Projections on pharma digital ad spending wrong

GOOD MORNING: eMarketer is promoting a report on pharma’s projected digital ad spending in the coming year, and from my conversations with pharma insiders, it’s wrong. There will be an investment in new digital platforms but display and search spending, I believe, are going to decline.

There is no doubt that more people are turning to the Internet to help sort through the conflicting health information but that does not translate into more online ads.

The current trends in digital healthcare are the use of telehealth and increased use of email to communicate with HCP’s. While some media outlets are saying that a COVID-19 vaccine can help pharma’s reputation I believe that is wishful thinking.

We are already seeing a drop in the number of people who are willing to get a COVID-19 vaccination and until trust can be re-established with the FDA and the CDC I expect that number to remain high.

When I saw the eMarketer report I got on the phone to my contacts within pharma, not agencies. I simply asked their opinions on digital spending, ads, for the coming year. Not one person indicated that there would be an increase. When asked why their primary concerns were ad fraud and metrics showing a clear ROI. For new drug launches, TV is still number one.

Forward-thinking pharma marketers are thinking about ways to integrate DTC marketing into telehealth and at physician portals. The challenge is to do it in such a way that informs and educates rather than trying to sell.

I also had a chance to ask about their use and experience of programmatic. Most said they had tried programmatic but that that the results were “murky”. The noise around online ad fraud is obviously having an effect on an industry that like to measure everything.

Interesting enough not man expressed an interest in investing more money in their product websites such as usability studies or optimizing content. I believe this is a HUGE mistake as bounce rates continue to be high for pharma websites.

Digital pharma people are fighting for every dollar they can get in an industry that is behind in digital marketing. Too many agencies are just asking for money to cover their overhead as they as expand and get bigger.

I wouldn’t pay much attention to the eMarketer report. Numbers don’t mean a damn thing in digital. Pharma has to learn to listen on the web and respond to the information needs of treatment decision-makers. The FDA needs to eliminate the need for fair balance for online ads because nobody is going to ask for a drug without first knowing the product’s side effects.

eMarketer should have interviewed people within pharma companies instead of agencies.