Nearly three-quarters of consumers are using their mobile devices to research health conditions, locate doctors or perform other health-related tasks along their patient journey, according to the AdTheorentRx Healthcare Advertising Trends Report.

The report also found that, when presented with an ad for a certain medication on connected TV, 67% of consumers ask their doctor questions about a prescription medication. Furthermore, around 60% research and purchase an over-the-counter medication and nearly half scan a QR code to get more information.

What this means is that healthcare marketers need to avail themselves of the opportunities – and confront the challenges – awaiting them in the digital realm.

AdTheorent found that the most effective digital ads present medication benefits, discuss a medical condition with a link to a branded medication webpage, and feature a rebate or special offer for that medication.

Given that spending on digital ads is steadily increasing in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries, marketers need to capture both consumer mind-share and wallet-share quickly or lose out, according to AdTheorent CEO Jim Lawson

“There’s a kind of personal relationship consumers have with their devices. People oftentimes have them in front of their face most of the day, and that’s a convenient way to access information,” said Lawson. “It’s incumbent upon advertisers to take advantage of that without losing your audience by retargeting.”

Lawson said the practice of retargeting, where a consumer looks up something health-related online and later receives ads for healthcare services while browsing through social media or checking the news, “crosses a line.” Furthermore, he added, it’s ineffective.

Instead of chasing consumers around the internet, Lawson said pharma companies should have specific goals and quantifiable KPIs to measure the success of spending on digital ads. He pointed out that some companies offer questionnaires on their websites so that consumers who may have a given medical condition can fill them out and request more information. 

“Marketers need to know what their goals are for their ad campaigns,” Lawson stressed. “When you’re in the lower funnel of the advertising world, you’re trying to drive action – whether it’s a prescription sale, interacting with on a website or engagement within media. Even when you’re just trying to generate awareness, how do you measure whether that awareness is resonating?”

When asked about Netflix’s consideration of an ad-supported model, Lawson said the streaming giant would serve as “another great partner” for healthcare advertisers seeking to reach specific patient populations. Still, he reiterated that while Netflix may offer a sizable audience with vast amounts of data, marketers should remain tactical in terms of how they approach advertising to consumers in the digital space. 

“Our perspective is that machine learning and statistics, not individualized targeting, is the most effective and appropriate for pharma and healthcare advertising,” he said.