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How Programmatic Advertising Has Changed the Healthcare Marketing Landscape

Place the right ad in the right place at the right moment

Key Takeaways:

  • Programmatic advertising provides the means to reach your target audience with precision.
  • This eliminates the waste of traditional advertising and offers a greater ROI.
  • Unlike traditional advertising, which uses a set price, programmatic ad space is obtained via a bidding process.
  • Programmatic is automated, simultaneously disseminating your ad across millions of websites.

An evolving healthcare industry requires marketing strategies that match this dynamic landscape.  This requires targeted ad campaigns with cost-effective advertising approaches. Looking beyond traditional methods, automated technology, and algorithmic tools can place the right ad in the right place at the right moment.

Programmatic advertising ticks all these boxes. It upends other approaches for purchasing digital advertising, taking it to the next level. Programmatic advertising optimizes across all channels. As a result, mobile, display, video, audio, and social media ads can see radical improvements. In just moments, marketers can measure and optimize marketing campaigns at scale.

This article explores the transformative role programmatic advertising has had in healthcare marketing. It delves into the fundamental concepts of the practice, its advantages, and its critical components. It will also take a look at programmatic’s opportunities and challenges.

What is programmatic advertising, and what does it bring to the table?

Programmatic advertising is one of the biddable media channels. Using advanced technology and analytics it facilitates the buying of media assets. It relies on partners known as demand-side platforms (DSPs). DSPs are software platforms that aggregate inventory across multiple ad exchanges. These platforms allow advertisers to reach specific audiences at scale, bid in real time for cost-effectiveness, and both manage and optimize campaigns efficiently.

Reaching the right audience requires a refined approach, and this is where programmatic comes into its own. Advertisers can reach the right audience by carefully peeling back the layers while minimizing the risk of infringing on HIPAA regulations. 

The automated technology that powers programmatic offers real-time views: you can immediately see the number of impressions, analyze creative performance, and break out insights by audience segment. Campaigns can be adjusted to automatically optimize real-time bidding parameters so you can focus on the metrics that matter. Programmatic campaigns target patients or healthcare providers (HCPs) who most likely need medication or a medical device, or offer useful educational information about a product or brand. This makes them more cost-effective, avoiding the ad waste inherent in some media platforms.

Why demand-side platforms?

Demand-side platforms have direct relationships with ad exchanges and supply-side partners – the technology partners that are plugged into the publishers. This offers a lot of workflow efficiencies over traditional media buying, where you have to work with a plethora of partners regularly to accomplish the same goals that programmatic can achieve.


Programmatic uses ad exchanges – online marketplaces where the demand-side platform can bid on advertising inventory from various publishers. The price is determined via this process. Typically, advertisers should use only one DSP. Using multiple DSPs can lead to competing bids, as many have access to the same exchanges and inventory.

That doesn’t mean all programmatic advertising campaigns are like each other – each is unique because of its targeting.

Programmatic vs. traditional advertising buying

Programmatic brings advantages that are hard to match  with traditional marketing:

  • Precise targeting
  • Real-time optimization
  • Cost efficiency
  • Sweeping reach over multiple channels
  • Increased transparency

It also eliminates the waste traditional advertising brings to the table. You are no longer casting a wide net, hoping to catch someone’s attention. Programmatic can reach the target audience one-on-one, which is especially important when targeting HCP audiences. This is something traditional ad buying doesn’t offer.

Programmatic and traditional ad buying differ in other ways. 

  • Traditional media requires manual negotiations. Programmatic automates the process through real-time bidding, allowing you to buy ad space instantly from millions of websites.
  • Traditional media buying is time-consuming and can be financially wasteful. With programmatic, an algorithm collects data, evaluates it, and decides which users are most likely to buy or prescribe a product.
  • Accurate reporting is often an issue with traditional, with scattered data that has to be collected and aggregated. Programmatic lets you see, in real time, how your marketing campaign is performing, enabling informed decisions on the fly.

Campaign optimization also gets a boost from programmatic. Traditional display advertising is usually optimized after the campaign has finished. The real-time data you get with programmatic means you can adjust your target settings at any point during your campaign. Efficiency is the hallmark of programmatic, with automation providing reduced cost for an increased ROI.

Opportunities and challenges with programmatic advertising

The evolving technology landscape provides both opportunities and challenges for ad buying. For healthcare marketers, connected TV (CTV) has much to offer, especially for rare disease pharma marketers, which is an emerging trend that continues to gain momentum. CTV can be accessed from any internet-connected device, including smart TVs, gaming consoles, and other streaming devices, including Roku and Amazon Fire Stick. 

While programmatic will always require a human touchpoint, artificial intelligence (AI) will likely make bidding strategies smarter. Currently, there are many different bidding approaches with no prescribed path. There’s flat bidding, cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM), cost-per-click (CPC), and other methods. The issue is that there is no singular bidding strategy that works for all – what works for one client may not work for another, and this requires a lot of manual effort. The hope is that AI will automate much of this process.


Programmatic requires partnering with the right platform, which can be quite an undertaking. An understanding of the core technology has to be understood, such as what their targeting approach is, and of course, there’s always the important question of HIPAA compliance and how it is executed. What steps are taken to ensure brand safety? These are all critical factors when assessing a new partner.

Consolidation is also a concern as some companies are buying up other platforms. Will it create a situation of market outpricing? What will be the impact on cost infrastructures? This is something to keep an eye on, and it could present a future challenge.

Another issue is balancing privacy protection without losing the precise targeting needed for successful campaigns. To that end, leveraging security-centric partners and ensuring that suitable filters and blocking technologies are in place is prudent.

Programmatic advertising is a boon to healthcare marketing

Reaching exactly the right target audience has always been a problem for healthcare marketers. Leveraging programmatic advertising makes getting through to them effective and efficient.

At Underscore Marketing, we utilize technology-driven, DSP-agnostic medical media-buying strategies that traverse digital, social, audio, OOH, TV & video for best-in-class targeting and optimal results for our clients. We utilize patient & HCP signals to reach your audience with our programmatic approach that’s aligned with the right messaging strategy for high awareness and adoption – all while maintaining your 1:1 targeting. Our obsession with optimization – human & tech-led – drives greater impact for your business.

What’s more, we’re 100% health-media focused, using data-driven media solutions your audiences won’t ignore to launch and grow your brand. With service offerings that include strategic media planning and data analytics and measurement, we’re partners in your success. 

Reach out today, and let’s get started. Fill out our contact form or send us an email at

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