Advisory: Successful digital media pivots during COVID-19

As traditional pharma and healthcare marketing has been disrupted by social distancing and the response to COVID-19, our media team at Silverlight Digital has put our collective minds together to issue this advisory on successful pivots and new strategies.

The most significant disruptions we’re seeing are around the cancellation of live events – pharmaceutical congresses and conferences – where marketers traditionally interact with HCPs. Social distancing has made these events pivot into webinars and Zoom events. The popularity of Telehealth has grown as doctors maintain virtual contact with patients while office and hospital visits for elective treatments and – even emergency medicine – declined rapidly. On the consumer side, the safer at home order from local governments has impacted behaviors that create new opportunities to digital marketers.

Reaching healthcare professionals has become the main focus of marketers. Pharma reps can’t make in-person office visits and they can’t get to conferences. Many pharma conferences have opted to pivot to online, which allows them to socially distance while reaching a larger, nationwide audience. Content for the event can be pre-recorded and even available on-demand or within a linear event lineup. The role of digital marketing is to “digitize” the event and promote it to a wide audience – then capture attendee information that can fuel future campaigns and follow-ups.

All eyes on social media

For consumers, staying at home has meant more screen time across devices and media types. Time spent on social media apps has increased 20% in Q1 of this year – according to App Annie – on both iOS and Android apps. Consumers may be using social media to follow COVID-19 news, or to avoid it with easy distractions. Physicians became social media stars and thought leaders, too, gaining a significant following on virus-related news. The opportunity for marketers is in shifting budgets to address the +20% increase in hours spent on apps, including time spent on social media.

YouTube advertising that converts

We see increased impressions on YouTube pre-roll ads when consumers watch YouTube on television. Perhaps this is an indication of more Smart TV’s accessing web-based content versus traditional cable TV. When watching YouTube on TV, viewers can’t click the ‘Skip Ad’ button from the comfort of their sofa or bed, leading to more complete ad impressions. YouTube has become a great place to maximize your reach and do so efficiently. We have one campaign running at a $.01 per completed view. What’s more, impressions, clicks, and conversions are up on YouTube (yes, conversions from a YouTube pharma campaign!)

PPC prices remain competitive

Some pay-per-click categories have been challenging, with increased CPC’s due to fierce competition. Campaigns for elective procedures may see higher click prices and want to diversify their media mix with some lower-cost options in order to maintain a solid ROI.

Health as Wellness

A holistic approach to health and wellness will prevail even after the pandemic ends. Immune system support, personal hygiene, and a healthy diet will play an important role in patients’ lives. “Holistic lifestyle diets, which combine nutrition, mental clarity, and fitness, are balanced with more traditional approaches,” according to Google Data Analyst Sofie Holt – talking at Silverlight Digital’s Pulse event in February. “We’re seeing a shift in focus from getting better to being better, from being informed to getting empowered, and from treating a condition to treating the self.” These shifts are changing how consumers approach their health. For marketers, the opportunity is in preventative medicine and promoting healthy behaviors.

Responsible marketing
With a final word of advice: market responsibly. In the era of COVID-19, many will look to take advantage through aggressive or misleading advertising tactics. While protecting jobs means increasing revenue, don’t lose sight of your business ethics. At Silverlight Digital, we are pleased to say that no one has lost their job due to the virus. We’re working remote, putting social distancing and the health of our employees first.

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