Does tracking Web traffic jam ads?Measuring traffic online can be tough for advertisers, as no two tracking firms ever seem to agree. But, is the lack of standardization in media measurement actually inhibiting the growth of online pharma advertising?
US Novartis Oncology
The need is not holding up the growth. The fact is, online is growing faster than TV, radio and print combined. According to TNS Media Intelligence, as reported by eMarketer.com, Internet display advertising grew 17.7% during the 2nd quarter. Standardizing measurement, however, is critical because marketers need to demonstrate value for investments made and require tools to help make choices among competing publisher sites. There are a variety of methods used to measure online advertising effectiveness. Ad impressions for awareness campaigns, and click-through traffic or “leads generated,” measure conversion and cost per acquisition. Challenges are still mounting as new opportunities and techniques emerge, including social networks and behavioral targeting. These can track a Web site visitor and then generate ads based on past site visits and/or keywords searched.
For our pharma clients, a greater concern is the responsibility for knowing what patients and caregivers are saying within online discussion communities and how to interact, if at all, with these individuals. There are hundreds of thousands of patients and caregivers talking to one another in online communities, segmented by disease category, who provide a highly targeted audience that is of great interest to marketers. But there is a big grey area: what does it mean for a company to leave its footprint in a space where unmoderated patient discussion takes place? What if that discussion mentions off-label use, safety concerns or even an adverse event? Without a firm FDA policy, each company has a slightly different take on what constitutes a responsible online presence, and each is waiting for someone else to take the lead.
The short answer is no. First, online growth is quite robust in an otherwise soft ad economy. Second, in a vibrant, highly competitive space like online metrics, innovation fuels continued growth. Standardization imposes a fixed set of guidelines on metrics providers, which in turn discourages innovation while pushing toward least common denominator solutions. Consider the growth and rapid penetration of AJAX, social networking, widgets or online video. Each has required innovation on the part of metrics providers. One year ago, most of us didn't even know what widgets were; now we report on them. By the time standards can be developed and ratified and agreed upon in this space, the technological landscape will change sufficiently to render those standards obsolete. The free market serves to create ad hoc standards by aligning around the best practices providers.
The need for standardization is not holding up the growth of online advertising because in its basic form, online media distinguished itself from the beginning by being fully trackable, and we do have visibility into the success of an online media effort. While regulation of measurement still could be improved, I feel that any kind of standardization that is too rigid would inhibit online and digital growth. We champion the importance of embracing a 360 approach to consumer connections vs. waiting for standardization; by this time, there will be something new on the horizon. Consumers are opening new avenues for advertising via their adoption of digital technology. Agility, speed and the freedom to innovate are critical to capitalize on these emerging opportunities.