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Direct Response Marketing

DR Brings Dynamic Marketing to Health Care

1 Feb, 2013 By: Jackie Jones Response

Increased customization and hyper-specific targeting helps health care and pharmaceuticals break through to consumers.


Much like the dosage amounts listed on the side of a prescription bottle, numbers don’t lie — and what recent industry numbers are showing is promising for a surprising vertical in direct response: health care and pharmaceuticals.

While standard categories, such as entertainment and automotive, continue to drive growth in the world of online advertising, health care and pharmaceuticals joined the list of the fastest-growing vertical sectors for digital marketing revenues in the first half of 2012, according to an Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) report performed by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Health care/pharma spending soared 45 percent year-over-year to $1.1 billion, making up nearly 6 percent of all online advertising spending in the first half of last year, the report found.

Additionally, California alone is projected to spend approximately $90 million this year in marketing for the state’s health-benefit exchange efforts, opening the doors for these marketers and direct response advertisers to connect even more with patients, consumers and those in need, according to separate study. On the heels of the 2012 presidential election, health care has been in the spotlight, and as brands look to navigate the marketing waters with more specific and concrete direction, it will be crucial for brands to utilize direct engagement and advancing technology, according to those in the heart of the industry.

“Health care service providers and durable medial equipment providers are going to have to reinvent themselves as product and service allowables decline from Medicare and private insurance,” says Brent Wheeler, senior vice president of customer acquisition at Response Mine Interactive, an Atlanta-based, ROI-driven firm specializing in digital marketing services and customer acquisition programs whose goal is to “produce customers for clients and partners alike based on simply one thing: cost-efficient results imploring a direct response mentality.” “The government and private insurance alike continue to compensate less for these products and services as downward pressure to produce products and services more efficiently and cost-effectively increases.”

Online advertising spend reports highlight rising success for all verticals, most notably the ones reporting growth such as health, according to the IAB. “This report establishes that marketers increasingly embrace mobile and digital video, as well as the entire panoply of interactive platforms, to reach consumers in innovative and creative ways,” says Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of IAB. “These half-year figures come on the heels of a study from Harvard Business School researchers that points to the ad-supported Internet ecosystem as a critical driver of the U.S. economy. Clearly, the digital marketing industry is on a positive trajectory that will propel the entire American business landscape forward.”

Adds David Silverman, a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, “The tremendous growth of mobile advertising revenue during the past year is an indication of the importance of location to advertisers and mobility to consumers. Bringing the power of the Internet to mobile devices has opened up a world of possibilities to both consumers and marketers.”

Site the Specific

Response Mine, which recently acquired the Web addresses seniors.net and retirementcommunities.net, knows a key success to health care marketing in direct response is a focus on hyper-specific targeting of consumers. The company uses its properties such as diabeticseniors.com to drive leads to marketer Liberty Medical Supplies for consumers with diabetes, bainpainrelief.net to direct patients to Laser Spine Institute and allmobilityscooters.com to deliver leads to The Scooter Store, according to Wheeler, who adds that the industry is seeing an increased trend to more Web use — both for record-keeping purposes and consumer interaction.

“We focus on high-quality content and expert authors so consumers can (better) obtain information specific to their needs when researching health information on the Web,” Wheeler says. “Marketers engaging and interacting with consumers in a modern way is of the utmost importance.”

The strategy has worked: Response Mine signed a number of partners in the health care and pharma spaces, including CCS Medical in 2002, Liberty Medical Supplies in 2004, and Laser Spine Institutes and The Scooter Store in 2008, effectively delivering tens of thousands of customers to its partners, according to Wheeler. Specific domains, consumer engagement and deliberate targeting of customers — all key facets ingrained in the direct response advertising philosophies — have been key to Response Mine’s success, Wheeler adds.

“Response Mine Interactive’s strategy for acquiring these very specific domains is this: be the leader in marketing to the boomer and senior demographic,” he says. “Response Mine Interactive has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to marketing to the boomer and senior audience, and a database that contains thousands upon thousands of this segment.”

As advertisers embrace the start of 2013, Wheeler cites a few specific trends the health care industry is likely to encounter throughout the year when targeting boomers and seniors:

  1. Patients’ digital records will become more widely available on the Internet, as well as viewed more frequently on emerging screens and devices such as tablets and smartphones.
  2. Medical technology will continue to be linked more often to mobile devices that in turn will be linked to family members and doctors via the Web — such as blood pressure monitors and glucose meters.
  3. Doctors will be looking to provide more preventative care for patients, in contrast to waiting for consumers to become sick or afflicted with a condition. Marketers looking to find success this year will understand the mindset of caring for patients with more of maintenance plans.
  4. Home health care will see a resurgence through agencies, nurses, specialists and even doctors.

Additionally, Wheeler adds, “There may be consolidation of many of the smaller companies by the larger health care entities due to price competitiveness and economies of scale. This would leave the consumer with fewer options for care than they may have today.”

The key consumers for many health care marketers — including seniors, those living in retirement communities and those who fall in the boomer category — can and should now be targeted via the ever-evolving and advancing world of online and digital.

“The level of engagement has increased due to the advent of the Web and the availability of information,” Wheeler says. “Marketers also need to understand how to engage these same consumers in a digital age. Marketers also have to be aware that with the rise of social media, one has to be much more aware of the social buzz in the marketplace with marketing a specific brand, product or service to the public. Social praise or criticism is almost instantaneous in today’s world.”

He adds, “In addition, social marketers need to understand how companies now engage their patients with the use of video chat. Consumers engage doctors and specialists in a more intelligent and confident manner more now than ever before when in office consultations. The reason for such a high level of engagement is that people in some cases have had conversation with live nurses, physician assistants and even doctors online now that broadband is more widely utilized and most computers have video chat capability.”

Increased personalization and customization of advertising, such as Response Mine’s URLs targeting a very specific group of customers, will be key to successful direct response advertising in the online spectrum, and the increasing importance of social will only continue, as well, according to many in the health care industry, according to Brad Einarsen, director of digital insight at Klick Health.

A Cegedim report released in November showed “a surprising amount of interest in the use of social media in the survey results,” Einarsen wrote on Klick Health’s blog at klick.com. Almost all — 96 percent — of survey respondents were active on LinkedIn and 70 percent reported activity on Facebook. Though budgets remained small for social media, respondents illustrated notable gains in 2012, Einarsen writes.

“(Social media marketing) is important to health marketers because social listening technologies provide a pure form of market research that can give insights into the brand, its competitors and the true issues surrounding the condition,” he writes. “In the health care space, mobile technologies (such as mobile surveys) may begin to provide some access to consumers and patients at the pharmacy level. Insights here can be invaluable for illuminating the potential hazards of therapeutic substitution and competitive in-pharmacy messaging.”

A Direct Success

The DR industry ended 2012 on a high note, and the same rings true for the health care market. Direct response continues to prove itself a ripe field for successful brands related to the health care industry, including Obesity Research and New Vitality, both of which topped last year’s lists of infomercial and short-form spots by Infomercial Monitoring Service Inc. (IMS) (Response, December 2012). Obesity Research’s Lipozene ranked No. 2 in long-form direct response television in 2012, while New Vitality “scored a massive hit” with Super Beta Prostate, and saw similar success to a lesser degree with Ruby Reds, according to IMS rankings.

These brands and more are finding increased success in online with the addition of direct response tactics, according to many experts in the industry. Julie Batten, vice president of strategy of media at Klick, says online vide may even replace — though at bare minimum definitely complement — direct-to-consumer advertising, according to a post she first authored on clickz.com.

“TV advertising continues to be a mainstay in the pharma marketer’s toolkit. However, with the extra airtime required to add in the mandatory safety language, pharma advertisers take a hit on TV media buying — unable to buy the shorter, cheaper spots. Unless you have a blockbuster product, cost can be prohibitive. With the rise of online video advertising and connected TV, more and more advertisers are running their commercial spots in the online space — for instance, via pre-roll placements when users are watching TV online through sites like Hulu,” Batten writes. “Advertisers are beginning to take advantage of the additional targeting available with online video that is not usually available with traditional DTC buys.”

Batten adds that health care marketers would be keen to hone in on personalized, customized messages. “While dynamic ads, or smart ads, have been around for some time in other verticals like retail, we seem them as becoming more prevalent in the pharma space,” Batten writes on Clickz. “Ads will be customized based on users’ behaviors observed both on advertiser-owned properties as well as publisher sites. Dynamic ads enable pharma advertisers to create multiple creative variations using a single ad template, which cuts down on the size and length of the regulatory review, while increasing marketing performance.”

Moving forward, health care marketers looking to make 2013 an even better year for advertising — in direct response and beyond — than 2012 need to “be flexible, understand mobile technology and be able to utilize their strategies to capture the audience that is moving from desktop devices to tablets and mobile phones,” Wheeler says. “Marketers and health care companies have to think about the consumers, providers and the technology. Companies have the opportunity to provide a great customer experience through chat, phone and video chat if they have the infrastructure to support it, or they could provide a bad customer experience without that infrastructure.”

“In parallel, marketers have to think about a new way to engage the consumer in those styles of communication to get them to take a measurable action without offending the user in sometimes what could be a very sensitive situation,” Wheeler concludes. ■


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