Why 2022 Will Be the Year of the Healthcare Demand Side Platform

Toward the end of every year, I call upon my leadership team to reflect on the year that has passed and the future of our business in the year ahead. Last quarter marked the fifth time I’ve hosted this exercise. Each year, without fail, I find the pace of innovation happening in our “little” – $10 billion – corner of the broader U.S. advertising ecosystem simply awesome. While we’re only a few days into the new year, I believe there are many reasons to believe that 2022 will be the year of healthcare demand side platforms.

Just half a decade ago, there was no such thing as a healthcare demand side platform. In that time, companies like DeepIntent have correctly identified an important truth about digital advertising as it relates to healthcare: generic demand side platforms serving a wide range of advertising verticals fail in a big way to meet the complex needs of the healthcare marketer.

What makes the needs of the healthcare marketer so complex? To name a few:

  • Strict federal regulation on the use of health data frightens most legal and privacy teams due to a lack of familiarity with health privacy law. This is especially true of public companies, which tend to be risk-averse.
  • Our massively fragmented health data ecosystem has competing business interests that have historically rewarded hoarding data instead of sharing it.
  • Health and pharmaceutical marketers, and their sales forces, need deep, custom integrations with sophisticated omnichannel marketing systems.

These issues create significant hurdles for any marketer attempting to build a cohesive marketing system on top of what I call a “generalist demand side platform.”

Generalist vs. Healthcare Demand Side Platforms

When we launched DeepIntent in 2016, the gold standard for digital advertising in healthcare was a hodgepodge of loosely connected targeting, activation, and measurement solutions. It took three or more vendors to run an informed, data-driven campaign. Worse yet, these disparate vendors lacked certain fundamental capabilities needed in the healthcare domain, such as provider-level data, creating insurmountable barriers for a seamless integration.

What emerged was a set of vendor solutions contorted to fit a one-size-fits-all data onboarding process that ultimately failed to deliver on the timelines, precision, and scale needed for healthcare campaigns. Healthcare marketers were left with a system rife with latency, process inefficiencies, and data inaccuracies. Despite their frustrations and rising non-working media costs, many marketers accepted this “vendor bloat” for what it was: better than nothing.

Disrupting this bloated ecosystem is what I’m personally most proud of.

Together with forward-thinking clients and agency partners, we’ve built a better alternative for marketers that many of our clients now consider the new gold standard for healthcare advertising: the healthcare demand side platform.

The benefits, while numerous, can be boiled down to a simple belief. Better integration between the tools used for planning, activation, measurement, and optimization can create efficiencies in campaign cost, scale and performance. The data suggests we’ve been wildly successful.

Growth of Healthcare Demand Side Platforms

Last year, pharma clients are estimated to have increased their spend on healthcare demand side platforms 3 to 4x faster than generalist demand side platforms. Early adopters of this new wave of innovation have benefited across all the metrics that matter for their businesses.

Looking ahead, there are even more reasons healthcare marketers should be excited about what the future holds in 2022 and beyond. There are obvious tailwinds that are pushing our industry forward, such as the accelerating shift of user attention towards digital media — especially in connected TV (CTV) — and the corresponding growth of data-enriched ad opportunities on programmatically traded media.

A deluge of investment into digital health startups and companies has also brought more and more health data online. Increased digital content consumption combined with improved access to lower latency, higher resolution health data creates a fertile bed for advertising innovation. Platform companies that are intimately familiar with the healthcare domain and proven builders of industry-leading products will be best positioned to capitalize on the opportunities these trends are creating for healthcare marketers.

How so?

What you can expect to see out of healthcare demand side platforms in 2022:

1. More data at your fingertips

By 2022, the healthcare market is projected to account for 20% of the U.S. GDP. Already worth $6.2 trillion, the growing healthcare market will expand the total amount of health data being captured and processed digitally. Even today, 30% of the world’s total data volume is believed to be healthcare-related. Increasing amounts of health data combined with emerging privacy-preserving technology will create new opportunities for healthcare marketers to ascertain deeper insights into the behaviors and needs of key healthcare provider (HCP) and patient audiences.

In 2022, marketers will finally have the tools needed to access these data in a real-time, responsive way. Exploring and building any audience (patient or HCP) will happen within seconds, not days or weeks. New tools will allow marketers to query, analyze and target patient and provider populations in real-time, reducing the latency in creating personalized, data-driven campaigns for specific health audiences.

Increased relevance will drive higher awareness, engagement, and campaign performance, yielding better outcomes for patients and clients.

With the deepening connectivity of clinical data and advertising data, it will be significantly easier to plan and forecast reach and performance for on-target HCP and patient audiences with extreme accuracy. Alas, marketers will be able to assess the incremental reach of any channel for any patient audience by specific conditions or treatments in real-time, drawing upon the most up-to-date data available in the market to determine the exact media mix needed to reach a campaign’s goal. My prediction is that no channel will benefit more from this than CTV.

2. Partnerships that create bridges, not walls: Futureproofing and expanding reach across existing and emerging channels

As marketers prepare for the loss of third-party cookies, they face a future of media fragmentation that will make orchestrating data-driven media campaigns increasingly difficult and logistically taxing.

These challenges can be observed today in CTV where marketers continue to see the total volume of addressable media being placed in open auctions decline in favor of deal-based trading such as private marketplaces (PMP) and programmatic guaranteed (PG). I predict that this trend, generally more preferential to the supply-side, will be replicated in the open web after the cookie is eliminated.

The primary challenge is that it forces marketers to make a trade-off between control and access. Direct buys and programmatic guaranteed deals significantly limit the marketer’s ability to control important aspects of campaign activation like cross-channel frequency capping. However, in exchange for this loss of control, marketers receive priority access to media and the ability to layer valuable first-party data such as user identity and automated content recognition (ACR) data into their buys. Undoubtedly, strategic data assets like these will continue to be leveraged commercially and guarded closely by publishers and platforms, serving to increase the value of their media in a data-scare, post-cookie world.

Healthcare marketers, however, will be in the unique position to not trade control for access. Contrary to generalist demand side platforms, sophisticated healthcare demand side platforms are viewed by publishers and platforms as unique, value-add partners who bring three things: differentiated demand, differentiated solutions and domain-specific competency that augment the capabilities of their own sales teams. Examples include privacy-safe patient targeting and campaign measurement specifically for pharma. As a result, we see publishers and partners leaning into partnerships with healthcare demand side platforms to extend or co-create unique healthcare-specific offerings, increasing their appeal to healthcare marketers.

These partnerships will allow healthcare demand side platforms to retain access to highly coveted premium media placements and/or strategic data assets. Such partnerships are best exemplified by the announcement of DeepIntent being selected as LG Ads’ exclusive partner for healthcare late in 2021. These partnerships will not only preserve, but expand the reach (most of it cookieless!) that healthcare demand side platforms will have in the years to come. My prediction is that the unique reach and the level of priority access to media on the leading healthcare demand side platform will prove to be superior to what’s available on generalist demand side platforms in 2022.

3. Expanding what’s measurable and how quickly it can be actionable: Near real-time measurement and automated in-platform optimization will prove superior to existing solutions

Last year, DeepIntent launched DeepIntent Outcomes™ (henceforth referred to Outcomes) as the first fully integrated measurement and optimization solution within a healthcare demand side platform. Unlike existing measurement solutions, Outcomes provides marketers with daily measurements of their campaign’s script performance — such as TRx, NRx, and NBRx — and audience quality metrics.

What’s important is the ”how”. Outcomes allows clients to measure the effectiveness of their campaigns on the entire population reached rather than a small, potentially inaccurate, sample. This provides three fundamental advantages over existing solutions: greater scale, more granular insights, and more immediate optimization.

But what use is more data and faster speed if you need to wait for a human to interpret and manually optimize a campaign? Outcomes solves for this lag by leveraging machine learning-based optimizations in tandem with daily measurements.

For the first time ever, a media buyer can opt to automatically optimize campaigns against audience quality, cost-per-patient exposed, or script performance, just as they would use tools within a generalist healthcare demand side platform to automatically optimize toward a cost-per-click or cost-per-action.

Clients using Outcomes were greeted with enhanced performance, including up to 35% improvement in script lift, accompanied with deeper insights into what audiences and media are performing best for their campaigns.

In 2022, we can expect to see the addition of new channels, datasets, metrics, and visualizations that will continue to help marketers and algorithms learn and optimize their campaigns in near real-time. The insights provided by solutions like Outcomes will give healthcare demand side platforms the advantage over generalist demand side platforms by offering more predictive and prescriptive analytic capabilities that address the specific needs of the healthcare marketer.

Healthcare demand side platforms with this intelligence “baked-in” will continue to outperform incumbent solutions that fail to solve for the “last mile” in measurability: automated optimization.

Looking to the Year Ahead

In short, 2022 will be one of the most exciting years of innovation in the healthcare marketing ecosystem since its inception. Together, an increasing availability of digital health data and the emergence of new products and channels will create more opportunities to drive better personalization and higher engagement among patient and HCP audiences.

While clients and their agencies are quickly realizing the benefit of using a healthcare demand side platform versus a generalist demand side platform, the bar is rising even within the category. Product-driven healthcare demand side platforms with a well-articulated, sharp vision for the future of healthcare and digital advertising will be best equipped to not only adapt but to continue inventing the future of healthcare marketing.

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