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April 25, 2018 Rob Blazek0

If you’ve been asking hard questions about the data provided by your DTC and POC campaign partners, you’re not alone. Although the heightened scrutiny is new, the challenges aren’t. The good news is that trustworthy solutions are established, proven, and available.

Treatment decisions and research are guided by data that meets exacting standards for quality, reliability, and accuracy. The campaigns you use to reach patients should be no different. Take charge and build confidence in your marketing results by aiming for the gold standard in verifiable, trustworthy performance metrics and applying these standards to your brand messaging.

Use statistically valid matched-panel experimental design. Long before any of us learn the intricacies of marketing disciplines, we learn the fundamentals of any sound experiment: the test and control groups. Yet those principles are often overlooked when budgeting significant sums of money to reach patients with information that can significantly improve their quality of life. Get back to basics by working with partners that can demonstrate that the demographics and media exposure in both test and control groups are the same. Your partner should also isolate for seasonal and market factors, and measure results in weeks both pre- and post-campaign.

Ask for third-party validation that’s part of the campaign fabric, not a quick fix. The widespread industry focus on third-party validation is as welcome as it is overdue. But it should be part of your partner’s business model, not an afterthought, bandage, or public relations move. The independent third-party analyst should be working with timely sales data and presenting reports to clients in a timely manner. That means weeks, not months. And if the independent analyst hasn’t been working with your partner for years, it bears asking why.

Demand shorter waits for data and analysis. Understanding the health and success of your campaigns needs more than just raw data. It needs data in a timely manner, soon enough to be able to make sensible adjustments before seasonal effects and other market forces can overwhelm your ability to act. Yet delays of 45 to 60 days just to get a data snapshot are common among many campaign partners and data providers. The right partners have relationships with POC operators and data aggregators to make delivery a priority.

Get data that supports your comprehensive marketing mix analysis needs. As the range of DTC and POC outreach channels grows, it’s becoming increasingly important to follow the lead of other industries and conduct detailed marketing mix analysis. Ideally, you want to understand just how much each channel’s investment contributes to the overall success of your marketing plan. That’s harder to do if your data partners can’t provide detailed analysis of the periods before and after your campaign or can’t isolate for the effects of your other media investments. Work with your trusted providers to ensure that the proper metrics from their respective campaigns are incorporated into your marketing mix analysis template.

For tangible results, look at actual sales figures, not estimates. Because of concerns ranging from patient confidentiality to a lack of interactivity, many POC and DTC channels only allow results to be measured in broad strokes. Inferences and estimates, not hard conversions and sales, are the best you can get from broadcast or with in-clinic messaging. Invest some of your campaigns in channels that can deliver actual sales figures, not just assumptions and correlations. Partners that can analyze prescription sales data, obtained in cooperation with the largest retail pharmacy chains, can capture actual incremental script volume at the location or market level. It is more straightforward to attribute ROI to actual sales volume changes than to softer measures like ad recall or reach. And when you can isolate results at the individual store level, you get a much clearer picture of campaign lift than regional or nationwide trends can reveal.

Invest in POC campaigns with fully transparent implementation protocol. It’s tough to argue with the old international diplomacy adage “trust, but verify.” Partners should earn and maintain a level of trust that means you, the client, don’t feel the constant need to send secret shoppers to check every last rollout of every single campaign. But when verification is important, you want to be able to get answers as quickly and unobtrusively as possible. POC campaigns that reach into semi-private or off-limits areas, like clinic rooms, are cumbersome and difficult to verify. Campaigns in public spaces with growing importance as a hub for coordinated care, like the retail pharmacy, are much easier to verify. Ideally, your partner will provide signoff from its own field force, so you can confirm the date each new campaign launched at every location.

Improve the size of your data set by reaching more patients in more measurable locations. Studies show that a typical patient visits a pharmacy to purchase self-prescribed OTC products eight times more often than they visit a physician in clinic. And outcomes in the retail pharmacy setting are much easier to measure than in a stand-alone clinic. Increase your exposure there, and you increase the size and robustness of your data.

Make a habit out of granular analysis, especially with highly targeted campaigns. Fine-tuning campaigns down to a region or market lets you reinforce your presence where performance is already strong, and elevate it where your performance is weak. You can also use these campaigns to test how entrenched a dominant competitor is. These focused experiments should be measured as carefully as a national rollout, but the results should be kept in the proper context. A high-performing test can be used to model the rollout and expectations for a broader campaign.

Help your partners design reports around your clear, transparent goals. In the long run, partners gear the depth of their analysis to the demands of clients. Early DTC campaigns focused on recall, so data reflected that. As the demand for clearer ROI and more repeatable results grows, partners will shift to accommodate. The clearer you are about your analytics needs, the more the industry will shift to match.

This is a terrific inflection point for the POC and DTC marketing industry, an essential channel for strong patient communication. But it’s not a doom-and-gloom moment. If anything, the renewed emphasis on verifiable results, validated figures, and trustworthy insights is causing us all to be more mindful of the work we do and the impact it has. And that’s a powerful, tangible result in itself.

April 25, 2018 Mathew Reynders0

Point-of-Care media must take responsibility for its trust and accountability because patient health depends on it.

According to the CDC, American patients visited the doctor nearly 1 billion times in 2017 – over three trips per person. In many of those doctors’ offices across the United States, patients found educational materials to aid them in their heath care journey.  In fact, Point-of-Care media reaches not only physicians’ offices and clinics but pharmacies and retailers, offering patients and their families valuable information at salient moments of diagnosis and treatment.  Recent questions about the validity and transparency of Point-of-Care companies have challenged the efficacy of these programs and put this vital channel in jeopardy.

Since its inception, Point-of-Care has aimed to provide equitable access for patients, caregivers, and consumers to find valuable resources in a wide array of locations. This information is frequently provided free of charge and often accompanied by sponsor messages. Accompanying these resources, advertisers gain premium access to key consumer groups in targeted, turnkey settings. Consequently, it is imperative that this media channel be held to the same standards as any other mainstream channel. Trust and credibility are key attributes for brands and agencies to feel confident that precious advertising dollars are put to good use.  Without this confidence, marketers have no choice but to seek other locations for their campaigns, and the Point-of-Care channel will be lost. Such action would be devastating for the industry, but even more impactful for those it serves.

Patients are struggling like never before.  Faced with complex insurance requirements, ever-changing government health policies, and rising costs, consumers in the waiting rooms and pharmacies have more questions than any prior generation. To make matters worse, the well-being of the population in the United States continues to decline, driving additional people into the healthcare system and increased overall strain. The tales of overworked physicians, exasperated patients, and a structure in peril have been well documented. The healthcare journey can now feel more like a frontier expedition, riddled with anxiety, uncertainty, and fear.

While Point-of-Care media can’t eliminate all of those emotions, its role in educating patients can create systemic benefits that can ease stress on the entire process.  With access to a wide array of print and digital-based resources, patients can become more knowledgeable about symptoms and disease states and learn about appropriate treatments that may be available.  With this knowledge, doctor-patient conversations can be more targeted and efficient, focusing the physician’s limited time on the most pressing concerns for the patient. Information is then available at home for reinforcement, boosting the prospects of adherence, and pharmacies can act as valuable outposts to complement patient care. Equally important, caregivers can find invaluable resources to maintain the health of loved ones.

Patient education is a crucial step to improve patient outcomes. But in order to take advantage of those benefits, the industry must require accountability for those who work within this domain.  Educational resources must have value for the intended audience and provide information in a clear, responsible manner. As such, that information must be distributed according to a strategic, thoughtful plan. The availability and targeting of assets purchased by marketing partners must be achieved and validated with full compliance.

Sponsors deserve the trust and credibility that should come with any other purchase. Programs must be sold and executed as promised, with proof of performance.  Point-of-Care must establish clear standards that match those of other media channels, such as television, radio, or outdoor advertising.

Different from those channels, however, is that failure to provide such credibility at Point-of-Care would deprive patients of critical information when they need it most.  It is incumbent upon the Point-of-Care industry to improve its standard of excellence and demand accountability from within. Patient’s lives depend on it.

April 25, 2018 Chris Neuner1

New Data Indicates that Consumers Want Targeted Health Ads

It’s one of the conundrums we face as health marketers, that health is completely personal. Pain is subjective. Symptoms vary. My epilepsy is different. What works for one consumer doesn’t necessarily work for the other. Not only does personal biology vary from person to person, but so does psychology, circumstance, and irrational decision-making.

So it’s fortuitous that, as mass marketing dies slowly, there is an emerging and vast body of evidence that targeted and tailored marketing indeed works better. And a lot of people are doing a lot of smart thinking around getting the “right message to the right person at the right time.”

And yet, because we are the health industry, we’ve learned to be conservative, and we hamstring our progress. We put such a premium on health privacy that it blocks our ability to get really personal. I’m not talking about HIPAA, which is indeed sacred, but rather the judgment that subconsciously compels us to view targeted marketing as being too targeted, even intrusive. Surely, we think, people won’t want to know that I, brand marketer, know and care about their migraine.

But with data opening up so many possibilities to precisely target an n of 1, we need to understand how consumers really feel about targeted health advertising. Because by not getting up close and personal, we’re missing the opportunity to really help patients in need. So PulsePoint recently commissioned a third party to conduct some preliminary research that starts to peel back the layers on this issue. And here’s what we found:

How Consumers Feel About Targeted Health Ads: Top 10 Findings

  1. Relevant healthcare ads motivate consumers to act

This study confirms that consumers look to digital healthcare advertising, among a variety of sources, for their healthcare needs. As expected, consumers are most interested in the information they get from healthcare providers. However, healthcare ads are also a viable and trusted source of information, and a key driver of behavior.

  • 89% of consumers indicated that they would take action if they saw a relevant digital healthcare ad.
  • Only 11% who would not.
  1. Consumers are open to, and some even prefer, targeted advertising

Based on their belief in healthcare advertising as a resource, consumers are willing to engage on a more personal level.

  • 79% are open to receiving targeted medical / health advertising, as long as they consider the information relevant.
  • Furthermore, 54% prefer targeted digital healthcare ads.
  1. Consumers trust healthcare ads across the web, and will respond

While consumers can be skeptical about advertising in general, trust in digital healthcare advertising is evident.

  • Currently, 59% trust healthcare ads they see on the web.
  • At least 59% of consumers are likely to respond.
  1. Trust and responsiveness are higher for ads served in a health context

Consumer trust in and responsiveness to digital health ads increase further when ads are served within health-related articles. This effect is seen even when the health-related articles are on non-medical websites.

  • 69% of consumers trust healthcare ads within health-related articles, even on non-medical websites (up from 59% for ads anywhere on the web).
  • 67% say they would respond (vs. 59% for ads anywhere on the web).
  1. Health consumers want to be educated

Consumers indicated that they will respond to all types of healthcare ads, but are especially receptive to vehicles that promote learning.

  • 74% are likely to respond to an ad providing an opportunity to receive educational materials.
  • Two-thirds are likely to respond to an advertiser-sponsored article.
  1. Content and context matter; format doesn’t

Ad formats do not play a significant role in triggering action. The form of the ad is not overly important to consumers.

  • Six out of ten consumers will respond to any format, including videos, screen takeovers, traditional banners, and sponsorships.
  1. Consumers are most interested in their own health situation

Consumers want to see ads that are about their own personal health situation.

  • 72% of consumers want to see ads regarding products which may improve an existing condition.
  • 64% want to receive advertising that may improve their health.
  1. Consumers are open to ads for most conditions, even sensitive ones

Remarkably, consumers are comfortable receiving digital healthcare-related advertising even when the topic is of a sensitive nature.

  • 73% are open to receiving digital ads for less serious conditions such as seasonal allergies.
  • More than half are open to receiving digital ads pertaining to more private or sensitive conditions such as STDs.
  1. Consumers are willing to share personal data to improve health

Consumers are taking an active role in their personal health by leveraging technology – e.g., fitness trackers, blood pressure monitors, and smart scales – and are open to sharing the data they collect in order to improve their health.

  • Half of all consumers are open to sharing the data they collect in order to improve their health.
  1. Consumers are willing to share personal data to receive more targeted, relevant ads

Consumers value having a more relevant advertising experience with the goal of improving their health, and are willing to share personal health data to personalize the ads they receive.

  • 55% are open to sharing information collected via a smart device to receive ads specifically relevant to them.

The research also reinforced what we already know; that healthcare ads are a successful vehicle for educating and activating consumers.

  • 70% have learned about a healthcare issue or disease from seeing an ad.
  • 56% reported that a healthcare ad has impacted a healthcare-related decision they have.

As a result of a healthcare ad,

  • 68% have researched a condition online
  • 60% have researched drugs / drug brands online
  • 55% have modified their lifestyle / behavior
  • 52% have taken medicines or supplements

Where do we go from here?

No doubt, the stakes are enormously high in health. No one wants to end up on the home page of as the marketer who took personalized marketing too far. But nor do we want to be those who didn’t take it far enough. Consumers are clearly demonstrating their willingness to accept, and even contribute to, highly-targeted advertising to improve their health. Let’s start to learn how we can leverage data, insights, and technology to create more personalized and authentically meaningful advertising experiences for our consumers. Challenge your media agencies and your creative agencies. And let’s make better ads.

Research Methodology

This research was commissioned by PulsePoint and was conducted by the advertising and marketing technology research firm, Industry Index, in November 2017. Data highlighted in this article includes final, completed responses only, and does not include respondents who were disqualified at any point within the survey.

To achieve stated objectives:

  • Industry Index surveyed 1,000 consumers, geographically dispersed across the United States
  • Respondents were evenly split by gender to include 500 males and 500 females
  • All respondents must have visited any doctor within the past two years, and must currently use the internet at least three days per week (for more than email access alone) to have been considered eligible for participation in this research.

For more details about the research and its methodology, click here to read, Do consumers want targeted healthcare ads?, a blog post bylined by Industry Index EVP Matthew Thornton.

April 25, 2018 Michael Leis0

Chances are you already know that content marketing is important to reach the people that matter to your brand. Even more importantly, content marketing can help patients know that a treatment exists while giving them the opportunity to connect with each other in social platforms. This enables people to do something that no other part of the healthcare system provides: understanding what good health outcomes look like and how to get there.

Content marketing is increasingly significant as today’s consumers are actively avoiding ads. In just the next 24 months, the US will have more than 270 million video-on-demand subscribers: people who are willing to pay a monthly fee to watch.[i] This year alone, eMarketer estimates that more than one quarter of the country’s online users will be using ad blockers, growing at an annual rate of 16.2%.[ii] If that didn’t underscore the need for content marketing, consider that nearly half of all millennials online are currently skipping and blocking ads.

As brand marketers adjust to develop a content strategy that adapts to these consumer trends, they’re finding the world is fractured and complex. Gaining clarity of decision-making seems virtually impossible. The people important to your brand are practically anywhere. Social platforms are selling more conventional ads, but they only deliver metrics like ads and do not provide sharable content.

After a few years of analyzing how content performs through millions of engagements, we’ve seen some patterns emerge for how to create strategies that out-deliver most every other marketing method. And they’re more pragmatic than you think.

Connecting Advertising with Relationship Management

Advertising campaigns across mass media platforms are excellent methods to get the right people aware of your message in large numbers. They literally make a person aware of what the medication is, why a person might need it, and the aspirational moment of successful treatment. Anyone who says these ways of reaching audiences at scale don’t work is simply wrong.

The other widely used method to reach audiences is CRM (customer relationship management). When someone is ready to consider specific treatments, CRM can offer that person more specific information about the medicine and lead to some incredible ambassador programs for those actively on treatment.

But there’s a wide gulf between advertising methods and CRM. I like to call it the “cut to” of static marketing. When investing in just advertising and relationship management kinds of messaging, it’s as though the brand is saying that once the marketer concludes that you’re aware of the medication, then just cut to relationship management.

We know there are a lot of actions that must take place between the moment a person sees an ad and the time they become part of a relationship management stream. Content marketing provides a series of ways to help people get from one to the other.

Getting from Awareness to Relationship

Think about someone who has seen an ad that really resonates with them. They immediately identify with the story and the value proposition. Now what? How do they know what to do the next morning, the conversation to have with a partner, a family member, or a doctor? How do they know the steps to take so they can achieve the aspirational moment they have seen in your ad?

Or, say they understand the ad, but they are not motivated to take action because the reason a person seeks treatment in the ad to which they were exposed is not the same motivating factor that will drive them to take a specific action.

Content can offer a range of highly specific options for people so that taking action is as easy as possible, even when they have low motivation. One example is this post from the HealthySexual campaign. In an ad, from the perspective of the campaign, it only makes sense to say, “Talk to your partner about your history.” But as content, it is important to be highly specific to the behavior that must take place.[iii] People will find that approach far more valuable, using the content to take action, represent their own ideals, and enable generations of sharing.

Putting this content on to social platforms sparks people to comment with a wide range of perspectives, any one of which could be the “ah-hah” moment for a patient. At this point, content plus paid media has exposed your audience to something better than any single ad. It is presenting them with an array of specific actions that offer a practical “way in” provided by someone just like them.

On the relationship management side you can make content that takes time into account and helps to prompt a specific action, like relationship management, where you can specifically prompt a patient at the beginning of the day to put their medicine in their backpack, then at mealtime promote a post that reminds them to take the medicine.

In this sense, yes, content marketing efforts should overlap between advertising and relationship marketing. It’s also the easiest way of thinking about budgeting for content marketing. When someone becomes aware of a brand’s treatment, content marketing is there to help them understand how and why to take actions that help them. Then, as they are able to use that content to get closer to treatment, they are motivated and ready to join a relationship management program on their own terms.

So when you’re faced with the inevitable “do more with less” budget, content marketing should be an investment that comes from both existing advertising and CRM budgets. The good news is that both advertising and CRM will see dramatically increased performance, but with some key differences.

Driving Performance with Trust

It’s not always immediately obvious where the media efficiency lies in content marketing, especially if you’re placing ads on social platforms like Facebook lite and Twitter handleless ads. These are ad vehicles and not content vehicles. You will be able to compare them more directly to the way you are measuring advertising, and that’s it.

When you make the transition to investing in content that uses paid media rather than ads, shares will result. Those shares will drive media efficiency. In social channels, your audience doubles as both consumer of the content and the working media distributing the content, so the efficiency will come through the distribution and not only in the initial investment.

What’s best – and most difficult to measure in this case – is also the most treasured: trust. When a person uses the brand’s content to represent the way they feel about a topic, it’s not to a group of strangers. Every person in a social network represents new networks of people with whom they have some degree of credibility and trust. These kinds of connections and value shared between people can’t be bought or imitated by a company. Companies can only use paid media to introduce people to content they wouldn’t ordinarily have been exposed to.

You won’t see this widely written because when it’s done right, the results are significant and impact the way the brand is managed. I can say that in some cases, we’ve seen 50% return on investment on paid media spend and decreases in earned cost per engagement (eCPE) of 30%. What makes it difficult as a business case is that you won’t be able to know the true cost savings until you have calibrated spend, targeting, and content: exactly what pilot budgets are for.

On the CRM side, content marketing delivers far more qualified people, at a far higher rate, at much lower cost. One example is a social adherence program that reduced cost-per-touch by 90% when compared to the CRM stream itself, and 8 out of 10 patients surveyed said they were more adherent after they followed the campaign on that platform. In one case, content outperformed driving new CRM signups 76 to 1 over other digital advertising.

Change is never easy, especially when ads have largely worked the same way and been measured the same way for decades. But content is closer to both ads and relationship management than most people give it credit for. In fact, the great thing about effective content is that it’s the best of both.

Good content inspires people as they become aware of a treatment or a method to get to better health outcomes when they may not have many answers. But through storytelling with specific, behavioral actions as the foundation to content marketing, you are using your brand to help people find out how to take the steps they need to gain healthy solutions and relationships for life.



[i] Feldman, D. Forbes. Netflix Remains Ahead Of Amazon And Hulu With 128M Viewers Expected This Year.

[ii] eMarketer Scales Back Estimates of Ad Blocking in the US.

[iii] HealthySexual Tumblr.