Advertising On Health Websites

Mayo Clinic’s recent decision to include paid advertisements on its website stirred up a heated debate. As the face of healthcare social media and effective patient education for a long time Mayo Clinic received a lot of criticism for its bold move to venture into the field of featuring ads next to important health-related issues.

I personally think in an economic climate like today’s no one can really argue with a financially smart decision if it is rightly done. Which means that in my opinion paid advertisements can have a place next to health information without taking away credibility and reliability. Unless they are placed poorly. And that is where Mayo Clinic made a mistake. Mark Schaefer, marketing consultant and author took to his blog to express his disbelief and disappointment about ads trying to sell children’s clothes next to an article about a condition during pregnancy that in most cases results in the death of the unborn child.

Here is a word I rarely use on my my blog: Stupid.  But I think it is an unavoidable description when an organization sells the soul of their brand for a few advertising dollars with a mindless strategy of advertising children’s clothes to women who have just lost their child.

I think the question is: was the placement of the ad intentional? I hardly think so. This is an organization that is involved in treating patients, conducting research, launching healthcare start-apps, using social media for better patient education and communication and operating a major platform for publishing reliable health-related content. I think by now they are aware of the sensitive nature of the different topics they are discussing.

I also think it is a case of not paying attention to detail and not making sure the content and the ads on the site are in sync. Placing ads can mean major funds for a website. Misplaced ads can mean angry and disappointed readers that have all the right to feel that way. And while a lot of times advertising agreements are a little loose when it comes to the content of the ads, a website specializing in healthcare content has to make sure to monitor and influence the ads appearing on the portal.

(Source: Businessgrow.com, Medcitynews.com)

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Ways Of Gaining Trust Again In Pharma

A recent study by Edelman proved what pharma marketers and consultants knew for a long time now: the consumers’ trust in pharmaceutical companies is severely shattered. According to new findings the credibility of the industry decreased significantly with the level of trust in pharma companies dropping almost 10% from 61 to 56. It is illogical and not realistic to think that the global issues of the sector can be solved with old tactics and practices. To fix these problems and gain back the trust of consumers pharmaceutical companies have to acquire a new approach.

Luckily the economic surroundings, results of several researches and new global communication trends all point in the same direction. All pharma companies need to do is to actually recognize this direction and give up the old, habitual and ineffective ways of marketing and talking to their audience. Case in point: the excessive spending on TV ads. Here are the key reasons pharma companies should revisit their strategy about television advertising:

  • The global economic situation doesn’t provide financial resources to support expensive and rather ineffective advertising methods. These days TV ads fall into this category.
  • Stricter regulations also make it harder to include key products in TV advertising and also influence the development process of such ads.
  • Controversies in the past in connection with heavily advertised drugs resulted in the consumer assumption that pharmaceutical products promoted on television cannot be trusted.

The findings of recent studies and new trends also seem to prove that the future is not about TV advertising and old ways of marketing but rather about social engagement, co-operation and two-way communication. Online communities and social platforms quickly gained popularity in the past few years creating never before seen changes in the way we communicate, share and consume information. So it is no surprise that consumers trust people like them more and more and take their advice rather than following a push message marketed “at” them and not “with” them. According to the study mentioned above people trust others similar to them more and more. The level of consumer trust in others’ opinion increased from 43% to 65%.

The opposite trends of the changing level of trust are undeniable when it comes to pharma companies and peers. So wouldn’t it make sense to focus on what works, to pay more attention to integrating peer-based tools like social media and patient communities into the marketing strategy? Wouldn’t it make sense to focus and spend less on marketing tools, like TV ads that doesn’t work anymore? New approaches are desperately needed, because clearly, the old ways couldn’t secure the industry’s credibility.

(Source: Health Talker)

Alarming Level Of Non-Adherence

Recently I came across an alarming data on non-adherence: according to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) 25% of people above 50 are not taking their medications as prescribed if they take them at all.

Rather than worrying about the sky-rocketing healthcare costs and revenues we should ask, what makes patients stop a treatment and go against their physician’s advice. Is it only the price of the medication or is it a consequence of miscommunication? And if so, what is pharma doing to find a solution for whatever the problem might be?

  1. First of all the cause of non-complience has to be clear. To be able to act on it one needs to know the real nature of the problem. It might sound obvious, but surprisingly it is often overlooked. To determine the reason for non-adherence pharma and healthcare need feedback from patients. This of course requires communication and listening which to this day seem to be challenging.
  2. Communication: The reason behind stopping a treatment could be the lack of information about certain drugs. A lot of patients end up leaving the doctor’s office not entirely understanding what they have been told. With the constantly decreasing visit times accurate knowledge about a treatment is hard to provide. It has to be a crucial goal to get through to patients and make sure they have all the information they need to successfully complete or maintain a treatment.
  3. Financial solutions: Non-complience can also root from financial difficulties. Healthcare providers, pharma, insurance companies have to be able to work together to find a better system to help patients in need to pay for their medication. To imply that patients come first and not collaborating for a more sufficient way for them to finance their medications is simply misleading.
  4. Marketing tools for adherence: Marketers often focus on the great results and advantages of taking a certain drug. They often forget to emphasize that partial treatment is not a treatment. Through conventional marketing, social media platforms and educational portals pharma has great tools to inform patients and advertise adherence. These tools could be the base of comprehensive compliance campaigns.

(Source: World of DTC Marketing)

Why Would You Say No To Social Media?

Recently I read an article that questioned the relevance and the justification of social media in healthcare. I would like to go through some of the interestingly put, misinterpreted and weirdly positioned arguments the post included to prove my point, that social media in fact has (or should have) an important role in healthcare.

Talking about today’s pharmaceutical era the article states that:

  • most consumers do not want to connect with drug companies on social media
  • most drug companies don’t have the resources to talk to people via social media

What do we base the first statement on? The fact that consumers don’t connect with pharma on social sites could apply that the conditions need to be changed. Maybe the drug companies need to be willing to communicate as well? Just a thought. And to say that drug companies don’t have the resources to talk to consumers via social media is almost comical. An multi-trillion industry that spends billions of dollars on TV and print ads can’t hire a few dozen people to set up Facebook pages for free and monitor them?

Reading the article I had the feeling that a relatively big section of the text contradicted the title of the article. How can you make a statement, that social media is not the answer and has no future in healthcare, then write the following:

Social media is a way of looking at marketing and realizing that today consumers want more control about what they purchase, why they purchase it and especially what goes in their bodies. Hell now there is even conflicting news stories about common OTC products that may not be completely safe !

The drug industry has long ignored consumers who want to be heard and give feedback. To them it’s all about push marketing with message testing and while that may meet some brand objectives it’s not enough at a time when less people are going to their doctor and less are filling Rx’s.

If you realize that there is a demand for more information and control over purchases, you realize that consumers want to ask questions and give feedback and that these demands are being ignored for the most part by pharma companies, how can you deny the importance and convenience of social media as a tool.

It is true that social media in itself can’t change healthcare, you need informed and creative people to operate social channels as tools. But the answer is not to take out social media from the equation, but add the right professional forces. It is definitely not the comfortable solution since it’s time-consuming and involves a great deal of work, but on the long run it is still more productive than to say no to social media based on fabricated and contradictory reasons.

(Source: DTC Marketing)

Pharma Ads And Online Boundaries

It is interesting to see how different online media companies go about  find setting up rules for pharmaceutical content on their platforms. Some learn from their own experiences, some are careful from the start.

Google for example had to learn the hard way that strict control is needed when it comes to prescription drug ads appearing online. The web giant paid 500 Million dollars in a settlement over AdWords content advertising illegal import of Canadian drugs into the United States. And signs suggest that the company was prepared to handle a situation like this, since the amount was set aside for this purpose. But the hit taken by Google was still enormous: the 500 Million dollars roughly equal the company’s revenue from the Canadian pharmacy ads, plus the pharmacies’ revenue from sales to U.S. customers.

Facebook seems to be trying to avoid a similar fail. Just recently the company updated its already strict Advertising Guidelines. The description of rules has a separate section for pharmaceuticals and supplements that could be very helpful when creating effective Facebook ads.

Pharmaceuticals and Supplements

Ads must not promote the sale of prescription pharmaceuticals. Ads for online pharmacies are prohibited except that ads for certified pharmacies may be permitted with prior approval from Facebook.

Ads that promote dietary and herbal supplements are generally permitted, provided they do not promote products containing anabolic steroids, chitosan, comfrey, dehydroepiandrosterne, ephedra, human growth hormones, melatonin, and any additional products deemed unsafe or questionable by Facebook in its sole discretion.

Depending on your contract with Google you are not entirely in charge what appears among the ads. On Facebook as well several ads appear on your Page that were selected based on only the main focus of your profile. Still I feel more comfortable with Facebook’s solution since the same clear rules apply to all advertisers.

Setting up a Facebook ad is easy, but it also has the crucial step of approval process integrated. From Google’s settlement it seems that they should apply similar restrictions as well.

What do you prefer: Google AdWords or Facebook ads? Let us know in the comments section below!

(Source: Reuters, Facebook)

Social Media – Obsessed With Numbers

It seems to me that when it comes to different social media platforms, we tend to focus only on how many people use these applications. And because this number is constantly changing, it gives bloggers, publishers, etc. something to keep writing about.

Bloomberg put together a report about how many American adults use Facebook, Twitter and Google+. Of course the emphasis was on the last one, since Google+ became the buzz word in social media this last month. So all of a sudden everyone is surprised how fast the number of users is rising. Well if you spend any time online, you are going to come across articles on the new platform on a daily basis. And not once, but a couple of times. It was actually interesting to see that Facebook (I’m sure) unintentionally became one of the biggest advertising sites for its competitor. With all the users posting status updates about their new Google+ accounts, the platform received tremendous hype.

This is why the report is able to show that already 13% of US adults signed up for a Google+ account, while Facebook is still used by 71% of adults online in the United States. The study also suggests, that Facebook will lose 2% of its users in the next year, while Google+ is going to reach 22% of US adults. First of all I think it is highly speculative to publish these kinds of rates one year in advance. Especially in the world of social media, where innovations and new applications can and usually do appear and gain users rapidly, and where they can be taken over by the next big thing just as fast. Secondly, I don’t think that Google+ growing more quickly than Facebook or MySpace did after being introduced is any indication of its larger popularity compared to the other sites. Google+ had a pattern, a model of features to follow that made it a lot easier to market it to people. How much simpler is to say “Oh, it’s kind of like Facebook, just cooler”, than to try to explain Facebook to users that never known anything like it before.

As I said before, it is better being careful saying anything too soon about shiny new things in social media. The high user rates and hype may calm down after the initial introduction and first phase of an application. The numbers show how many people use the platform, they don’t say anything about how they are using it. And that is what studies are usually missing. It doesn’t matter if people register on a new platform if they never visit it again. And actually, we see this trend already with Google+: 31% of its users created their profiles but never posted anything and didn’t stick with the application. Other than data like this, we need a deeper analysis on what people are doing on social media sites and how they are doing it, what kind of content they share, how frequently and how they engage with others online. These questions are clearly harder to answer, but doing so would be definitely more informative than publishing a bunch of ever-changing numbers.

(Source: Bloomberg.com)

Twitter – The Social Site Without Innovations And Marketing Potential?

The recent blog post of Phil Baumann about the future death of Twitter on Health Is Social made me think about what grabs our attention and what makes us “addicted” to different social platforms. Do we need constant upgrades, new features, redesigned platforms? Do we really care about the advertising potential of a social media site or we are happy to just use them?

There are two very different approaches if you look at Facebook and Twitter about the frequency of introducing new features. If you are on Facebook for a couple of years now you remember many occasions when the platform was remodeled, new features were introduced. There is a trend of creating a Facebook Group against these changes. “We want the old Facebook back” and “We hate the new Facebook”. Managing your news feed, your settings, your pictures is always a challenge after these innovations get realized. But somehow we always get used to the new way of facebooking. We enjoy the new chat features, the check-ins, the numerous applications for page administrators. And at the end, we get used to a constantly changing online experience.

Over at Twitter the picture looks very different. Except one major redesign, the social networking site is the same as it used to when first introduced. We have our tweets, mentions, retweets and Twitter feeds. And although the application originally created features that changed our communication habits for good, the new ideas stopped coming. Until the third-party applications like Tweetdeck and Hootsuit appeared. So the option for fun features and user-friendly solutions were there, only people outside the company came up with them. With Tweetdeck for example (other than integrating all your other social media accounts) you can schedule tweets, monitor all Twitter action at the same time, you can follow specific feeds using hashtags. You can also automatically shorten links which as a feature is a “no-brainer” considering the 140 character limit. So the new features are there, Twitter just had to buy them to make them its own.

So when it comes to the experience the necessary new features are there on both sides (Facebook and Twitter) to keep the users entertained and interested. The only difference is that people use Facebook and its numerous applications on the actual site, while 42% of Twitter users turn to third-party solutions and rarely visit the original Twitter portal.

The second major difference about the two social sites is their advertising potential. Facebook was able to create an advertising system that in my opinion is easy to navigate and effective. Other than that, Facebook Pages can operate fully as advertising machines. In the meantime we have seen Twitter struggling with this issue for a long time now. Most recently implying that future user feeds would contain paid advertisements. The idea resulted in a lot of negative feedback and at least for now, Twitter is left with sponsored tweets, trending topics and recommendations. But there is two sides of this story: one for the individual user and one for the brands. And looking at this subject from these two different point of views we have two different answers. One says it is probably good that Twitter hasn’t figured out a way yet to clog its feeds with ads, and unless it finds a way for integrating  advertisements without interfering with user experience, it should leave the platform ad free. But obviously for marketing and financial goals this position would be insufficient.

So on the long run is it enough to satisfy the users or you have to come up with solutions to please advertisers also? For a great user experience the first would be enough, but to stay alive on this market you would probably (well, definitely) have to consider the second.

And to get back to the point where we started: when we are comparing Facebook and Twitter, are we comparing apples and oranges? And is it really not enough for Twitter to be just … well, Twitter?

(Source: Health Is Social)