US Healthcare and Pharma helped boost digital ad spend in 2020

Before there was any indication of an impending global pandemic, eMarketer was forecasting a 17% increase in US digital ad spending for 2020. The net impact of the pandemic ended the year with a 1.7% increase instead, claims eMarketer in its end-of-year summary. It could have been much worse; however, social distancing and the closing of many retail storefronts sent consumers to the Web for everything from food to electronics and healthcare. This saw better-than-expected growth as advertisers shifted offline budgets and in-person events to online search, display, and social media advertising.

In one of the few growth categories for digital advertising in the year of the pandemic, healthcare and pharma advertisers remained strong with 14.2% growth to reach $9.53 billion, according to eMarketer’s recent 2020 summary report available here. The increase was fueled by the response to Covid-19, as advertisers spent to raise awareness of testing, health best practices, gadgets such as digital thermometers, and more pandemic-related products, services, and information.

Healthcare and pharma will make up 7.1% of all US digital ad spending, which sits about in the middle among categories including retail (21%) and travel (2.4%), which saw significant cuts in 2020.

Display advertising roars back in 2020

“Banner ads poised to make a comeback” headlines read in 2010, 2013, and again in 2016. Banner ads, also known as display ads, have been a staple of online advertising since the early pioneering days of digital marketing. Their utility has ebbed and flowed as more versatile, ROI-oriented alternatives emerged, relegating display ads to one of programmatic’s low-cost-high-volume bargains.

Surprisingly, display advertising grew 15.7% in 2020 in the healthcare and pharma category, reaching $4.04 billion, making it the fastest-growing ad format.

Recently, Google Display Network revived the format in re-marketing, fueling its recent resurgence. The ad format has remained a tactical choice for advertisers wanting brand visibility over clicks. It’s low-cost made it affordable for many, and it evolved to suit many shapes, sizes, and mobile formats. With increasing consumer privacy restrictions, some may view display ads as a strategic alternative when placed contextually alongside similar web content.

Once again, we say, “Banner ads poised to make a comeback.”

Advertisers target mobile for healthcare searches

In pharma and healthcare, consumers commonly use their mobile phones for personal and sometimes embarrassing search behavior, particularly when it comes to health, the body, hygiene, and medications. While most healthcare and pharma ad dollars target mobile devices (57%), spending still falls well below average when compared to other sectors (68%) and offers a higher share of spend on desktop and laptop computers at 42.5% than other sectors.

Forecasting 2021

eMarketer expects a significant rebound in digital ad spending to pre-pandemic highs. In 2021, they predict spending to reach $691.5 billion worldwide, at a 16.4% growth rate.

Pick up a complete copy of the report from eMarketer here:

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