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Soon people will remember animated ad banners and the measurement of their click-through rates as merely the first generation of online marketing.
Soon people will remember animated ad banners and the measurement of their click-through rates as merely the first generation of online marketing. Several new technologies and techniques now promise to enhance messaging, branding, and relationship building. This article discusses some of those innovations and their use in DTC marketing.
One of the most important developments in online marketing is the improved ability to measure a web campaign's effectiveness. Although marketers are accustomed to performing studies to evaluate traditional media initiatives, they often overlook that process with online advertising. The industry has re-lied instead on readily obtainable banner ad click-through rates to measure the success of internet campaigns. But, according to re-cent studies, the 99 percent of banner ads that go unclicked also increase brand recognition and message retention.
Data from AtlasDMT demonstrate that 80 percent of all ad-driven conversions to a sale on a sponsor's website occur after a prospect views-but does not click on-a banner. Most of those conversions occur 1–30 days after the visitor views the promotion. An Internet Ad Bureau survey found that banner exposures generate more than 90 percent of brand enhancement, whereas click-throughs add very little.
Such findings have led several vendors to offer market research tools that help measure the benefits of unclicked online ads. Companies such as Millward Brown IntelliQuest and Dynamic Logic provide test and control data using online surveys that compare the brand awareness of users who have seen a web page containing a product's ad with the awareness level of those who haven't.
Dynamic Logic found that online advertising raises brand awareness by an average of 6 percent, a number that rises significantly with increased ad exposure. Using the most advanced advertising technology can improve results even more.
Developing creative materials for online advertising is still in its infancy. Although most traditional publishers believe that a 50:50 advertising-to-editorial ratio is necessary for business, online publishers are realizing that they must provide more real estate and exposure to advertisers to survive.
Larger, more interactive online ads improve key branding metrics by about 40 percent compared with control viewers who have not seen the ad. Bigger ads, such as 125x600-pixel "skyscrapers," are more noticeable and can transmit more information. And technologies such as Flash and Dynamic HTML provide greater exposure and are far more intrusive. In many cases, they take over users' online experience for several seconds. McNeil Consumer recently ran an HTML campaign featuring an Imodium balloon that floats across health sites' pages, promoting an offer for the OTC drug.
As long as advertisers don't annoy viewers with too many ads, the ads can be extremely effective and entertaining. To help advertisers in their endeavors, technology that limits ads to one view per person is available.
When marketers recognize that web surfers need not click on their ads to be influenced, they will begin to make the ad itself the experience. Marketers are learning to use larger ad real estate as placeholders for content and interaction rather than as teasers to entice viewers to click.
As with television, consumers go to websites to view content-not ads. Therefore, promotions that encourage users to linger at sites to read more product information can increase their effectiveness. A recent banner ad used to promote Pfizer's Zyrtec (cetirizine) invited users to enter their zip codes and view local pollen reports-all within the ad.
Ads can function as miniwebsites that allow users to tab and click around to find information. New technology allows banners to expand across monitor screens when users click on or sweep over them with a cursor. AstraZeneca's Prilosec (omeprazole) recently used Pointroll's new technology to develop a banner ad containing several tabs leading to more information. When the user sweeps over the tabs with a cursor, the ad expands to deliver the requested content, taking up more than 60 percent of the screen. Vendors such as Pointroll, Bluestreak, and Enliven have made the technology readily available to marketers.
Because health-oriented consum-ers usually notice personalized information, online health assessments and symptom checkers are effective. They allow consumers to obtain personalized health status and diagnostic information by answering online questionnaires. Such products attempt to mimic standardized disease scoring systems or physicians' thought pro-cesses and recommendations.
The difficulty of reaching personal physicians, coupled with consumer access to such online tools, will likely lead to greater consumer reliance on self-service preventive and diagnostic care.
Interactive assessments can also give pharma companies insights into patients' perceptions about their health. Anonymous pooled data can reveal attitudinal relationships toward disease conditions in various patient populations and profile the characteristics and prevalence of many symptoms.
By gathering patients' answers to online questionnaires, marketers can determine which patient symptom profiles correlate best with a positive response to various test marketing messages. They can perform those studies with anonymous "cookies" that respect patient privacy.
Disseminating diagnostic tools to a large audience can also in-crease disease awareness, especially among patients with chronic symptoms. Those tools are particularly-effective in reaching patients with conditions such as sleep deprivation, depression, and high cholesterol, which are treatable but often do not prompt those afflicted to seek care. Sponsorship of such sections, targeted to patients suffering from specific conditions, generates increased exposure for pharma companies with products developed for those conditions and builds greater brand awareness. Developing a personalized ap- proach to health information also generates interest and goodwill among a company's customers.
Much has been said about handheld computers' potential for marketing pharmaceuticals. But the reality is that less than 15 percent of physicians use them. They have limited reach, and it is not clear when patients will use handheld computers to interact with product information. It's hard to picture diabetics "synching" their handhelds to download the latest diabetes news update and then sitting back to read it on tiny LCD screens.
But diabetics can use handhelds to download portable programs that help them plan meals, count calories, and select ingredients for improved disease control. They can take programs to the supermarket, use them in the kitchen, and update them when necessary. By creating and distributing a tool that targeted customers can use regularly, pharma companies have more frequent interactions and deeper, stronger relationships with those customers.
For physicians, portable tools such as ePocrates' drug reference have become useful at the point of care. E-prescribing and coding tools are also potential access points. But it is still unclear whether doctors will respond to marketing messages while looking up information on handheld computers. ePocrates sells messaging services that are displayed when physicians update their software from the ePocrates internet server during synchronizations.
Marketing through mobile phones represents another opportunity to reach targeted custom-ers. Small LCD screens and a narrow reach make mainstream use of that medium unlikely, but potential implementations might apply to transactional events such as patient visits to physicians or drugstores. In that scenario, as patients enter medical offices, a brief beep can alert them to text messages on their phones. The messages could remind them to ask their doctors about specific drugs or underdiagnosed but common conditions. Still, such campaigns might be considered too intrusive and disruptive to be viable.
Another emerging marketing tool transmits data to consenting prospects' handheld computers and mobile phones. The new technology, developed by Streetbeam, sends free personalized information directly to customers' PDAs, allowing them to receive messages, schedules, and software through infrared transmissions that interact with posters and billboards. Customers simply point their handhelds toward the billboard, which contains computer hardware and an infrared transmitter, and the devices are prompted to accept the download.
That technology, which is al-ready appearing on phone booths and signs and at trade shows and medical meetings, currently has a strong novelty effect. In the long term, as mobile computing enters the mainstream, that type of interface could become a major distribution vehicle for portable data and software.
Someday it will be possible to dial a phone number, ask a computer a health question, and receive an appropriate response. Today voice portals such as Tellme have well defined menus that allow users to obtain up-to-date news, weather, traffic, and financial information. Although current systems can recognize only a limited selection of words, users can still obtain health news and disease-specific information. Those services also may be used cost-effectively to disseminate health information by phone to individuals without internet access. Information transfer, expert physician discussions, and personalized messaging can all take place through a voice portal.
In addition to developing custom voice applications, several established online players are gradually launching voice-portal versions of their existing websites. As those products gain presence, sponsorship opportunities for audio healthcare content will emerge.
Interactive telephone tools such as automated medication remind- ers will provide targeted, repetitive exposures to important customers and improve compliance. Al-though voice technology is new and its use remains sparse, innovative pharma companies might penetrate the potential market inexpensively by using the technology to develop and enhance relationships with key customers early.
The web's ability to create communities of patients who share common medical conditions provides excellent marketing and relationship-building opportunities. New technology makes it possible for pharma marketers to support those groups with secure environments offering premium content and services. Portalvision allows marketers to run their own AOL-like service for key customers by distributing customized client-server applications. Those services can be branded or unbranded and can include internet access or work with existing internet service providers. Portalvision offers se-cure, unlimited "clubs," chat rooms, and content libraries. A premium service for patients with multiple sclerosis might be developed and sponsored by the maker of an MS drug. Features could include lifestyle clubs, expert physician chats, coupons for medical supplies, and patient surveys.
Why not just use a web browser instead of having patients install custom software? Consider AOL's experience. The average value of each AOL subscriber is significantly more than a browser-based ISP such as Earthlink, because of AOL's loyal customer base and ability to target advertising and marketing offers and to resell customer lists. Client-server environments provide better customer data and allow more controlled interactions. Pri-vacy concerns can be addressed by de-identifying users.
Because they are client-server based, features such as chat rooms and instant messaging perform better on slower connections. Users can also download large multimedia files while working in another program, allowing the use of rich video applications. Although such initiatives are still unproven and require a significant commitment from marketers, the chance to become a major interface in select customers' lives makes affinity software and services compelling options.
Satellite radio services and wireless internet may soon make highly specialized audio content a reality. For physicians, a cardiology channel might provide audio content, including industry news and educational information similar to that found in the popular Audio Digest cassette tapes. Consumers could enjoy a health channel featuring news and expert commentary on developments in medicine-opportunities for pharma to reach customers in a different context.
As web-based media evolve into sustainable models, even newer technologies are beginning to take form. The future will be filled with fascinating options for reaching customers and building relationships that are stronger than ever. Pharma executives who understand those applications and their strengths and weaknesses will be better able to make the decisions today that will help build the enduring brands of tomorrow.