marketers in recent years, the changes will come quickly and with little time to react for a process-oriented industry like healthcare.

Many brands participate in social listening to understand the way patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals are discussing the health category and their brand. These brand teams are likely to be better prepared for the deluge of information to come from this announcement, and how to process it.

Both Twitter and Google are companies that are comfortable experimenting in real-time. So while these changes will probably start with search engine results pages, we expect to see a ripple effect across other properties. Google+ and YouTube channels may be the first places where we see different types of experimentation and integration. After all, these properties are all part of Google’s ecosystem of data and advertising.

Although the announcement has been made, both parties have noted that it will be several months before tweets begin appearing in users’ searches in real-time. This announcement should have tremendous impact on the Draft FDA Social Media Guidelines presented to the industry last year.

To learn more about how this announcement and other market changes may affect your brand, please contact our team here at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide.

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Feb20

Idea Is King, Guard It With Your Life

OHW Blog Image 2.20.15“In the dizzying world of moviemaking, we must not be distracted from one fundamental concept: the idea is king.” – Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney Chairman (’84-’94)

This fundamental concept also holds true in healthcare communications. All great work starts with a great idea. But arriving at a great idea is not enough. In our highly scrutinized and regulated world, a great idea is at risk of an untimely death at numerous points in its life. From internal creative reviews and client presentations to market research and medical/regulatory review, a great idea is often pushed aside because it looks and feels different than the status quo. A great idea makes people feel uncomfortable. But that is exactly what it should do: grab our attention and challenge our thinking.

Healthcare advertising is plagued with bad clichés, overused metaphors, and happy slice-of-life imagery. Contrast these campaigns to the quality of the work that many creatives in our industry include in their own portfolios. The difference is amazing. It’s an eye-opening experience to see the original idea that devolved to the happy couple sitting on a park bench with a benign, lackluster headline. We need to come together as a united community—creatives, account, planning, digital, and analytics —to courageously support great ideas, protecting their creative integrity all the way through final execution. Because in healthcare, great ideas can lead to more than awards; they can help save and improve lives.

 

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Feb12

So What’s Your EHR Strategy?

EMR Blog Image2As pharmaceutical marketers, we no longer live in a world of traditional marketing where we can cast a wide net and hope we’re engaging with the right customers. We need to move communications to where our physicians are. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies have shifted away from traditional face-to-face tactics to more digital interactions, spending 25% of their marketing budgets on websites and online media.

“Unlike traditional forms of advertising, digital technologies enable tailoring of advertisements to individual physicians on the basis of data from clinical encounters,” according to Christopher Manz, MD, and David Grande, MD, MPA, from Penn Medicine, who recently gave a point of view on electronic health records (EHRs) in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Digital marketing provides us with tools to communicate more effectively with our customer through more individualized and personalized engagements, ensuring that the correct message is being delivered at the appropriate time. With new tools coming out weekly, it is easy to get caught up in the hype. Choosing a tactic simply because it’s the “newest” or “coolest” option will not guarantee success. Without the right strategy, we are just wasting time and resources. A strong digital marketing strategy is essential for communicating with our customers and staying ahead of our competition. The key is understanding our customers as well as a brand’s overall strategic and marketing objectives and then selecting the appropriate digital channel(s) that will help reach our target audience and goals.

As brands fight for share of voice in an overcrowded digital space, it’s time for companies to stop looking at the traditional online engagements as the cornerstone of HCP engagement and focus more on targeted engagements within electronic medical records (EMRs). According to market leaders, EMRs will become the dominant communications stream for physicians, and pharma has been slow to engage in the EMR format.

There has been tremendous growth of the EMR marketplace over the last few years. According to the latest government statistics, 72% of office-based physicians are using an EMR or EHR system, up from 48% in 2009, driven by meaningful use, which provided incentive payments for physicians and hospitals to implement them. EMR is now the center of physician workflow, and its data offers valuable insights into practice management and the physician-patient dynamic. This data can be leveraged to better serve patients and physicians by providing the tools that they need, such as patient education or reimbursement support. To that end, aligning with the right EMR solution should increase HCP engagement. What is encouraging, according to Manhattan Research’s latest Taking the Pulse survey, is that 71% of physicians are interested in interacting with pharmaceutical companies in this way, so we as pharmaceutical marketers need to capitalize on this channel in a strategic way that brings value to both providers and patients.

Integrating With the HCP Workflow

So how can we leverage the use of EMRs to benefit healthcare providers, patients and payers? With the demands placed on them today, physicians have less time for each patient, pharmaceutical reps, and for searching for information between appointments. Marketing to HCPs through EMRs will better integrate with a physician’s daily workflow and shift the mindset from disruptive marketing to a partnership. Physicians use EMRs for their tools, and the more information physicians are getting through these systems, the more opportunity for marketers to provide value. Leveraging EMRs to deliver meaningful assets to physicians when they are with patients represents a prime opportunity to change the behavior of our physicians.

There are several ways to reach physicians through EMRs. One obvious component is providing information about a brand at the point-of-prescribing that is of high clinical value to physicians. Additionally, according to Taking the Pulse, at least 40% of HCPs say patient education, samples, vouchers, patient financial support and product information are features they are most interested in seeing in EMRs. Other examples include formulary data and safety updates. EMRs can also be used for direct marketing to physicians through banner ads, industry-sponsored clinical resources and emerging solutions.

Marketing to HCPs through EMRs is not without its obstacles. There are approximately 600 EMR system vendors with only a handful offering partnerships with pharma companies. Therefore using EMRs is not a one-size-fits-all approach to marketing, and it might be required to customize materials for each platform. There are also concerns about privacy, interruption of the HCP process by forcing information during a clinical decision, and the intricacies of integration with EMRs. These all need to be considered when determining if and how an EMR plan and roll-out is right for your brand.

Looking to the Future

EMRs represent an opportunity for marketers to communicate to physician throughout a product life cycle—from clinical trial recruitment to workflow “interventions.” The opportunity for marketers in EMRs is here, and physicians want pharma involvement. But it’s imperative that a brand has a clear EMR strategy to capitalize on this channel opportunity and ensure we are providing a fully integrated communications plan.

 

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Jan16

Lessons From a Wise Cat

Knowledge Sharing Image BlogTwo cats race up a flight of stairs and make a sharp turn, where a large open space sits beneath a single handrail. One plunges through the open space and falls to the ground floor underneath. The other, keen to avoid his brother’s fate, screeches to a halt in front of the opening, just in time to avoid a similar misfortune. Ever since, he navigates the open space with care…as does cat number one, who landed on his feet and was no worse for wear following his inglorious fall.

Learning from the experience of others takes place all around us, from silly things to those more serious, from the animal kingdom and our four-legged friends to our bipedal colleagues and companions.

Nine months ago, my Knowledge Management partner in crime Rhiannon Preston posted a blog on the role of the Global Knowledge Management team and our remit to take the information and experience residing in our collective Ogilvy minds and transfer this into portals that can be tapped into by our colleagues.

The role of knowledge management was introduced to the Asia Pacific region in late 2013, responsible for fostering a closer community within the Ogilvy CommonHealth Asia Pacific health practices. With its mix of developed and emerging healthcare markets, the Asia Pacific region prizes knowledge transfer, both for the opportunity to learn from global communities as well as for the ability to share our own stories.

Part of knowledge management involves the transfer of facts—brands worked on or pitched for, therapeutic areas of expertise, metrics from successful campaigns. This information is easily captured and stored in databases, ready to be of use to the next person in need. In our increasingly digital world, knowledge is actually more accessible than ever—or rather, data is.

But it is the ability to draw insights from data that gives knowledge its true power and meaning. What is less tangible but perhaps more valuable than the data are the lessons learnt from each experience: which pitfalls to avoid, which gaps to avoid plunging through headfirst. This will be one of my aims for the Global Knowledge Management team in 2015: to go beyond making information and experiences available, to turning them into meaningful lessons that guide our colleagues. For those of us less disposed to landing on our feet after a tumble, this could prove rather useful indeed.

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Jan7

Computational Lexical Analyses and the Modern Era of Wordsmithing

Writing Blog ImageIn a world fast becoming more interested in, impressed by, and capable of producing brilliant digital imagery, I’m the unfortunate one who gets to sit here and try to remind everyone that words still matter. Excited yet? Give me four minutes of your time, this is a brief post.

We work in what is first and foremost an advertising agency. There may be individual groups whose work is not entirely captured by that description (mine is one of them), but it’s the most condensed way of summarizing Ogilvy CommonHealth. Visually and creatively, the work that comes from many of our groups is stunning. It’s often best-in-class, and I’m not here to deter anyone from thinking so.

But this brings me back to what this post is about. Words, or language. Awe-inspiring as the visual work may be, our clients still often struggle with questions like, “What do we actually call this drug? How do we define and describe its therapeutic effect? How do we communicate that to clinicians? To patients?” Basic as these questions may seem, they are fundamental to the immediate and sustained success of the product. A drug needs a consistent, precise, ownable and differentiating lexicon in addition to a strong marketing campaign.

Easier said than done. Language is organic, a living, breathing document that evolves over time. Let’s look at the word good as an example. Once universally and unambiguously having meant desirable or of high quality, a recent article titled “The Art of the Amateur Online Review” in the New York Times describes why that’s no longer the case (the article is a good, quick read for anyone in advertising). Analyses of users’ product reviews show that good is starting to mean ambivalent. Reviewers say things like “it’s good, but….” In other words, good no longer means desirable, but simply good enough.

The same issues present themselves in a medical and scientific context. Clients wonder if they should say their drug is targeted or selective or honing. Perhaps others have created a drug with a new mechanism of action and they want to describe it in not just a differentiating way but also in a meaningful and exciting one. In medical language, the same words can have unique meanings across different categories.

Tools are available to help guide these decisions. In a computational lexical analysis, we can generate a database of language relevant to whatever subject area it is that we’re interested in. That can help us to know how the words in the category are used, and to see what opportunities there may be to create new language. It’s grounded in data, but this is a strategic exercise that seeks to provide guidance around what language is most appropriate for a given molecule/condition/category. Have a client with problems like this? Send them our way, we may be able to help.

 

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Dec18

The Value of a PURL

Value of a PURL blogIMAGENo two pearls are alike—and neither are two PURLs. You may have heard this homophone for the popular gemstone in reference to digital marketing campaigns. The acronym refers to “personalized URLs,” or unique web addresses. The concept is relatively simple (at least in comparison to its execution): each target has an exclusive code attached to a link in an email they receive (or the banner they view, etc.). The degree to which this personalization is carried through to the website varies—from entirely unique landing pages, to custom-populated portions of the website (such as displaying the target’s name on the page), to all targets viewing the same exact page, and the codes being used only for backend tracking purposes.

The value of a pearl is determined by several factors: type, rarity, size, shape, color, etc. The value of a PURL is also multifaceted. The first, and perhaps most obvious value (at least to someone in marketing analytics), is that PURLs enable detailed tracking of an individual. Websites, with the help of reporting suites such as Omniture, record activity against each unique code. This tracking then enables a view of each target’s path and interactions on-site. Additional value is obtained when this information is collected on a personal level, and then used to customize further engagement. For example, if a target explores a certain area of a website, the next email to that target can reference this action and/or include further information on this topic. This engagement customization then translates into a third added value: the use of PURLs typically increases response rates. Not surprisingly, targets are more likely to click on a link when it is personally relevant.

The history of pearls in society as a valued possession is long and storied. In ancient times, pearls were rare and highly valued (as the legend of Cleopatra and her pearls implies). In more recent history, the value of pearls has diminished greatly due to the availability of cultured pearls. However, the value of PURLs is only increasing in marketing, and is becoming the cost of entry for a truly effective campaign.

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Dec3

Stories to Tell: Facebook for Health Care Brands

Stories to Tell Facebook for Health Care Brands BLOG Image2We all know Facebook is a powerful storytelling platform for brands. But in health care, FDA regulation and privacy rules often leave us watching our counterparts in consumer marketing with jealousy. A recent example of our work with Hackensack University Medical Center demonstrates not only that health care brands can carry out effective content strategies on social media platforms, it can even be simple to accomplish.

HackensackUMC is consistently rated as the top hospital in New Jersey by US News & World Reports. One particular area of excellence is its nursing program. The hospital is one of just two in the nation to earn the prestigious Magnet nursing designation five consecutive times, representing 20 years of distinction.

Last May, during National Nurses Week, we proposed creating a series of Facebook posts where each day would feature a short story and photo of a HackensackUMC nurse.

The work was minimal: we conducted a 20 minute phone interview with each nurse and asked him or her to provide us with a photo. The response was tremendous: The stories we posted about each nurse quickly became the most engaging content the hospital has ever posted on its Facebook page.

Of particular note, on Wednesday of National Nurses Week, the story of about Dennis Leenig Jr., a pediatric oncology nurse, received over 450 likes, 50 comments and 25 shares. Here’s the post:

It’s not unusual to find Dennis Leenig, Jr. sitting and talking with a patient a half hour after his shift has finished for the day. “Working with leukemia patients, I like that I get to see people through all stages of their care. You get to establish a rapport,” he says. It’s a relationship that continues even after a patient has gone home. Dennis always conducts follow up calls to patients after they’re discharged to see how they’re feeling and to make sure they’re not having trouble getting any medications. “Patients have told me I’m like a son to them and that means the world to me.” Dennis remembers when his own father was a cancer patient at HackensackUMC. A nursing student at the time, it was while visiting his father that he realized his calling was in oncology.

Even more powerful than what we wrote about Dennis, were the testimonials that former patients posted in the comments section. Some excerpts:

Hey Dennis, I remember you well. I felt like I was in expert hands and it was clear to me that your concern for my wellbeing was sincere and genuine. Thank you for making a stressful event a little less so.

We love Dennis and know him well after having many visits to 8PW over the past 4 years with our son. His love and dedication to all patients goes above and beyond. Thank you, Dennis, for all that you do. You have become like family to us.

Dennis, when my uncle was in your care I felt reassured knowing that he had an all-around great guy to help him. He really liked you and spoke highly of you. He fought a good fight but the cancer was too aggressive. I have the utmost respect for what you do on a daily basis and I wanted to thank you again (and the rest of the doctors, nurses, and staff) for everything you did to make his life more comfortable when he was in your care.

The marketing and PR value of these posts is obvious. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place with such compassionate, attentive care? And Dennis was just one of seven nurses we featured that week.

But another benefit of sharing these stories on Facebook is easy to overlook: Facebook as an internal communications tool. The nurses were honored that we thought to interview them for the Facebook page and proud to receive public recognition for their work. And their colleagues enjoyed reading the stories and having a public place to record their praise. It was a morale boost all around.

We are constantly uncovering great stories like Dennis’s. But in this regard, HackensackUMC is not unique. All of our clients’ organizations are brimming with stories.

Maybe it’s easier to find them in a hospital, where nurses are touching lives every hour of every day. But great stories are everywhere–even in corporate settings. What motivated a pharmaceutical company executive to enter the health care industry? Why did a research scientist decide to focus on this particular disease state?

The answers to these questions are personal stories. Telling them brings out the human side of a corporation and pulls employees closer together. New media tools like Facebook make it easy to bring them to the public. And the public is hungry hear these stories from your brand. Especially in health care.

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Nov21

The Glue in Life, and the Agency

glueWhat’s the glue in your life?

For me it is fitness. Running, triathlon, setting goals, eating clean, and having a training plan. That’s the glue that keeps it together for me, the hub around which my world revolves. When I am working towards a new goal, it makes me more balanced, positive and happy.

For others it’s other physical activity: yoga, cross-fit, hiking. Or other ways of being healthy: being a vegan, eating paleo, meditation. Or for you, it could be external: your pet, your children, your significant other. Your house, your car, your boat. It’s what you brag about, how you improve yourself, the destination and the journey. We all have something that feeds and rewards us, holds us together in mind and body and spirit. That’s our glue. One key to success and balance is to figure out what, exactly, your glue is.

So what is the glue at Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide? Or rather, who?

Who is usually the first one in the office, and the last to leave? Who can rattle off the status of two dozen jobs from memory in 10 minutes during hot sheet? Who do we see in the corridors lugging those big job bags from floor to floor, securing, organizing or maintaining job cards, status reports, cover sheets, portal links, med/legal submissions, tagging and linking, night coverage plans, weekend plans, job number lists, finance reports, archiving, uploading files, downloading files, launches, RFPs, pitches, comps, spec sheets….

The glue that holds an ad agency together is the Traffic Coordination department, now known as Project Coordination (PC). PC is the hub of it all—from inception to completion, this group shepherds jobs from manuscript to release. PC works with every department—edit, copy, art, studio, account, business management, finance, project management, and production. If you don’t know something about an account, ask PC. There’s no better launch pad for new account executives or other staff positions at our agency than PC.

PC is a great place to learn, and a great place to stay. It’s everyone else’s glue, and it’s what makes us whole. It’s my glue too. What’s yours?

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Nov12

Ebola Goes Viral

Ebola Blog Image2“It’s like the film with Dustin Hoffman and the monkeys,” said the woman next to me on the tube the other day. “No, it’s more like that other film with the monkeys,” said her companion. “The one where animal rights protestors release them and unleash a zombie virus on the UK.”

The truth, thankfully, is that the most recent Ebola outbreak is nothing like either of these movies. The Ebola virus has yet to mutate into a new strain that spreads like flu as it does so rapidly in Outbreak, and it seems somewhat unlikely that it is going to turn us all into flesh-eating un-dead as happens in 28 Days Later. But what exactly is it like, how much of a threat does it pose, and how are we supposed to communicate the bare facts of virus and disease in an atmosphere of panic and misinformation?

The other day, news outlets were tracing the steps of one of Ebola’s recent victims. New Yorker Dr. Craig Spencer had been all around town since returning from aid work in Guinea. He had taken the subway, visited a meatball stand and hung out at a bowling alley in Brooklyn. Normal things that a person might like to do after returning to their hometown after an intense trip abroad. But Dr. Spencer started running a high fever and was soon diagnosed with an Ebola virus infection.

Despite most reports suggesting that he had interacted with only a handful of people since becoming symptomatic, The Gutter, the bowling alley visited by Dr. Spencer, was forced to close down for two days and underwent a mass disinfection. The Meatball Shop remained open but was host to a PR stunt in which the city’s mayor visited for a meal in front of a host of cameras to prove to the general public it was safe. Which of course both of these places should be. There is nothing about the pathogenesis of Ebola that suggests we can catch it from a bowling ball or a restaurant table. Indeed the virus can barely survive for long outside the body, especially on hard, dry surfaces.

Hysterical news reporting of disease is nothing new. This time, like many other times before, it has been served up with a dollop of xenophobia. The problem, almost ignored when it is abroad and confined to countries that barely register on the Western consciousness, is treated like an unmitigated disaster when it hits home shores. Like the wave of homophobia that emerged in the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early ’80s, the tabloid media emphasis is on minimizing personal risk rather than pressuring organizations such as the UN and the WHO to act on the virus itself. We are encouraged to shut our borders, be suspicious, be vigilant, and most importantly, be afraid.

If there is something that feels different this time around, it’s the social media factor. In 2009 when swine flu panic was at its peak, we were all on Facebook, but fewer of us were active on Twitter. The surges of popularity in micro-media over the past few years have completely changed the way we consume and digest news, but also the speed at which stories spread.

Take the case of this video, which was recorded in a Chilean hospital a few weeks ago. The announcement you hear roughly translates as: “Can I have your attention, please. We have a patient who is suspected to have Ebola. Please leave the room and go to another hospital.” After the patient who took this video posted it on YouTube, it received almost 140,000 views. Soon the story migrated to Twitter, where the hashtag #EbolaChile was used over 200,000 times. All this happened incredibly fast and internationally, even though it was later revealed that the suspected Ebola was actually a case of malaria. Indeed, it has not gone unnoticed that the Ebola news is spreading faster than the virus itself.

But when things are over-egged on Twitter it only ever results in topic fatigue and silliness. Recently, actress Anne Hathaway was accused of refusing to shake an Argentinian journalist’s hand due to fear of contracting the virus. Others are making mockery of the intense US media coverage, with some users suggesting that “EBoLa could be the name of an obnoxious Manhattan neighborhood” or that “the only part of the Ebola guy that upsets me is how rich his social life seems in comparison.”

With the fast pace of social media reporting, topics that have had everyone enraged on one day can be forgotten the next. But whilst it’s easy to laugh at the jokes made at the expense of the media hysteria in the US, for the people of the West African countries most affected it is a genuine threat, and it’s not going away.

Organizations like the CDC are doing a good job of keeping up sensible dialogue about Ebola by producing factsheets on the disease and its transmission. These are clearly designed to alleviate fears about how the virus has been spread without shying away from the facts of how it is affecting the West African countries hit by the epidemic. The UN has been providing updates on the current situation, and what they are doing to combat the spread of the disease whilst the WHO have tweeted audio files from their recent press conference. The challenge for these organizations is that there is a lot of repetition in the messages that they have to send out. The advice about the virus is quite basic and in order for them to communicate this effectively they have to find new and interesting ways to dress up the facts, so as not to appear repetitive.

When developing our own disease awareness initiatives we can learn from the social media reaction to Ebola. Twitter can be a maelstrom of misinformation and flippancy, and it is important to provide clear, concise and meaningful content such as infographics and video. Although rather than share PDFs, like the organizations mentioned above, we should think about content that is easily viewable and sharable within a Twitter client. Most importantly we should remember that it’s easy for a story to get lost in a medium that moves as fast as social. Bitesize content should be deployed regularly to keep up the momentum, and we need to find creative ways of saying the same messages in different ways so we make our point without switching off our audience.

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Oct29

Exploring the Programmatic Opportunity in Healthcare Professional Media

JS Blog2You don’t have to be an expert in the intricacies of programmatic media buying to understand the rapid adoption of this latest innovation in the online advertising space. According to a recent AOL survey, 76% of advertisers buy display banners via programmatic across all industries and an estimated 9.5% of the total online media investment is being bought programmatically (WFA Survey, Aug 2014). Quite simply, large-scale advertisers have realized many benefits. Recognizing the potential, Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media first started offering the option to our medical advertising clients back in 2012 via our in-house Demand Side Platform (DSP) technology. Four years later, we review the fundamentals of the technology and the potential benefits to professional medical advertisers, while discussing the unique market conditions our industry faces that have hindered adoption. Ultimately, we ask, “Is programmatic buying right for advertisers looking to reach busy medical professionals?”

What Is Programmatic Buying?

Making banner buys programmatic simply means automating the process via a “machine” called a Demand Side Platform (DSP). Banner buys can be programmatic with or without the element of bidding (real-time bidding, or RTB), in which case two or more advertisers compete simultaneously for the same impression, with the win going to the highest bidder. The “machine” or technology not only automates the buying process, it analyzes first- and third-party data feeds to define custom audiences and then finds these targets as they move throughout the web via banner impressions available through ad exchanges. The DSP is a comprehensive solution that assists buyers by managing data, inventory and bids.

What Is the Opportunity?

The immediate opportunity for industry is to exponentially increase brand exposure and reduce costs by targeting healthcare professionals as they move across the web, beyond pure play medical sites such as Medscape and MedPageToday. The professional medical media sector continues to rely primarily on the direct 1:1, agency: publisher buying model. Given that most medical sites have a limited supply of inventory, banner CPMs are high, often averaging over $100.00 ($250.00-$350.00 for targeted banners) and premium publishers sell out of annual inventory very quickly. The DSP model solves the inventory supply problem and simultaneously yields cost-efficiency gains. With the ability to serve banners across the web to a qualified audience, we have realized CPMs downward of $20.00.

What Are the Challenges?

In the highly regulated pharma sector, we can expect to encounter challenges with the prospect of reaching a physician on ESPN.com or other nonclinical environment. Privacy concerns have been paramount but not insurmountable. Many leading pharma and medical publishers have revisited registration and opt-in language on their websites in order to broaden the use of captured data. Even when site categories are tightly constricted to news, weather and travel sites, control over ad placement and content adjacency may be compromised, which can lead to concerns for brand safety. Additionally, regulatory teams remain apprehensive around serving HCP-targeted creative on consumer-centric, nonmedical sites.

If the DSP only tapped into medical inventory, these challenges could be better addressed. However, the fundamentals of programmatic buying would be turned upside down, negating many of the benefits:

  • Scale: Inventory on medical sites is limited and finite.
  • Quality: As the stewards of physician member/user data, premium healthcare publishers such as medical societies will not relinquish inventory to an exchange.
  • Efficiency: CPMs could easily surge to over $400.00 to reach the most productive physicians.
  • Demand: There is a definite cap on what professional media buyers are willing to pay for banners as a tactic—regardless of who could potentially see the ad.

Our Viewpoint

In order to realize the efficiencies of programmatic buying against a professional medical audience, advertisers must work with a partner that can tap into large-scale general market ad exchanges while validating targets on the physician level. This would provide the inventory scale needed to drive CPMs down but ensure a professional message is delivered to an appropriate audience.

Despite ongoing buzz around the launch of an industry-specific programmatic buying platform whereby HCP publishers would exclusively place inventory they are willing to sell via automation with a single media buying agency, the concept has not yet been realized. Full-service media agencies have programmatic capabilities, and given that quality, transparency and neutrality would be compromised in such a scenario, there seems little incentive for media buyers at large to work through a third-party media buying agency. The key questions:  How would advertisers be assured they had a fair bid for the most premium inventory, and how would optimizations across multiple campaigns be neutrally managed, given the size of the audience?

As discussed, retargeting professionals strictly on medical sites has some challenges. Even so, medical publishers willing to try programmatic selling on their sites should continue to work directly with all media agencies, but offer programmatic direct deals. This type of transaction closely mirrors a direct 1:1 digital sale since the inventory and pricing are negotiated and guaranteed. However, elements of the buy are automated from the RFP through campaign management. Neutrality, quality, control and transparency would remain intact, as media buyers would not be required to buy via a third-party agency and the publishers could maintain control over ad messaging, placement and user data on their sites.

There is certainly room in the medical media sector to innovate. But given the unique characteristics of our market, going programmatic may not translate into greater banner revenue for medical publishers if demand is weak and advertisers are not willing to participate due to inflated CPMs. Specialized medical publishers would be better served to innovate offerings beyond banner advertising—lead generation, native advertising, and real-time dynamic content opportunities are just a few that are long overdue.

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