Pharmaceuticals, What a Time to Join the Digital Party

Strategies for Pharmaceuticals to remain targeted in digital campaigns with little or no first party data.

The Australian pharmaceutical industry has been a late entrant to the digital advertising world but is now picking up the pace with many companies spending a significant portion of their media budget in digital channels.

They have joined the party at a very interesting time, as the digital advertising landscape undergoes a profound transformation. You might have heard that Google has commenced its long-anticipated plan to phase out cookies from Chrome, beginning in January 2024 by removing 1% of cookies—equivalent to 32 million browsers worldwide—with the aim of removing them entirely by the end of the year.

The Cookie has been a very handy tool for digital marketers, allowing us to measure, optimise and test various aspects of digital campaigns. Their most significant benefit lies in their ability to facilitate precise audience targeting. With cookies, we’ve been able to implement one-to-one targeting:

Creating and Targeting Specific Cookie Pools: For instance, targeting individuals who have visited a particular webpage.

Create & Retarget Specific Cookie Pools: Re-engaging with users who have previously visited a specific page.

Creating and Targeting Lookalike Segments: Identifying and targeting users who share similarities with a specific cookie pool.

Audience Suppression: Implementing negative targeting to exclude specific cookie pools from our campaigns.

The removal of the Cookie threatens our ability to implement one-to-one user targeting, a cornerstone of our current digital advertising strategies

Amongst other strategies, First-party data is emerging as a key solution for maintaining targeted advertising without relying on cookies. Referring to the information companies collect directly from their customers or website visitors, with their consent.

Whilst this is great news for companies with robust first-party data accumulated over the years, it poses a challenge for pharmaceutical companies who haven’t historically prioritised first-party data collection. With most advertising efforts focused on patient awareness campaigns, there hasn’t been a need or a natural fit for collecting data.

So, what can Pharmaceutical companies do to remain targeted in their digital ad campaigns with little or no first party data? Here are some strategies to consider.

It’s Never Too Late to Begin

The clear solution is to start gathering First-Party Data now, if you haven’t already. While it may seem challenging when your primary focus is on educating consumers, value exchange can be a powerful motivator for data collection. By offering valuable content, insights, or resources—such as disease management tips, healthcare advice, or exclusive educational content—you can incentivise consumers to willingly share their information.

Greater Reliance on Walled Gardens

Companies that are ‘logged in’ environments such as Facebook, Instagram or YouTube will not be as affected by the loss of the cookie and will still be able to speak 1:1 to their customer base on behalf of advertisers.

Greater reliance on Partnerships

Create Partnership with Companies with robust First Party Data sets of audiences you want to target. By leveraging the data & insights of these partners, pharma brands can still execute 1:1 targeting without having to collect and manage the data themselves. I suspect Chemist Warehouse will thrive in the cookieless era.

Shift Towards Consumer Mindset Strategies

While first-party data is a valuable asset, it’s essential to remember that effective targeting goes beyond data points. Understanding the consumer mindset and aligning messaging with their needs in the moment will become crucial.

Digital channels offer rich insights into consumer mindset — whether it’s the content they are consuming, their search queries, the time of day they engage or place of access, they all provide us with clear signals that offer invaluable insights into the consumer’s current state of mind. By incorporating these signals into digital campaign strategies, you can ensure that campaigns are not only targeted but also relevant and timely.

Test & Learn Now

The impending demise of cookies from Google Chrome signals a new era in digital advertising, one that requires pharmaceuticals to adapt and innovate. While this transition may seem daunting, it underscores the importance of a “test and learn” approach now. This will allow you to experiment with new strategies and tactics, gaining valuable insights along the way. By continuously testing and learning from these efforts, pharmaceuticals can not only navigate the challenges but also uncover new opportunities along the way.