May 8, 2012

Despite its Declining Importance for Many Display Campaigns, the Click Remains Important for Pharma Marketers

John Mangano
VP, Marketing Solutions

Over the years, comScore has published several studies – including one this past week – that illustrate how the click is often the wrong metric for measuring the effectiveness of online display advertising. We have also shown that simply being exposed to an online ad, even when a click does not happen, often drives meaningful lifts in site visitation, purchase behavior and other key performance metrics. These findings continue to change how success is perceived and measured in digital advertising. Just as with other media such as television, radio and print, marketers are beginning to understand that an action at the exact moment of exposure is not the only indicator of effective advertising. Accumulated exposures, even without clicks, provide value to brands that should not be discounted.

While the click is often a poor metric of success for branding campaigns, it should be noted that there are certain instances where clicks on banner ads do indeed matter. Most notably, for industries that deal heavily with direct response marketing, the click is the primary means through which the specific marketing call-to-action occurs, whether that is submitting an online quote or requesting more information about a product or service.

An industry where the click remains relevant, and one in which I spend a great deal of my time, is the pharmaceutical industry. In direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing, the click is an important metric that correlates with a campaign’s ultimate success in driving patient and prospect conversions. Educating patients about a medical condition and how to treat it is not something that a banner ad or interactive ad unit can do alone, especially when one considers the amount of real estate that a drug’s accompanying safety information requires. Even a television ad faces challenges in conveying convincing and compelling information about a particular treatment in 30 to 90 seconds. Indeed, there are very few mass marketing vehicles that are as effective in educating patients about a particular treatment as a website. In our studies on pharmaceutical advertising campaigns, we have found it’s the depth of information provided on a pharmaceutical brand’s site or microsite that’s a key determinant of success in attracting and converting patients.

But what is among the more important drivers of traffic to these sites? The answer: clicks on display banner ads.

In the past six years, comScore has chronicled the correlation between various pharmaceutical ad campaign elements and conversions. We have found that, more than any other digital marketing tactic, getting condition sufferers to a brand’s website drives more visits to a doctor, more discussions about conditions and the brand, and ultimately more prescriptions. Overall, the best thing a banner ad campaign, interactive or not, can do to support this endeavor is to drive traffic to a dedicated site or microsite. That action is directly captured by our old acquaintance, the click.

This is not to say that our other research on lifts to be gained from simple exposures do not apply to the pharmaceutical industry. Banners also provide view-through value (although perhaps to a lesser extent) in increasing brand awareness and favorability. Users who might not click on banner ads may nevertheless end up on a pharmaceutical site by recalling the ads they’ve seen and searching for the brands that they saw or typing brand URLs directly into their browsers. However, direct-to-consumer marketing in the pharmaceutical industry just happens to be able to leverage the click differently, since clicks coming from ad campaigns can drive branded site visitation and site conversions. For pharma, banner ad campaigns are very important contributors of traffic to brand websites because they typically appear at targeted sites, whose visitors are likely to be seeking more information about a condition or treatment. In a sense, these pharma banner ads perform somewhat like search ads in that they are directed to a more qualified audience. The ad the audience sees is usually limited to an invitation to visit a site or microsite to learn more about the brand, since a good portion of the ad is taken up by federally mandated safety information. The only way to obtain the detailed information necessary to influence condition sufferers to take the necessary actions that ultimately lead to having a physician prescribe a treatment is to visit a branded website.

So while the amount of traffic that goes to a branded drug site from a click is relatively small, it is highly qualified traffic. As a result, while the click on a banner ad may not be an appropriate metric for many industries, it remains an important measure of ad effectiveness for the pharma industry.

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