• Alysa Salzberg

Study may reveal the keys to effective pharma marketing

Updated: May 20

How can a pharma or medical ad campaign have the most impact? A new study from Ohio State University provides some important - and sometimes surprising - insights.

Scientists gave over 800 volunteers in the 18-35 age range two different types of YouTube videos to watch about vaping. The pro-vaping videos were advertisements for e-cigarettes, while the anti-vaping content were public announcements created by anti-smoking nonprofits. While you might think that the advertising would be more appealing and persuasive, the opposite turned out to be true: the study participants connected more with the anti-vaping content, because it felt more sincere.

If you’re an avid follower of pharma and healthcare news, this may not surprise you. In recent years, sincerity has led to success in medical and pharma marketing. This pharma marketing site, for instance, describes award-winning pharma advertising in 2020 as “creative and meaningful campaigns, which are not brand-centric.”

But here’s something that will probably come as a surprise to most of us: The study also found that the number of views a video had didn’t effect its impact on viewers. Here again, people were most attracted to ads that spoke to them and seemed honest and moving, rather than what everyone else seemed to like.

That’s good news for anyone with something to say, be it pharma and medical companies, or artists and activists!

Still, while it is a wonderful thing to be able to touch someone and possibly even change their life with your message, ideally it would be viewed by as large an audience as possible. The study also gave an interesting insight into that.

Participants said that they didn’t believe mass media outlets like television and radio would be able to reach as many people as social media would. One reason for this, Professor Hyunyi Cho, the study’s lead author, explained, is that social media doesn’t have the same geographic limitations as mass media. For instance, many television stations can’t be viewed overseas. Social media platforms, on the other hand, are accessible in most countries.

This is especially important to keep in mind if you want your message or brand to cross borders.

But even if you’re focusing on patients on a national level, the effectiveness of social media in spreading the word still holds true. For instance, although exact figures vary somewhat, around 60-70% of US adults use the internet to get information about their health.

They may be getting some of that information from social media channels; a 2019 Pew Research Center survey found that seven in ten Americans use some kind of social platform. The most popular were YouTube and Facebook.

With this in mind, pharma and medical marketing campaigns that air on television or appear in print publications should also be extended to the internet in order to have the most potential impact and audience.

And above all, wherever they appear, these ads should be engaging and sincere in order to get patients’ attention - and maybe even save lives in the process.





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