As pharma dives deeper into digital, ad fraud is getting worse

Short on Time?

  • Adalytics reported that for nine months, billions of ad auctions for space on Gannett’s USA Today website resulted in brands unknowingly getting stuck with their ads running on other Gannett sites — often remote community sites.
  • Ads from who-knows-how-many companies ran in the wrong places for nine months.
  • Not a single brand noticed this, and not a single media buyer noticed the fraud.
  • Online ad fraud is costing pharma millions

Online Ad Stats:

  • Social media advertising budgets are expected to grow 11.76% annually by 2026.
  • Acknowledgment is critical: 77% of Twitter users appreciate a brand more when their tweet is responded to. It takes about 10 hours on average for businesses to respond to a tweet, even though customers want a response within four hours.
  • Average advertising costs for small business operations that use Google Ads as part of their online advertising strategy are $9,000 and $10,000 per month.
  • Three-quarters of marketers fail to use behavioral data for online ad targeting.
  •  70%-80% of users ignore sponsored search results.
  • 84% of people expect brands to create content.

But with these numbers comes the opportunity to steal money.

Online ad fraud continues to be a massive problem for advertisers and agencies, especially when it comes to programmatic ads. Buying programmatic ads can be an excellent way to quickly grow your company’s contacts list and create new sales opportunities. However, much online traffic comes from bots—many malicious ones designed to steal money from your programmatic ad campaigns.

It’s no wonder that DTC marketers continue to rely on TV ads, but with more money being used for digital, one has to wonder if pharma people understand what’s going on?

First and foremost, every dollar you spend digitally should be measured by preset metrics like bounce rate, time on site, and pages viewed. If your agency says they don’t have the resources to do it, then find yourself another agency.

Time and time again, I have, for clients, achieving a better ROI by working with agencies to strategically place ads on specific sites that align with our target audiences’ online habits. When, for example, the NY Times ran a series of articles on diabetes, we jumped on the content to strategically place customized ads. The ad performances were excellent, with a time on site of over two minutes and multiple page views. We didn’t drive traffic to the home page; instead, we picked content from the site and drove traffic to that page.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of online customization. Remember that you’re targeting a specific group of people and that they all have different informational needs. Simply repurposing a TV ad doesn’t work.

You also need to customize your online ad program by where your product’s lifecycle. New products need more exposure with the key brand message. Products that have been on the market for a long time need a different message by market segment.

The other issue is ad tracking and social media. As social media companies’ targeting technologies become more precise, people increasingly have the eerie sensation that their phones are spying on them. Newly-pregnant women start seeing ads for maternity clothes before they’ve shared their news with loved ones.

Mass privacy violations and automated discrimination are cornerstones of what we now call surveillance advertising(also known as behavioral or programmatic advertising). This multi-billion dollar global industry, estimated to reach U.S. $786.2 billion by 2026, is still a new frontier of the digital world, an all but lawless Wild West where a few major industry players have seized territory for their gain. Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta control half of the global digital ad market. Ads are fundamental revenue drivers for all these companies, alongside thousands of others.

If pharma gets serious about online advertising, they need to create an online advertising department that focuses on analytics. If you’re simply looking at a one-page summary of traffic to your website, you’re ignoring the reality that online ads are full of fraud.