The Future of Pharma Advertising: How Far Away Is Platform Convergence?

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Convergent television is a frequent topic in the advertising industry. The concept is to combine linear TV and connected television (CTV) into a unified ecosystem that can be bought and sold together and measured against an agreed upon currency. Convergence is a solution that helps both the buyer and the seller achieve maximum reach by combining different television viewing platforms, so they complement each other. But it remains a work in progress. That was evident in the conversations that took place at the second annual Innovating with DeepIntent forum entitled The Future of Pharma Advertising Is Convergent.

As Evan Giamanco, Senior Vice President of Ad Strategy and Innovation at Warner Bros. Discovery, asserted, the current state is "messy."

One of the big challenges in making convergence a reality is that despite the changes in how viewers consume television, advertising spends for traditional linear buys, data driven linear, and CTV remain in separate buckets. According to eMarketer, the linear television advertising bucket is expected to drop to $61.31 billion in 2023, a low that has not been seen since the recession in 2008, while the CTV ad bucket -- barely a consideration that year -- will reach $25.09 billion.

But it's not just how it's bought; it's how it's measured. While more and more television buying is data-driven, there is yet to be a universally agreed upon alternative currency to the traditional Nielsen household panels.

"People are really comfortable using traditional forms of measurement and methodology," noted Jen Loga, Vice President of Media Measurement and Analytics at DeepIntent. However, comfort does not necessarily translate into effectively reaching one's target audience.

Frans Vermeulen, Vice President of Strategy and Market Development at TransUnion, added that it is also important to understand how identity plays into measurement. The more complex the data sets, the more important it is to understand what is behind that data. He points out that traditional Nielsen panels have provided data as to households reached, but not if or who in that household is paying attention to the television.

Emerging newer players that work off census, digital and offline data sets include VideoAmp, iSpot and Comscore. Theoretically that gives access to more data which can improve targeting the right customer at the right time in the right place. However, it can also add to the current "messiness."

It can get even more complex when it comes to pharma advertising, which has its own intricacies. "Within pharma not only are you managing against reach and frequency, you have HIPAA compliance, another layer of data you have to unify across multiple channels," Loga noted.

Vermeulen expressed hope that with partnerships such as the one TransUnion is entering with Datavant, a healthcare provider can help with attribution and answer the question, "Did someone actually take an action?" rather than just, "Did I reach the right kind of person?"

This is something that will be integrated into DeepIntent's platforms at the same time the company begins to offer a new buy model that will pay per verified patient reach, ensuring advertisers are reaching the right people at the right frequency.

Many of the larger media properties, such as Warner Bros. Discovery and NBCUniversal, have a stake in both linear and streaming television and are taking their own steps towards convergence. According to Brendon Garrone, Vice President of Programmatic Sales at NBCUniversal, the need to drive value for their marketers is clear, so they created one transactional platform designed to make it easier to buy multiple screens and platforms against an advanced audience.

Dan Aversano, Senior Vice President of Data, Analytics and Advanced Advertising at Televisa, also sees ease of use as key to true convergence. "How do we make it easy to combine all of that fragmented viewing, fragmented distribution with common data, common analytics, common measurement, and hopefully one day some semblance of common compliance and privacy and pull all that supply back together and make it easy to buy?" he asked.

In order to make that happen, as Amit Chaturvedi, Chief Operation Officer at DeepIntent said, "All of the pieces of the ecosystem have to talk to each other."

That may not be happening just yet, and there may not yet be a universally agreed upon alternative currency, but the consensus is that convergence is the goal. It is undoubtedly the solution to making things easier and more streamlined for the buyer and the seller -- although, as Vermeulen pointed out, even when that happens, "You're never going to be 100% sure all the time."

Of course, that's been true of advertising since the beginning.

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