TV Advertising Isn't Over

June 26, 2019
Chris Neuner

Dear Pharma,

Healthcare TV advertising isn’t over.  It’s advancing. 

Hear me out.  50 years ago, color TV was just becoming the norm, and the US market consisted of a handful of established broadcast networks.  In 1970, there were only 2,490 cable TV systems in the United States, serving up Columbo, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Burnett to 4.5 million subscribers.  Finite, scheduled programming yielded a captive, reliable, and easily quantifiable audience, and advertisers had little reason to question whether television was an effective vehicle to connect with the masses.  Not only were there well-defined, reliable opportunities to capture audience eyeballs, there were also fewer advertised drugs.

Fast forward to today: Television has changed remarkably.  Viewers are virtually unlimited in their options for on-demand media consumption, which extend far beyond the traditional set box: OTT, CTV, digital video, IoT, and more.  The result?  Traditional TV viewership continues to wane as more and more households switch to streaming services and connected devices.

The rise of connected TV in health

The cords may be cut, but we’re still watching.  You just have to know where to look. According to Nielson’s Q3 2018 Total Audience Report, connected TV devices are in 68% of homes, up from 63% in 2017, and smart TVs are up to 41% from 32%.  The future is video advertising, and though healthcare is notoriously slow to adopt innovation, the industry must embrace it or jeopardize a critical opportunity to reach and engage its health audiences.

For the healthcare industry, what’s old is new again as innovative digital video formats emerge to solve for the constraints of traditional television spots. Video is the optimal engagement channel for DTC and HCP audiences alike, but rather than jury-rigging voiceover-heavy pharma TV ads to retrofit digital inventory, new formats will guarantee that healthcare brands can effectively deliver a message that resonates with its intended audience at a digitally relevant moment.

Want to keep up?  Here’s what you need to know:

  • Healthcare and pharma brand use of TV is translating to higher spend on digital video, but retrofitting traditional TV spots to digital inventory won’t do.  To succeed today, health marketers must think outside the traditional TV box.  Just as consumer consumption patterns are skewing towards digital, pharma is shifting its DTC spending to digital advertising to better integrate with the daily behaviors of its targets, including video.  While many DTC campaigns still heavy up on traditional TV spots, forward thinking organizations like Allergan are shifting spend to digital and an innovative approach to video.
  • It’s no surprise consumers love video, but physicians prefer it too.  These days, research indicates that physicians prefer video, especially outstream which is mobile-optimized for the busy doctor.  71% of US physicians are watching videos online.  According to eMarketer, doctors are spending, on average, 6 hours a week watching profession-related content.  Why the sharp increase?  Videos are an effective vehicle to educate physicians and create a deep brand connection.
  • Industry groups will be key to spearheading standards for new video formats with a “fair balance” between regulatory needs and creative wants. It is a call to arms for health and tech companies to build new formats, and advocacy organizations like the Programmatic Health Council and IAB to establish a new standard for health-specific digital video formats. Via these new formats, healthcare marketers can adhere to regulatory restrictions to develop digital video that incites informed behavioral change amongst DTC and HCP audiences alike: Information must be clearly, prominently, and accurately presented in an accessible way.  ISI must be integrated both directly into the video and on the page itself, unfettered by distracting visuals or competing elements.  The balance must be consumer friendly and risks unminimized.   Benefits must be on label and accurate, not overstated.  In short, the videos must be accurate, authentic, insight-based, and compliant, designed with user experience and understanding in mind - making new standards necessary. 

Contextually trigged health advertising

TV advertising isn’t over.  It’s evolving.  Coupled with contextually triggered advertising, new digital video formats will enable marketers to buck convention and integrate with the modern behaviors of their health audience while innovatively adhering to thorny regulatory constraints, ultimately leading to higher conversion.  How are you incorporating video in your marketing strategy in 2019?

Chris Neuner, Chief Strategy Officer at PulsePoint, has 20 years’ experience driving performance in the interactive marketing and media space. He brings to PulsePoint a proven track record of partnering with leading pharmaceutical companies and agency partners to build successful businesses.

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