With COVID-19 and stay-at-home orders dominating the collective consciousness in the US and Canada, we’ve seen widespread changes in many different aspects of health and care. It seems consumers are now more inclined to get senior life insurance or health insurance policies to cover themselves and their loved ones in the event they are affected by COVID-19. Overall, consumers have become more health conscious and are now looking at changing up their healthplans with a Humana Medicare Advantage plan or one similar that will fit into what they need — pharmaceutical and healthcare marketers should be wondering how best to take advantage of this.

While most industries have suffered as a result of the virus, one that has actually been affected positively is the pharmaceutical industry. There has been an increase in pharma jobs as companies look to conducted more research on the COVID virus, there has been an increase in demand for COVID test kits that thee companies can make, and, of course, the production of the vaccine has been at the forefront of the industry for a while.

And pharma companies haven’t been afraid to increase their marketing to cater to this increase in demand. Indeed, coronavirus impacted planned ad spend in March and April, but recovered quickly; prescription drug spending and video performance remained steady and in most cases increase. Since May, ad spend is up YoY. Performance testing, creative solutions to information requirements, and the power of Native will bring pharmaceutical marketers the most success now and beyond. Pharma marketers: here’s what you need to know and how to adjusting your pharma marketing strategy.

Slight Dip in Spend in March and April, Then Major Spending

In March and April, the pharma marketing situation looked a bit dire. In one eMarketer survey, respondents were asked, “What is the level of coronavirus-related strain on your practice?” 41% said severely. An IAB survey found that 70% of buyers had adjusted or paused their planned ad spend. But it was barely a blip: by mid-April, spending began to climb again.

Pharma Ad Spend Increased YoY

If there was any cut in pharmaceutical digital ad spend in March and April, it was short-lived: By May, medical and pharma marketing ad spending was up 56% overall year over year, according to MediaRadar. And according to an August eMarketer report, US B2B digital healthcare ad spend increased 41.2% from 2019 to 2020.

Some concrete examples: for the first six months of 2020, Pfizer digital advertising is up 532%, Amgen is up 216% and GlaxoSmithKline is up 151%, according to MediaRadar‘s data. Biotech companies saw a 171% spike in ads to professionals and tended to focus on COVID-19 messaging around things like antibodies and testing, according to BioPharmaDive.

Prescription Drug Spending Soared

Prescription drugs soared 123% over typical spending levels during the spike-and cancer drugs in particular (MediaRadar). There was an increase in overall prescriptions filled just before the start of social distancing-mid-March volumes were up 10% compared to peaks in early February. By the end of the month, however, rates leveled off, according to BioPharmaDive. Two things seemed to happen: patients “stocked up” on prescriptions pre-social distancing and lockdown, and have continued to fill prescriptions even without in-person doctor visits.

Programmatic Video Delivers on Performance & Flexibility

Pharma saw an uptick in programmatic video ads, driven by the need for flexibility and convenience during the pandemic, according to Innovid co-founder and CTO TalChalozin. Programmatic ads found fans with industries’ looking to be more agile during the crisis. According to Innovid, Pharma marketing video volume saw 85% year-over-year growth for the last week of July. The pharma market saw jumps in both broadcast(10%) and programmatic (9%) video ads for the week.

When it came to where viewers were watching video ads, mobile was the winner at47% at the end of July (FiercePharma). That mobile is leading viewership and engagement is no surprise. Mobile had a 106% higher CTR than Desktop in 1H 2020, according to Bidtellect 1H 2020 platform data. In Q2 2020, Mobile users spent 20% longer on sites per visit after engaging with a Native Ad than Desktop users, and 58%more than Tablet users (Bidtellect 1H 2020 platform data).

Could This Be the Start of a Permanent Shift to Telehealth & DataTechnology?

In-person doctor visits decreased, while reliance on telehealth visits increased. The shift could be permanent. Telehealth visits were near 0% until March 12, when they steadily increased to 28% by April 1. Overall doctor visits decreased 56% in March compared to the average number of visitations in February as of April 1, according to Crossix Patient via BioPharmaDive. And the percentage of doctor visits happening remotely (via telehealth) has gone from negligible volumes to 28.1% of HCP visits since mid-March.

In general, healthcare professionals are hopeful for more advancing technology (like that seen here: https://www.sciquip.co.uk/products/freeze-dryers-and-lyophilizers.html) and data usage for the benet of patients. In a March 2020 Philips survey via eMarketer, 58% of respondents believe healthcare data can be used to improve interoperability between platforms; 57% believe it can be used to improve the accuracy of data, and 54%believe it could improve data security.

Good News for Pharma and Healthcare Marketers

With a slight dip in spend, there’s an affordable media opportunity in there somewhere, so take advantage of those lower prices in your pharma marketing and advertising efforts. Increasing comfort with filling prescriptions without an in-person visit is a great opportunity for pharma marketers, so adjust messaging accordingly. Ditto goes for increasing comfort in telehealth in general; the pandemic forced a greater adoption of virtual health visits and it will likely stick around.

The Power of Native + Pharma

Native is the new standard for effectively communicating brand messages online, and the format lends itself expertly to pharma marketing efforts and unique content needs. Native ads are placed within relevant editorial content, and the formats blend in with the form, style, and voice of the page they appear on. When clicked, they drive traffic to strategically developed editorial. For pharma marketers, their format and placement lend credibility and act as a bridge to a relatable brand or patient story.

Native Ads lead to 3x higher brand awareness and purchase intent (TripleLift), and have proven to boost in-store traffic by 21% – and more efficiently than standard display ads (Sharethrough).

For pharma marketers, the Native ISI units make including necessary information not only feasible but pleasing to the eye. Contextual targeting ensures privacy standards are upheld; if native ads are targeted based on the content of the article rather than using trackable user information such as cookies, this alleviates most privacy, HIPAA, FDA, and other regulatory guidelines, because users have not been tracked or targeted (BioPharmaDive). Bidtellect’s creative team, [b]+studio, works with clients for creative solutions to information requirements, such as carousel units, and our platform offers extensive optimization capabilities to optimize to best-performing units.

The COVID-19 impact on pharma ad spend was felt, if brie????y, but the shift to programmatic video, telehealth, filling prescriptions from home, and the true benefits of native advertising for pharma marketers will be felt longterm.

Pharma Marketing Challenges & Industry Changes Since COVID

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Charlotte Otremba is Sr. Manager of Communications and Marketing at Bidtellect.

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