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April 25, 2018 1

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.

Chris Neuner