It’s no secret that pharmas have upped their spending on digital promotion to healthcare professionals of late, but a Compas white paper has quantified that upshift, projecting that four in ten dollars spent this year on marketing to professionals will go to digital channels.

The media buying firm found that spending on HCP-directed digital promotion jumped from 17% of pharma spending in 2010 to 33% in 2012, and forecast it to hit 40% this year, putting digital spend on par with print.

The shift, said Compas, is “not because of an increase in overall budget – rather, this shift is at the expense of print and alternative media budgets which have seen a slow, but steady, decline.”

Print professional spend plummeted 40% from 2009-2010, and then another 20% between 2010 and 2012, when it clocked in at 41% of HCP promotional budgets. Reprints, the next-largest channel by spend, made up 14%. Spending on reprints has plummeted in tandem with sales force numbers of late, with average annual declines of 20-40% over the past several years. And companies aren’t shifting to electronic versions, with paper copies making up 90% of spend, largely due to confusion around digital rights management, said Compas, though with more tablet-based detailing programs coming online, the firm projects e-prints to double  as a share of total reprints in 2013.

Targeted media accounted for 12% of HCP-directed promotional spend last year. Point of care media, which includes patient record forms, prescription pads and the like, made up a third of that targeted media and has been holding steady in recent years, while convention media, which makes up another third of targeted media spend, is showing growth, said Compas.  

These trends will push traditional publishers to revamp their content and cost structure, said Nicole Woodland-De Van, SVP buying services and deliverables at Compas.

“They have to find a way to make the content more engaging and interactive than a PDF, and they need to come up with a more fair pricing model for electronic versions of reprints,” said Woodland-De Van, adding that they’ll also need to find ways to better target, report and measure the effectiveness of their offerings.

The figures were based on Compas client spending data, along with some Manhattan Research numbers. Compas boasts around a third of HCP-directed media buys.