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Retargeting: A Roadmap for Pharma Marketers

The best of brand-safe methods of retargeting healthcare consumers in the digital space

As programmatic advertising has become increasingly commonplace, consumers have grown accustomed to the ubiquity of personalized advertising and the industry has relaxed considerably with respect to its use of sophisticated consumer targeting techniques. In this context, retargeting has become much more prevalent and is emerging as a standard component of programmatic advertising across all industries, including healthcare. Further, approaches to identifying and targeting groups of health consumers based on their personal health data have been brought to market in ways that safeguard personally identifiable information (PII).

As online marketing technology has advanced, new innovative targeting options have become available to advertisers including retargeting.

Below is a high-level overview of the common forms of retargeting and implications for pharma advertisers.

Common Types of Retargeting

  • Site Retargeting: displays advertising to people who have previously visited the advertiser’s website
  • Search Retargeting: serves ads based on a user’s prior search engine queries. The searcher didn’t necessarily visit the advertiser’s site previously
  • Email retargeting: displays ads after a user has read an email from the advertiser – OR emails a website visitor after their website visit
  • Social Retargeting: uses social media triggers (such as a status update or brand comment) as criteria to reach consumers with ads

Retargeting Best Practices

With increased transparency, greater public acceptance and better technology to tailor programmatic ad buying, many pharma advertisers are testing retargeting campaigns cautiously. For instance, there are software solutions provided by the likes of Samba TV or similar companies, that can help advertisers optimize campaigns and bridge datasets when it comes to retargeting TV ads. Similarly, here are some best practices pharma advertisers should keep in mind:

  • Use Ad ChoicesTM: Although it is a best practice of major ad networks, it is a good idea to validate with each display partner that their ads will include the AdChoices icon allowing consumers to opt out of behavioral targeting.
  • Cap user-level interactions at a limited number to ensure appropriate discretion is applied.
  • Update the Site’s Privacy Policy: Although this is not always required, it is suggested to update the privacy policy of the advertiser’s website to include policies for display advertising and retargeting. Google recommends that the privacy policy discloses the use of Google Analytics (when applicable), and goes further to recommend additional updates when analytics is being used for display advertising and retargeting.
  • Deploy whitelists to limit ads to desirable content destinations.
  • Pharma brands concerned about brand safety should rely on programmatic direct deals (including private marketplace) that ensure premium inventory, rather than open real-time bidding across the internet.
  • Ads should not contain content that would imply knowledge of personal medical or health information.

Based on eMarketer’s US programmatic forecast, more than two-thirds of all digital display advertising is being purchased programmatically.

Online pharma advertising privacy regulations are ever-changing as technology enables consumers to find and engage with content in new ways, leaving room for interpretation. When targeting data is tied to a website cookie or other digital identifiers, permissibility is ultimately an individual advertiser decision. With a full understanding of the landscape and ground rules, retargeting should be considered an essential part of every pharma brand’s marketing toolkit.

Wanting 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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