Pharma's digital ad spending is growing—but slowly, research says

An annual study found that pharma and healthcare digital ad spending in areas such as display, search, mobile and social is on the rise, albeit growing more slowly than in other industries. (Pixabay)(Creative Commons CC0, Pixabay)

Pharma and healthcare digital ad spending is on the rise. But it’s a slow go. While the category is poised to reach $2.84 billion this year, it’s still the slowest grower out of 10 categories that market researcher eMarketer studies.

Pharma and healthcare spending will grow at just 12.7% in 2018, which is far below growth-chart-leading categories media (24.9%), entertainment (23.6%) and computer products (21.7%).

But that’s not the only bottom ranking in digital advertising stats for pharma and healthcare, according to eMarketer’s annual study. The category also ranked lowest in share of all digital ad spending at just 2.7%. Retail claims the biggest share of total digital ad spending at 21.9%, followed by automotive at 12.6% and financial services at 12.2%.

And don’t expect changes in pharma anytime soon, the report predicts. Pharma and healthcare spending will actually slow next year to 10.6%, remaining well below the all-industry average growth rate of 18.7%.

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While traditional TV spending by pharma and healthcare continues to grow, the report notes, it also points to the fact that digital is increasingly becoming more valued by the industry. It quotes Johnson & Johnson executive Sandra Peterson as saying recently that more than 50% of J&J’s marketing is now focused on digital consumer engagements.

As for what digital format pharma and healthcare companies spend on, display ads get most of the attention at 56.3% with another 37.1% spent on search. (The remaining 6.5% was listed as spent on “other.”)

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In getting those display and search ads in front of consumers, mobile is the important conduit for pharma and healthcare. Almost 70% of its ads are now placed on mobile devices, and eMarketer said it expects that shift from desktop to mobile ads to continue through at least 2019.

Regarding the growing area of social media, the report concludes, “Social is increasingly seen as a way to reach physicians, and it’s also being used to engage patients in novel ways.”