Back in 2010, about 130 different brands — notably Lipitor, Viagra, and Zoloft — accounted for 34% of the global pharma industry’s total sales. But in the following years, during which many of those drugs fell off the patent cliff, the industry has changed in numerous ways. Here are a few ways pharma and healthcare companies have shifted their strategies.
From push to pull. During the previous era, pharma targeted a large group of people with the same general health issue, such as heart disease or high blood pressure. However, now that marketers have shifted their focus to developing and marketing new drugs for smaller segments, brands have begun to leverage tactics that are targeted and individually tailored. 
This is a good thing, especially given how expectations for ad experiences have evolved. According to a study by Google, McKinsey & Co., and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, 59% of consumers expect the same one-to-one experience from health providers that they get from businesses such as Amazon.
Digital over TV. For marketers in healthcare and in most other categories, linear TV has always been the go-to mass marketing channel. Since 2012, there has been a 62% increase in pharma’s TV ad spend.
The trend isn’t likely to continue, though. TV doesn’t offer the level of personalization needed for niche medications.
It’s projected that pharma marketers will have spent more than $2.2 billion on digital advertising in 2017, up from $1.4 billion in 2014. Digital is a better venue than TV for marketing drugs to smaller segments because it offers much more touchpoint data to advertisers and more personalization.
Niche publishers dominate. As brand campaigns for condition-specific drugs become more prevalent, the types of media inventory being purchased are also changing. Pharma and medical brands are moving away from mass market websites such as The New York Times and WebMD. These sites are the online equivalent to TV.
Instead, marketers are seeking out inventory and publishers focused on specific, hyper-focused audiences. Remember — online data usage in pharma is somewhat limited by federal privacy regulations, meaning digital targeting can only go so far.
Starting with the right audience is increasingly the key to success, as it ensures buy-in with the most relevant consumers. This is why mass publishers such as Condé Nast are offering more condition-specific media inventory to marketers. Of course, whether a mass publisher such as that can succeed in this area is yet to be determined. 
Mike Collins, EVP, sales, Remedy Health Media