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Maximizing Brand-safety for Pharma Marketers


How to make sure your ad serves next to appropriate content

Programmatic advertising is the most efficient way to buy media inventory, and has thus become a permanent fixture in many pharma marketers’ digital media mix. It does not come without its downsides, however. For example, YouTube faced a content scandal and advertiser exodus – a good reminder that advertisers – particularly in pharma – should always make sure their ads are shown in a brand-safe environment. Here I’ll outline a series of steps that I recommend to mitigate risk and ensure campaign success.

Balancing brand safety and ad efficiency

With the advent of programmatic, using advanced targeting tactics to reach the right end user is easier and more efficient than ever before. In reaching widely across the internet to target users based on a nearly limitless set of consumer data, programmatic campaigns carry a certain level of risk; it is up advertisers to decide what level they are comfortable with. The larger and cheaper the pool of inventory, the more risk is inherent in the campaign.

In the broadest sense, when employing only audience targeting, ads can be targeted to an individual user – not a website. Sometimes, that targeted individual visits a site or views content that is not in line with a brand’s values or messaging. The sheer volume and variety of content makes it impossible for the platforms, as technology works at present, to accurately vet each and every page and piece of content. As a case in point, on YouTube alone, approximately 400 new videos are uploaded every minute, and video content is comprised of a complex blend of imagery, audio, text and meta data. Even the best available scanning systems available today will inevitably allow a few inappropriate videos to slip through to the monetizable video pool.

Best practices for Pharma-safe programmatic buying

Programmatic Vendor Selection Criteria:

  • Put an ad fraud and viewability measurement prevention program in place
    • Examples: MRC-accredited authentication tools like DoubleVerify and IAS. You might also want to make use of some of the bot detection services out there to ensure total security on your website.
  • Insist on full site list transparency and a guarantee that that blacklist requests can be adhered to
  • Opt out of 3rd party inventory, such as the Facebook Audience Network or, for a YouTube buy, videos on the Display Network, to ensure that ads are placed only on the primary site’s pages
  • For YouTube, set up “category options” to exclude sites, mobile apps, and videos that aren’t appropriate for brand ads

Pre-launch Preparation:

  • Layer in negative keywords
    • Appropriate negative keywords can help prevent ads from appearing alongside content about off-label use of an Rx product, or an unbranded ad from appearing alongside reference to the brand name
  • Blacklist undesired websites

Post-launch, proactive optimization and monitoring:

  • Continue to filter out irrelevant keywords/websites; incorporate learnings for future campaign pre-launch procedures
  • Evaluate user interaction and path to conversion; eliminate low performing sites, placements, and target groups

Following these guidelines will mitigate risk while allowing you to participate in the dynamic and efficient word of programmatic ad buying.

Want more digital pharma insight? Access my whitepaper for examples of current best practices, case studies and anecdotes illustrating real-world applications of all 8 principals for digital pharma marketing success.

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