Why the Time is Ripe for Pharma to Embrace Mobile

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Why the Time is Ripe for Pharma to Embrace Mobile
Aryeh Lebeau, EVP, client operations, Remedy Health Media

For years, there has been so much angst and brow-furrowing within the e-health community over pharma's place in social media. That's certainly an important debate, but an even bigger opportunity to engage and educate consumers continues to be treated like something of an afterthought. Mobile traffic is rapidly gaining on desktop in the US and will soon eclipse it. Mobile ad spending isn't remotely keeping up with this growth, particularly in the pharma space.

There is an explosion of health-focused smartphone and tablet users—according to comScore, nearly half of all health web traffic is mobile/tablet. From Apple to Samsung, health is front and center in the latest OS releases and health is driving the growth in the wearables market. Pharma brands are missing out on a huge opportunity to engage a highly active audience. Numerous key metrics demonstrate that mobile activity is more robust than desktop, including video engagement, ad click rates, and time spent. A study conducted by Digitas Health last year showed that patients who use smartphones in the exam room are twice as likely to ask for a drug by name.

According to eMarketer, healthcare/pharma currently has the lowest mobile budget share of all major industries, at 26.5%. The large majority of those dollars are spent on search, with just a sliver going towards display.

A few years ago, most pharma brands did not have mobile-optimized sites. It was understandable that so few brands were venturing into the mobile display realm. We are beyond the tipping point now where most of the brands putting forth significant DTC efforts have mobile-optimized sites, including 17 of the top 20 2013 DTC spenders. Yet so few brands are developing the ad creative to drive to those sites and extend awareness beyond the desktop.

Being on the publisher side for the last 15 years, I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of RFPs. It's encouraging to see a steady rise in mobile inventory requests over the last few years, but it's rare that the mobile assets actually materialize. Many of the impasses that have slowed mobile advertising growth in our industry no longer exist.

Here are some recommendations that all stakeholders should take to heart:

Don't let screen size hold you back. Build creative with cross-platform usage in mind. Advertise on mobile-optimized sites where ads are seen at full zoom. Publishers should employ responsive design to create the best content and advertising user experience across devices.

Wean yourself off of Flash. It's time to move to HTML5 to get the most out of your creative.

Expand the approved use of backup images. In the absence of HTML5 creative, static ads should be seen as an asset rather than a fallback. MLR should consider backups for multi-purpose use upfront. Having some mobile reach, even if it's not the full-fledged messaging, is better than having no mobile presence at all.

Go beyond the standard 300x50 or 320x50 mobile default. 300x250 ads adapt beautifully to smartphone browsing. Don't shortchange your messaging due to limited real estate. Many websites and apps across all industries have already made the move to in-stream mobile 300x250s.

Don't assume that mobile engagement is too good to be true. There's no denying there is an element of fat-finger syndrome in the high click-through rates seen on touchscreen devices. However, with a number of the mobile campaigns Remedy has run, we've seen impressive downstream KPI activity that outpaced desktop. So take CTR with a grain of salt, but look deeper to determine mobile success.

Define distinct KPIs. Mobile-optimized brand sites are generally quite different from their desktop counterparts. Evaluate KPIs differently, focusing on actions people are more likely to take on mobile devices.

There is a world of untapped opportunity for pharma to reach consumers on the go. It's time for publishers, agencies and pharma alike to shift course and make mobile a priority.


Aryeh Lebeau is EVP, client operations, at Remedy Health Media
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