Data management programs enabled with technology has completely changed just how marketers buy media today. A lot more companies are embracing technologies that facilitate media transactions in real-some time and in a granular level. Programmatic buying ecosystem is at the core with this revolution and has triggered a paradigm shift from healthcare advertising buying to targeted ad placements based upon user behavior.

Programmatic buying means sale and buy of media instantly inside an automated manner through software and algorithms. Automation is real-time and accurate to such extent that it not only saves time but additionally improves efficiencies with regards to ROIs and reaching a target audience with laser-guided precision.

While Programmatic buying has not yet taken the healthcare domain by storm, a buzz round the topic has begun getting louder in recent times.

Media buying in healthcare quintessentially continues to be carried out a traditional manner through sales teams approaching publishers either offline or internet and go using a long process RFQs, negotiations, preparing artworks and specs modifications, purchase indenting, vendor onboarding and ultimately releasing payment. And all this convoluted process has to undergo just before the ad is even published. Hence you will find a lag between purchase intent and actual media release. And that is what Programmatic is great at solving.

So how does Programmatic buying works and why hasn’t it caught the imaginations of healthcare marketer yet? Allow us to dig into details.

How can Programmatic Buying Works? The Programmatic Ecosystem

First, let us understand some popular terms utilized in the Programmatic Buying world and in addition just how the Programmatic ecosystem really works.

Step One:

Each time a user clicks on an online page containing a promotional space upon it, the publisher of your web site sends a cookie to user’s web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Bing… whichever).

Precisely what is Cookie: Cookie, in simple terms, is a small data file that is sent from publisher’s web server to user’s internet browser which serves to establish user’s identity

Step 2:

Just in case an inventory (advertising space on the webpage) is available for sale, it triggers a request from publisher’s Ad Server with their Supply Side Platform (SSP) to fill the Ad slot

Concept of SSP: You may think of Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) similar to a library or storehouse of Ad Inventories designed for placing your advertisement. This is a platform that connects sellers (sites, blogs, directories etc.) with buyers or advertisers who compete against the other for available Ad space.

Several of the popular supply side platforms are AppNexus, PubMatic, AOL or Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Step Three:

SSP then issues a bid request to Demand Side Platform (DSP). This bid request contains specifics of the user who is going to see the Ad like her demographic profile, browsing history, etc. This information helps DSPs to help make a well informed decision with regards to a user before you make a bid.

What is a DSP? : Demand Side Platform or DSP, because they are referred in programmatic world, is actually a doorway to purchase advertising space in a automated fashion. Consider DSPs as advertiser’s gatekeepers who matches inventories with buyer’s marketing objectives. DSPs make bidding decision on the part of a buyer after evaluating parameters like publisher’s profile, ad placement, the floor expense of available impression, etc.).

Several of better-known DSPs include DoubleClick Bid Manager by Google, AdMission, MediaMath etc.

Step 4:

Depending on the algorithm, DSPs assesses inventories to figure out how valuable the impression is and whether or not to take part in the auction with respect to an advertiser. If DSP decides to sign up in bid auction, it sends a bid response returning to SSP

Step 5:

SSP gathers all bid responses and picks a success in accordance with the second-price auction, which means, the one that bids slightly over the second highest bidder.

Step 6:

SSP notifies winning DSP along with the DSP, consequently, sends Ad serving code to SSP. Finally, SSP passes on Ad serving code to user’s browser and renders the Ad. The Ad will be served and also other content on a webpage.

And all sorts of these steps happen with a lightning speed at the back end as the page loads!

Varieties of Programmatic Buying

Programmatic Buying, as we know now, is automated buying of ad space with a web page. There are fundamentally 2 forms of programmatic buying dependant upon whether or not the ad space or inventory is bought through auction (Auction based) or by paying a fixed rate on the publisher (fixed price).

Auction based:

Open auction: This will depend on real-time auction-based bidding. Most prevalent of programmatic buying

Invitation-only auction: This too is auction-based but bidding is restricted to select advertisers selected by a publisher. More premium inventory sold at the higher price. Some publishers give ‘first look’ benefit to some advertisers before ad space is seen to others

Fixed priced:

Unreserved fixed rate: Prices are prefixed but no ad space is set aside upfront

Automated guaranteed or Programmatic premium: It becomes an automated process of buying guaranteed ad space that doesn’t involve an auction, in which the price is prefixed and impressions are guaranteed. Generally, this particular type is most premium of all.

Scope of Programmatic Buying in Healthcare

Programmatic marketing has not taken healthcare industry by storm yet by any stretch in the imagination, especially so in India. Even though this marketing phenomenon is discussed in marketing conferences and agency boardrooms nonetheless its role remains to be confined to lexicons and concept as an alternative to on actual spending of advertising dollars. Out of the global spending of USD 22 Bn on Programmatic buying in 2015, spending in India was a mere USD 25 M which makes it just above 1% share (Source: Media Global report cited in eMarketer )

By 2018, it’s projected how the healthcare industry will spend $2.2 billion on digital media. With roughly 40% of media buys being programmatic, healthcare marketers possess a great opportunity on their hands. Not merely is programmatic the brand new buzzword, but it is estimated that 70% of media buys will likely be programmatic in 2016. That’s significant growth over 2 years.

Healthcare media buying in India continues to be predominantly completed by traditional spray-and-pray, at best loosely targeted media campaigns involving humans (read- sales team) that negotiate with publishers or media agencies to purchase ad space or inventory. Programmatic buying, alternatively, allows precision and previously unthought-of granularity to arrive at target customers with better engagement and reduce costs. Allow me to present some real world scenarios to give home the impact of Programmatic Buying dental marketing services.

Imagine you might be visiting nearby pharmacy store to buy sugar control medication after doing a bit of online search about medicines dosage and negative effects. Suddenly your smartphone buzzes. Curious to understand, you check your inbox and discover email message inviting one to take a free diabetes check-up in a Clinic merely a block away from where you stand.

Almost scary, isn’t it! Well, this is exactly what Programmatic are capable of doing. It reaches your predefined customers or audience on the right moment with a right message. And such a thing happens in milliseconds within an automated fashion, because of footprints, or say Cookies, you left while looking the world wide web.

Programmatic buying changed the approach from rendering same advertising message to numerous customers to creating a distinctive message for individual customers according to her need right then of time. A proof of concept for this might be how health insurance could possibly be bought employing a Programmatic platform.

While you were renewing health care insurance policy online for your parents, an advert banner flashed across your laptop screen proclaiming to offer better coverage with add-ons at the lesser premium. The message is so timely and apt that you could not resist but clicking the ad. It feels that ‘someone’ is after the foot trails online. It appears that there is definitely ‘someone’ that follow users to offer messages which can be very apt and timely.

In many ways, data analytics is the lifeblood of automated buying. Although a massive level of data is gathered from the healthcare industry, as an example, a hospital, virtually no of it is used effectively to create effective data-driven strategy.

First party data sources in hospitals like patient registration kiosk of Hospital Information System, CRMs or perhaps a Website enables you to capture customer intent by putting a cookie on customer’s browser which may then follow and track a customer’s online journey and set meaningful and compelling messages to operate engagement with patients or customers. This primary data in addition to a second-party data from affiliates or online subscription agencies and third-party data purchased from outside data aggregators like telecom companies, other CRMs etc., is clustered to form homogenous number of audiences having similar traits like age, web browsing history, online purchases, content sharing on social media, medical content consumed, etc.

Allow us to conjure up a probable scenario for the hospital that is going to launch Diabetes Management Program and wishes to reach targeted audience utilizing their primary data base gathered over past years. Data points like e-mail address and make contact with amounts of patients undergoing care under endocrinologist would become a good audience pool to work targeted messages using GSP (Gmail Sponsored Promotions) or RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) campaigns. While a GSP would enable messages to get transported to prospective patient’s Gmail inbox, the RLSA campaign would guarantee that message is rendered on user’s SERPs wherever they use the internet.

The best thing of programmatic advertising is it can integrate all media delivery options and give you the message to right audiences wherever they live online be it video, search ads, mobile, display or social media marketing. Such media optimization turns into a captive and engaged audience to marketers causing maximum value away from marketing dollar spent.

Say you would like to target women in their early 40s residing in North Bangalore for promoting breast cancer screening. Programmatic-strategy for accomplishing this is deliver your message towards the in-market audience directly by capturing basic patient’s intent and after that tracking their online behavior. For example, say 45-year-old females who visited your Oncology web page and is also searching information online on “protection against cancer of the breast”.

Programmatic Buying permits you to serve your unique audience that is in the far end of buyer’s journey and contains a better propensity of buying if your message touches their cord. Programmatic Buying enables you to track investment or quite simply, makes returns attributable. Advertising has changed into a niche endeavor and Programmatic Buying comes like a potent tool in marketers purpose to unravel key steps to niche marketing.

Programmatic Buying comes along with its share of challenges and unethical practices that digital marketers have to stand guard against. Such bad practices permeate across the Programmatic ecosystem and are omnipresent across industries including healthcare.

Inside a highly regulated healthcare sector, these challenges are even more evident. So allow me to address some burning issues plaguing the Programmatic Buying in healthcare

1) Restrictions on retargeting: Hospital industry has become slow to adapt programmatic buying because medical ethics restrict any type of advertising to patients, even the audience retargeting using cookies

2) Ad misplacement: Ad placement while trying to reach a prospect, say a health care provider inside a non-clinical environment such as a Game Center or Expedia Travel site might actually dilute significance of brand name and message

3) Control: As above mentioned, Demand Side Platforms are aggregators of inventory and make them accessible for Advertisers. However, in healthcare industry, very few reputed medical publishers like PubMed, WebMD, The Lancet, NEJM etc. may renounce power over their inventory to permit open ad ecosystem like Programmatic take control of. That is why most medical publishers still prefer reserved, non-auction depending on programmatic buying like either Programmatic Direct.

4) Higher costs: On account of publisher’s reluctance towards open-auction bidding in healthcare for reasons stated above, cost per impression (CPM) is higher than in other industries like retail and travel.

5) Inventory scale: Since ad spaces on medical sites has limitations and finite, mostly they may be bought via direct 1-to-1 Publisher-Advertiser model resulting in inflated CPMs and suboptimal performance parameters (read ROI)

6) Stale-on-Sale:General impression is that a media bought through Programmatic model is usually a leftover, remnant inventory. This is simply not entirely untrue in healthcare either. Media space buying in healthcare predominantly is either through direct buyout involving humans or direct buyout involving automation, referred to as Programmatic Direct. Hence, what is left is really a less coveted, tier-2 inventory. Although buying this inventory can help derive engagement at lower cost.

7) Private Healthcare Ad Exchanges:Because of medical data security, misplacements and privacy issues in healthcare, some proponents of exclusive healthcare ad exchanges have emerged. In reality there are already some media buying platforms in healthcare like MM&M, Compas etc. that permit automated buying to healthcare publishers. However, given that transparency and neutrality of open buying platform could be compromised by using these agencies, there is little incentive for advertisers to do business with such private ad exchanges. Besides, scale and inventory provided with such private exchanges is likewise limited when compared with full-service media agencies.

Aside these challenges that are specific to medical industry, Programmatic Buying has some inherent conditions that are pervasive across industries. Such as some outlined below:

8) Non-human traffic: Non-human traffic or maybe the NHT as is commonly referred in Programmatic world is the most prevalent form of fraud whereby programs imitate desired online behavior and register false matrices like impressions, views or clicks. Bots pretend to become actual humans while actually they are part of malware that inflates the performance matrices by masquerading as organic activity. Common instances of this is paid ‘likes’ or ‘ 1s’ on social networking.

9) Viewability: Viewability is the probability of an advertisement to be noticed. Often times a large proportion of impressions that advertisers pay for goes unseen either due to below-the-fold 60dextpky or user might scroll a page too quickly to view the ad.

Ad blocking: Today’s sophisticated programs allow users to get rid of advertising while browsing the internet or using apps. Most publishers and professional bloggers depend on advertising since the main method to obtain their revenue. With ad blocking in position, a blogger would lose an incentive to make free-to-consume content unless the alternate stream of revenue can be obtained to them. Likewise, publisher websites lose interest since their revenue model based on content-for-advertising is compromised

In conclusion:

Programmatic buying has been a prominent inclusion in marketer’s quiver since last decade. Healthcare industry continues to be slow to wake up to the phenomenon because of industry-specific challenges. However, adoption of information, involvement of social media companies and proliferation of healthcare specific ad networks to control automated buying in healthcare would only mitigate these challenges.

The marketing for plastic surgeons including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies would be best if you consider programmatic buying as part of a core marketing strategy and move from broad, segment-based marketing to specific fine-grained messages crafted to get, nurture and convert potential prospects or patients.