New ad model fosters pharma's leap to digital, publisher finds

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Views of an MS patients' motor skills, in an app-based ad from Acorda Therapeutics
Views of an MS patients' motor skills, in an app-based ad from Acorda Therapeutics

Statistics show medical professionals are migrating toward iPads. Now, one medical journal publisher says, advertisers have followed.

Wolters Kluwer, publisher of medical journals and texts, says 50 companies, including five out of the top 20 pharmaceutical companies and six out of the top 20 device companies, have committed to advertise in 12 medical journals apps offered by the company.

“We're saying to advertisers, ‘We have a new way to reach physicians,'” said Karen Abramson, president and CEO of Wolters Kluwer Health Medical Research, which includes Lippincott Williams and Wilkins journals as well as the Ovid print titles.

To be sure, adapting ads for any new medium needs to be carefully considered in light of FDA regulations, and many advertisers have been hesitant to enter the new space, says Wolters Kluwer.

To encourage them to make the jump to advertise on its apps, the publisher launched a new ad model. In January it stopped offering advertisers the option of purchasing print-only ads. Print and digital apps are bundled together at one price. The decision “is aimed at helping advertisers innovate their marketing strategies and benefit from the opportunity to offer ads in multimedia format (videos, tutorials on products, etc.),” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the firm has migrated 52 of its journals, which cover new surgical techniques and medical advances, onto the iPad. Preliminary data across six specialties show the average amount of time an iPad reader spends interacting with an ad is on average between 10 and 40 seconds. Also, the addition of the iPad increased digital (web and app) page views between 30% and 70%. (The company said it doesn't have metrics on the subsequent digital ad engagement rate, or on how many seconds readers typically spend viewing print ads for its journals.)

“When someone is reading a print page, they're very unlikely to spend 10-30 seconds viewing an ad,” Abramson said. “The apps are able to engage their readers in a way that, quite frankly, journals in the print world cannot.”

Several of its journals now feature ads running on their iPad apps that allow readers to access video content. The videos display, in some cases, manufacturer presentation slides and live patient demonstrations.

An ad for Acorda Therapeutics drug Ampyra (dalfampridine), appearing in the July 10 issue of Neurology, offers a video demonstrating the increased motor skills of a patient with multiple sclerosis (the drug is approved to improve walking in patients with MS). The ad is part of a campaign the drugmaker has been running since January. An earlier ad had offered users an animation of Ampyra's mode of action.

On the device side, the June issue of Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons features on its iPad app a full-page ad from device firm LifeCell with a play button taking users to a video showing LifeCell's SPY Elite System during an actual surgery.

Because the app drives a different customer experience than print, getting more pharma and device advertisers to take advantage of the medium will require education. “We are teaching advertisers about the notion of audience and not just print circulation, and that's been very appealing,” Abramson continued. “The typical behavior around print is you read it, put it on the shelf and don't come back. The behavior around digital is you repeat and repeat and repeat your view of the journal.”

On average, Wolters Kluwer has found, readers are coming back to a digitally published journal issue nine times, and peak use for an issue happens three to four weeks after the issue is published. There is a “long tail and a lot of repeat use, so you get considerably more exposure when you deal with a digital audience…than when dealing with a static print circulation.”

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