Companies trying to place their advertising next to valuable online content used to have two choices: They could advertise
on Web sites and online magazines, using technology to bring their ad up when content with certain keywords appeared on the
screen, or they could create content of their own—better controlled, but potentially less valuable to readers, if they perceived
it as promotional. Today, an increasing number of online content providers are offering another alternative, what Laura Klein,
senior vice president of sales and marketing for Everyday Health, calls "custom centers." In this model, a healthcare information
provider creates a mini-site devoted to a particular condition, exercising complete editorial control. The drug company sponsors
the entire site and runs its advertising on all the pages.
The content, in this model, can take a wide variety of forms: patient stories, tips for living with and managing conditions,
Q&A with experts, and a robust array of interactive tools. For example, the What to Expect Foundation developed a successful
custom center on its site with support from GlaxoSmithKline. The "What to Expect Guide to Immunizations" includes video clips
covering a variety of concerns about childhood immunizations, selected articles, and even a downloadable book, including charts
that help parents track immunizations and ask appropriate questions during visits to doctors. The popular health site Everyday
Health includes more than a dozen "Everyday Solutions" covering everything from heart health to children's nutrition. These
mini-sites include content custom written by the Everyday Health staff (though with full editorial control) and ads by sponsors
that include pharma and consumer products manufacturers.
As of October 2008, there are 250 advertisers with Everyday Health in the consumer packaged goods and pharma industries, which
include Abbott Labs, Bayer, GSK, and Pfizer. Advertising business for the company more than doubled in 2008 over 2007 and
remained on par with growth in Q1 for 2009.
Among the many metrics measured, average click-through rates for marketers' ads in custom centers are two to four times above
the industry average. Klein points out that when a custom center is running, Everyday has the ability to market to all users
(about 24 million monthly as of January 2009) throughout networked sites, which really exposes them to the advertisers' custom
center and ultimately sends them through to be counted as traffic.
Spending Trends: More Declines in 2009?
According to DataMonitor, pharma promotion is moving from traditional brand promotion toward a streamlined, customer-oriented
approach. Perhaps that is why Baron believes that maybe it is time for pharma to see the patient as more of a consumer. "There
is nothing wrong with raising brand awareness and brand recognition. It doesn't have to drive incremental scripts; brand awareness
could be enough to help keep the marketing mix optimized," he pointed out.
Pharma companies are scaling back—not just for budgetary reasons, but because of delayed product launches, regulatory concerns,
and the impact of the PhRMA guidelines. Advertising agencies are understandably concerned about what the future holds for
them. In the short run, it's probably more of the same. Schulman, for example, expects 2009 to look similar to 2008. "We do
not expect the measured media mix to change all that much in 2009," he says. "The total spend will shrink but the allocation
will probably hold to form."
All in all, Big Pharma remains at the top of the rankings in terms of most promotional advertising dollars spent. But the
future holds a much wider playing field for both large and small companies aiming to optimize the marketing mix.