Pharma's digital ad spending set for a leap in 2020 as TV flattens out, forecast says

Ad spending is going up around the world, and that includes pharma. Healthcare and pharma spending will grow 3.7% globally to $35.7 billion in 2020, according to WARC marketing intelligence service’s annual prediction.

The most notable shift in the sector? The move toward digital. While TV spending will still hold the lion's share of total dollars spent at 55%, it'll just grow 0.8%. Digital advertising, by contrast, will take a 14.1% leap.

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“TV has always been a staple in the pharma industry for generating mass reach and awareness of new products. But the sector is now looking online to target potential consumers in a more personalized way, potentially reducing wastage in mass media plans,” said James McDonald, managing editor and author of the research, via email. "TV ads for medicines are not always applicable for the entire paid audience."

He added that pharma companies may also be turning more to digital to circumvent the push in the U.S.—by far its largest ad market—to compel drugmakers to include list prices in TV ads.

Pharma and healthcare’s global spending growth will be driven by a 6.3% increase to $12 billion in the U.S., WARC predicted.

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Meanwhile, total ad spending across the 19 product categories WARC tracks will reach $656 billion globally next year, buoyed by growth in the U.S., which accounts for more than one-third of all spending.

Pharma is far from alone in the ad shift, either, as more and more dollars move online, especially in social media and video. Marketers will spend $336 billion on digital in 2020, the first time in WARC’s study that digital will account for more than half of the total.