Pharma’s paid media fails

WTF? The Washington Post reported last year that health and pharmaceutical companies spent almost $1 billion on just Facebook mobile ads in 2019.  A complete waste of money, time and effort.

Unlike a traditional TV or radio ad, Facebook’s ad categories help those companies target their drug ads at users who likely suffer from a specific illness the drug treats.  Though Facebook does not offer advertisers categories that explicitly identify people’s health conditions, The Markup identified dozens of ads for prescription pharmaceuticals targeted at people with “interests” in topics like “bourbon,” “oxygen,” and “Diabetes mellitus awareness.”

Although no personally identifiable information is used as name and address, ads for Latuda were shown to users with an interest in the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, a nonprofit support group.

Anoro, a GSK drug also used to treat chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, an inflammatory lung disease caused by emphysema and chronic bronchitis, was targeted at users interested in cigarettes, or just “oxygen.” Keytruda, from Merck, was targeted at an especially wide array of users, including those interested in the chemical industry, Corona beer, and bourbon.

At the center of The Citizen Browser Project is a custom web browser designed by The Markup to audit the algorithms that social media platforms use to determine what information they serve their users, what news and narratives are amplified or suppressed, and which online communities those users are encouraged to join. Initially, the browser will be implemented to glean data from Facebook and YouTube.

A nationally representative panel of 1,200 people will be paid to install the custom web browser on their desktops, which allows them to share real-time data directly from their Facebook and YouTube accounts with The Markup. Data collected from this panel will form statistically valid samples of the American population across age, race, gender, geography, and political affiliation, which will lead to important insights into how Facebook’s and YouTube’s algorithms operate. To protect the panel’s privacy, The Markup will remove personally identifiable information collected by the panel and discard it, only using the remaining redacted data in its analyses.

Marketers have an important role with patients. They must ensure that they reach the correct individuals with the precise information they need but there is a fine line with providing good information and privacy.

Imagine searching Facebook for grilling recipes and seeing ads for statins because there is a correlation between the two groups on a representative panel?

At the center of all this is the business strategy of throwing mud against the wall and seeing what will stick. It comes at a time when 62% of CEOs believe too much of their digital marketing budget is wasted on activities that don’t deliver meaningful results.

I have analyzed a lot of online metrics for clients and I continue to find that more than 50% of their online paid media budgets are wasted.

According to Media Post “asserting that the programmatic advertising marketplace is “riddled with material issues including thin transparency, fractured accountability, and mind-numbing complexity,” the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) this morning announced a request-for-proposal for a consultant to study and come up with recommendations for improving it.

The ANA estimates global programmatic ad spending is “on track to exceed $200 billion,” but that “only 40% to 60% of digital dollars invested by advertisers find their way to publishers” due to the so-called “ad tax” of ad-tech middlemen taking a variety of cuts that ostensibly enable or add value to programmatic advertising buys.

Will pharma ever get up off their asses and hire some good digital marketing people who can provide REAL results?