In the last few months, headlines everywhere have announced the explosion in healthcare ad spending and e-commerce online. This rapid growth has been spurred by several factors: a jump in healthcare spending as the population ages, and increases in overall web ad spending. Most importantly, it’s been galvanized by the recognition by healthcare marketers that the Internet offers an array of opportunity and high performance tools that can enhance their marketing strategies.
The numbers the experts are forecasting are indeed huge. Jupiter’s latest report projects the online consumer healthcare market will grow to $1.7 billion by 2003. This includes prescription pharmaceuticals, over-the-counter drugs, “nutraceuticals” like vitamins and herbal supplements, and personal care products.
And the environment is ripe for a more evolved form of advertising. A recent Deloitte & Touche study pointed out that 43 percent of Internet users research health issues online because of the lack of information available via traditional resources — 81 percent rate the information useful.
With limited sites available for advertising, and a propensity on the part of healthcare companies for “ownership,” advertisers in this sector have quickly awakened to the huge potential market. Healthcare marketers have been scrambling in the last six months to create the right partnerships on the right web media properties.
Marketing and advertising programs focused on education and awareness, database gathering, relationship marketing, and prescription compliance are all excellent ways for brands to integrate themselves within online content. These programs provide an enhanced brand experience beyond a simple static banner. Keyword placements in healthcare are especially effective. Capabilities include “disease” keywords — which target the sufferer and caregiver — and “drug ” keywords that provide an effective guerilla marketing opportunity for new replacement drugs.
Targeted newsletters to general interest or pre-selected sufferer groups offer an effective means of reaching the patient community. In addition, they offer an opportunity to promote seasonal reminders and/or enhance prescription compliance. Interactive communities of patients, as well as educational forums, are also an excellent way to reach the target audience.
Smart healthcare advertisers like Claritin, Nicorette and SelfCare are taking advantage of this hunger for information in some interesting ways. Schering Plough has already taken an early lead by associating its prescription allergy brand, Claritin, with allergy resource centers at many of the major health care sites on an exclusive basis.
This strategy has virtually created a powerful “allergy roadblock” across the Internet. In addition, to further involve sufferers who have not yet taken a prescription drug, they have created The Allergy Learning Lab as a parallel effort and educational resource.
SelfCare, an online health and wellness products catalog, utilizes strategically placed banners and buttons as well as a special monthly health, wellness, and nutrition email newsletter specifically created to promote product sales online.
Nicorette and Nicoderm have associated their brands with the “Tackling Tobacco” Resource Center on drkoop.com. This takes advantage of targeted content and also keys into the legacy of Dr. C. Everett Koop and his lead in the anti-smoking arena. Nicorette/Nicoderm receives sponsorship identification in the marquee entry point of Tackling Tobacco. Additionally, its content, “Committed Quitters,” has been integrated into the drkoop.com site.
The program includes targeted emailed sponsorships and sponsorship of the drkoop Nicotine Calculator; an engaging tool that gives users an opportunity to figure out the cost of smoking on an annual basis.
All of these approaches illustrate powerful models for online advertising that have the potential to truly involve consumers with a brand. In addition, new studies reveal it takes as many as 27 banner exposures to create any impact on branding.
These are the kind of ad programs that are truly the future of Internet advertising, especially in categories such as healthcare marketing where reaching the target sufferer is akin to taking an effective medication, and general placement can produce the illusion of a placebo pill. It is important to develop an effective partnership that fits the criteria of your product.