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Pharmaceutical Ad Spend During COVID-19

Pharmaceutical Ad Spend During COVID-19

The pharmaceutical industry is traditionally recession-proof. 

During the pandemic, however, pharmaceutical companies aren’t merely riding out the recession. They are the ones largely responsible for getting us out of it. 

As the public waits for a vaccination, the pharmaceutical industry is changing quickly. Its advertising is following along. Read more for details.

We encourage you to subscribe to our blog for the latest data surrounding the advertising industry. We will provide daily updates as COVID-19 continues to make its mark on the US economy.

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Changing Pharmaceutical Landscape Follows Pre‐COVID Predictions… But Faster

Near the end of 2019, experts predicted pharmaceutical marketing would be making a big shift from TV to digital.

“TV has always been a staple in the pharma industry for generating mass reach and awareness of new products,” said James McDonald at marketing intelligence service WARC. “But the sector is now looking online to target potential consumers in a more personalized way, potentially reducing wastage in mass media plans.”

It makes sense—digital ads can reach a specified audience with a specified message, improving overall ROI.

While popular, digital advertising wasn’t an immediate hit in the pharmaceuticals arena due to the strict regulations. Pharmaceutical advertisers have traditionally been slow to join with the latest trends simply because it’s more complicated for regulated industries.

Over time, though, the benefits outweighed the challenges and during the pandemic certain programmatic formats began to surge. As we’ll see below, our data confirms that the shift is taking place, but much at a faster pace than anticipated.

Longer‐Lasting Changes in the Pharmaceuticals World

The digital advertising push comes at a time when the industry’s operations are rapidly digitizing. 

For example, a majority of physicians expect to see a long‐lasting rise in telehealth appointments and remote‐sensing tools to measure patient vitals. Analysts believe that the health industry is at a crossroads in which it will become more patient-centric, digitized, and agile.

Some of the changes that will stick around will likely include:

  • Remote patient support: Medicine will shift to a self-service model with remote monitoring and instruction.
  • Tech-powered trials: Measuring trial participants remotely (for things like cancer research).
  • Cloud-enabled collaboration: The cloud is making it easier for leaders to communicate with patients and collaborate in treatment development. 

Digitization was already underway, but COVID-19 only sped up the process and made it clear that the pharmaceutical industry has to be nimble in order to get work done. 

MediaRadar Insights

Analysts predicted that pharmaceutical ad spend across digital would increase this year, but they had no idea how much it would increase with the unexpected pandemic.

Digital ad spend across all markets is up 40%. However, when we consider print and television, overall ad spend is down just 12%.

It appears that advertisers are shifting dollars—as digital ad spend is up, print numbers for the sector are down YoY. The number of brands advertising across print decreased by 17% and spend decreased by 30%. 

Brands have continued their campaigns to maintain some visibility but have cut down the size and frequency of their campaigns.

It’s worth mentioning that this sector is not dominated by one large company. Top advertisers so far this year include: 

  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Pfizer
  • Eli Lilly
  • BioGen
  • Merck
  • Gilead

The largest brand in terms of spending so far in 2020—GlaxoSmithKline—occupies 14% of the total ad spend in the category, suggesting that the market is saturated with many brands making small placements.

We also see creative influenced by COVID-19:

tysabri ad
rhinogram ad
Sino biological ad

As the year carries on, we’ll continue to share the latest highlights and trends in B2B pharmaceutical advertising.

For more updates like this, stay tuned. Subscribe to our blog for more updates on coronavirus and its mark on the economy.