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For pharmaceutical companies, deploying programmatic technology is a sticky subject. Because of strict privacy and patient protection laws, pharma companies are limited in how they can target individual consumers, which makes programmatic advertising more of a guessing game. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Jack Hogan, CTO at medical publisher Lifescript, spoke with eMarketer’s Maria Minsker about how pharma companies can use publishers’ data to leverage programmatic technology.
eMarketer: How can medical publishers create proxy audiences to power programmatic technology for pharma brands?
Jack Hogan: Medical publishers have vast audiences of opt-in consumers with targetable IDs and declared health interests. We’re talking about first-party data, not third-party health and medical data, which is inaccurate 50% of the time. By decoupling that first-party, declared health data from any private information, publishers enable brands to reach desired audiences with specific medical interests across the entire ad ecosystem—without breaking any HIPAA rules.
eMarketer: How does this make it possible for pharmaceutical companies to leverage programmatic advertising technology?
Hogan: While the guidelines for HIPAA are very stringent and strict when it comes to the type of data that can be accessed and shared, medical publishers typically don’t touch any medical records or confidential medical data. Rather, publishers have access to declared interest in specific conditions or symptoms, which falls under other guidelines. As a result, publishers are able to create segments of users interested in certain conditions, and feed these audience sets to pharma companies through programmatic pipelines for ad targeting.
Plus, once a publisher zeros in on a user’s interests and pinpoints that user’s identity using a primary identifier such as an email address, that anonymized identity can then be extended to a mobile device for programmatic advertising via mobile as well.
eMarketer: Can you share an example of how a brand might work with a publisher to target a specific audience segment using programmatic technology?
Hogan: Let’s say a statin drug manufacturer is looking to target people who have high cholesterol with a marketing campaign. A publisher can create a segment of people who have self-identified as showing interest in this topic while engaging with the publisher’s site. The publisher can then make that segment available to the advertiser through a programmatic pipeline, enabling them to work with their technology vendors to target that segment through programmatic display, video or mobile advertising.
eMarketer: Are enough pharmaceutical marketers taking advantage of programmatic advertising, or are they missing an opportunity when it comes to health data?
Hogan: There are some marketers in the space who don’t understand the marketing technology requirements for handling private data. For example, all user data should be de-identified, and not tied back to an individual. Personal health data like that should not be used in any marketing or advertising efforts. Marketers should be using smart tools that can decouple data from individuals’ identifiers, starting at the point of opt-in through collection and use.
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