Pharma search ads shift to 'savings' and 'coverage' amid COVID-19 pandemic

Notice to pharma: Google searches for prescription drug savings and coverage are spiking during the COVID-19 crisis. (Pixabay)

Pharma company search ads that include words like "savings" and "coverage" have surged since COVID-19 stay-at-home orders began.

While the initial assumption might be that pharma companies are creating new ads in response to customer demand for information, it’s more probable that it's the other way around. Consumer and healthcare provider behavior is likely driving the trend, said Ian Orekondy, CEO of AdComplyRx, the pharma-focused search engine compliance company that noted the trend.

How is that happening? Pharma companies submit dozens of different search ads to Google, with those ads essentially sitting on file in the ad platform's database. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as more and more people type in search terms like “savings” and “coverage” and how to “fill” or refill prescriptions, the pharma ads that contain those words are served up, increasing the frequency of those ads.

“Google is serving up the ads that resonate best with the search audience. So Google is surfacing those pharma messages more frequently because that’s what people are clicking on,” Orekondy said.

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Paid search ads with the words “coverage” and “savings” in the copy were served over 1,000 times more often when AdComplyRx compared the first two weeks of March with the first two weeks of April.

Overall, “coverage” ads were up 40%, while "savings" were up 11%. "Savings" is already a popular term in prescription drug searches, so that double-digit increase is statistically significant.

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Even bigger spikes occurred within certain specialty areas. Mentions of "savings" in paid search ads jumped by 96% in hematology and 48% in diabetes, while “coverage” mentions surged 184% in respiratory ads and 156% in hematology, Orekondy said. He said the upticks should prompt pharma companies to make sure ads contain the savings and coverage information that patients and healthcare professionals are searching for.

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“Pharma brands should check their existing search campaigns to ensure they have these types of ad messages that are increasingly relevant as more people lose income, and change employment and insurance plans,” he said.