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Pandemic Accelerates CTV Ascent: How Pharma Can Benefit

Pharmaceutical ExecutivePharmaceutical Executive-03-01-2022
Volume 42
Issue 3

Connected TV advertising now a critical component of media mix.

Lately, connected TV (CTV) has been top of mind for a couple of reasons. The showrunner of Ozark, which happens to feature a fictional company known as Shaw Medical Devices as one of the key players in the final season, thought it was a good idea to split the season into two extended halves separated by a large break—a break which my wife and I are currently immersed in and not too pleased about. We have run out of quality content to watch. Perhaps because we’ve spent some time (A LOT) in front of the screen, watching everything since March of 2020. Screen time is a common symptom of COVID-19, but also a main character in CTV’s rise to prominence. Back in May of 2021, in the wake of a multitude of linear TV forsaking “cord-cutters” and the more inclusive “cord-stackers,” our family made the full switch to Hulu+Live TV—mainly to avoid high cable TV pricing, but also to have the ability to access more premium content across multiple devices.

Because of this exodus, advertisers have followed, recognizing the sweet sound of opportunity knocking. According to eMarketer, CTV advertising spending has risen so quickly that each time they update their forecasts, they end up raising their estimates. In 2020 and 2021, ad spending in the channel rose 40.6% and 59.9%, respectively. In 2021, the connected TV penetration rate in the US rose to an all-time high, with 82% of American households owning at least one internet-connected TV device.

I discussed the recent rise of CTV advertising with Marcella Milliet Sciorra, chief marketing officer at DeepIntent—what makes it a necessity, and how it fits in with linear TV advertising in marketers’ media mix. The national audience is heavily fragmenting and moving away from the traditional investment in linear TV. “Currently, about 10—30% of users are unique, meaning you can’t reach these people with linear TV,” Milliet Sciorra declared. “You can only reach them through CTV. If that was the only reason, you should be adding CTV to your buy. But there are plenty of other reasons.”

CTV has a few glaring advantages over linear. Linear boasts about 13—17 minutes of commercials per hour. In the ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) space, Tubi (four to six minutes per hour), is a less cluttered environment from a brand perspective, allowing content to be more likely absorbed by the user.

Most people associate CTV with younger generations. But the pandemic really nudged those that were on the fence, spreading the technology to all age groups. If you look at the 56—64 age range, “a sweet spot for pharma,” as Milliet Sciorra puts it, they’re watching more CTV content and are the fastest-growing segment for AVOD.

Other advantages of CTV are inherent in digital advertising: data—powered targeting, optimization, reach and frequency, trackable/measurable results. It’s also the fastest-growing channel in programmatic advertising.

Programmatic is more refined because of data-driven audience targeting optimized toward specific business outcomes. Milliet Sciorra says, “For pharmaceuticals, we use a patented technology, enabling us to plan and measure all campaigns towards script performance and audience quality. If you want to find patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), all of the metrics of the campaign can be optimized toward that condition and overlay patients that have been prescribed ‘A drug,’ ‘B drug,’ but not ‘C drug.’” And unlike linear, marketers can optimize a live campaign daily based on new insights—it’s the beauty of the channel.

Milliet Sciorra continues: “CTV works harder and smarter than linear, but it’s the combination of CTV and linear that really contributes to a great media plan. That said, the current issue for all marketers is cross-platform measurement—as an industry, we have to all come together to have a new and better currency to enable us to seamlessly reach audiences across linear and CTV.”

A lot of the major content holding companies like Comcast, NBC Universal, and the newly merged WarnerMedia-Discovery are also heavily invested in streaming and are looking to find a solution soon. “The time is right—there is certainly enough appetite and growth in CTV, so it can no longer be ignored,” says Milliet Sciorra. They’re losing potential profits and missing out on the ability to capitalize on CTV impressions as the eyeballs continue to shift to that medium.”

In the end, it all comes back to the same idea: As a marketer, you’re looking to reach your audience with relevant content—it doesn’t matter where they are, but marketers should meet them where they are.

Fran Pollaro is Pharm Exec's Senior Editor. He can be reached at

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