Pharma and healthcare boost digital ad spend on the way to $4.5B in 2021

Digital ad spending placed on computers, mobile, tablets, and other connected devices will top $3 billion for pharma and healthcare companies this year, according to eMarketer. (CC0)

More pharma and healthcare ads are coming to your digital news feed, but don’t worry; you'll still get plenty to satisfy your appetite for car, clothing and consumer ads.

That rising tide across the spectrum is exactly what pharma's riding: The industry isn't surging ahead, just keeping pace with an overall increase.

Pharma and healthcare shelled out $2.53 billion on digital advertising—which includes all ads on desktop and laptop computers, mobile phones, tablets and other internet-connected devices—in 2017, according to eMarketer’s recently released update on annual spending and forecast for the years to come.


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The research firm estimates pharma and healthcare will together spend $3.06 billion this year on digital advertising and break the $4 billion barrier in 2020.

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Still, pharma and healthcare outlays only account for about 3% of the digital media spending pie. That slice is pretty small compared with consumer categories such as retail, automotive, and financial. Those sectors each account for double-digit shares.

All together, digital ad spending in 2017 accounted for 44% of total media spend, with TV on the wane at about one-third, according to eMarketer data.

“Dollars spent by healthcare and pharma on digital advertising will keep going up, but the share (% of total) will remain the same because total digital spending is growing as well. In other words, the entire pie is growing,” said an eMarketer spokesman via email.

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EMarketer’s newly revised digital figures, which outline forecasts for the five years ahead, show a steady rise in healthcare and pharma digital advertising to $4.46 billion in 2021. The forecast predicts an average yearly increase of around $500 million.