Healthcare Marketing: Mastering Programmatic Advertising

January 12, 2024
13 minutes

The healthcare industry is undergoing a digital transformation that affects every facet of patient care, data management, and marketing. Gone are the days when traditional channels like print, radio, and word-of-mouth reigned supreme.

According to Statista, a survey among healthcare marketers in the United States published in March 2023 revealed that the mean marketing budget of a pharma company amounted to 9.3 million U.S. dollars in 2022. That’s a lot of money and, as you can imagine, that needs to be used wisely.

Healthcare marketing now requires a nuanced, targeted, and tech-savvy approach to effectively communicate the value of its services to the right audience. An undeniable part of this evolution is programmatic advertising.

Before delving into the ins and outs of their relationship, let’s first give some background to healthcare marketing.

The foundations of healthcare marketing

Healthcare marketing is no longer just about glossy brochures, direct mailers, and billboard advertisements. Healthcare providers must use a multi-faceted approach to reach patients, caregivers, physicians, and insurance companies.

Traditional vs. digital: The shifting landscape

Traditionally, healthcare marketing was limited to word-of-mouth referrals, print ads, and TV commercials. The focus was mainly on local outreach. However, the landscape has shifted dramatically:

  • Local vs. global reach: Digital platforms allow healthcare providers to reach a global audience. This is essential for specialized healthcare services that may not have a sizable local patient base.

  • Cost-efficiency: Digital marketing channels are often more cost-effective than traditional ones, offering a better ROI.

  • Measurable metrics: Unlike traditional channels, where the impact is hard to quantify, digital strategies offer analytics and KPIs to measure effectiveness.

Understanding your audience: Patients, caregivers, and medical professionals

The audience in healthcare marketing is incredibly diverse, making segmentation crucial. Here's how to approach each segment:

  • Patients: Focus on patient testimonials, real-life success stories, and easy-to-understand medical information.

  • Caregivers: This audience seeks both emotional support and practical information.

  • Medical professionals: Doctors, nurses, and other medical practitioners seek evidence-based information. Whitepapers, research summaries, and advanced medical tools can be promoted through channels where these professionals spend their time online.

Understanding the intricacies of each audience group enables more precise targeting, efficient ad spending, and better ROI on your marketing campaigns.

Importance of data in healthcare marketing

Data is often called "the new oil," and this is especially true in healthcare marketing. The sheer complexity and personalization required in the healthcare sector make data not just an accessory but a necessity.

Understanding why data matters and how best to collect it can yield significant rewards. Here's an in-depth look at the significance of data and some best practices for its collection.

Why data matters

  • Personalization: The healthcare industry demands personalization at every level, from patient engagement to specialized treatments. Data analytics can help healthcare providers and marketers understand patient behaviour, preferences, and needs, allowing them to customize messages and services accordingly.

  • Targeted outreach: With the help of data analytics, healthcare marketers can create targeted ad campaigns that are much more efficient than traditional methods.

  • Resource allocation: By analyzing data, healthcare providers can identify which marketing channels yield the best ROI, helping them to allocate resources more effectively. This is crucial in an industry where budgets are often tight and must be justifiably spent.

  • Compliance and risk mitigation: Healthcare is a highly regulated industry. Accurate data can assist in ensuring that marketing practices comply with legal requirements, reducing the risk of costly fines or reputational damage.

Best practices for data collection

  • Consent First: Always obtain explicit patient consent before collecting or using their data. GDPR, HIPAA, and other privacy regulations necessitate this.

  • Multi-channel data collection: Utilize various channels—wearables, online patient portals, and offline surveys—to amass a rich data set.

  • Data validation: Constantly validate your data for accuracy. Incorrect data can lead to misguided marketing strategies that waste money and could harm patient care.

  • Data security: Invest in robust cybersecurity measures to protect patient data. Any breach could not only have legal repercussions but could also irreparably damage trust.

Programmatic advertising in healthcare marketing

Programmatic advertising has emerged as a powerful tool for healthcare providers to effectively reach patients, caregivers, and medical professionals across various digital channels.

An introduction to programmatic advertising

Programmatic advertising refers to using software to purchase digital advertising space instead of traditional methods involving RFPs, negotiations, and manual insertion orders.

It automates the decision-making process of buying media by targeting audiences and demographics through complex algorithms and machine learning.

  • Real-time bidding (RTB): Allows for real-time auctions, where a specific user's demographic information is up for bid to multiple advertisers.

  • Private marketplace (PMP): This is an invitation-only RTB auction where a premium publisher invites several advertisers to bid on its inventory.

  • Programmatic direct: This involves automated, guaranteed ad buying. It’s a traditional ad buy, but it's processed programmatically.

CTV ads

Connected TV, or CTV, represents an exciting frontier for healthcare marketers looking to leverage programmatic advertising. CTV ads are displayed on internet-connected televisions, bridging the gap between traditional TV advertising and the digital landscape. Here's why CTV ads hold immense potential:

  • Personalization: With CTV, healthcare marketers can serve personalized ads based on the viewer's profile and past behaviour.

  • Real-time analytics: Unlike traditional TV ads, CTV offers real-time metrics, allowing marketers to adjust their campaigns dynamically.

  • Audience segmentation: It's possible to target specific demographics, such as age groups interested in particular healthcare services, further optimizing the ad spend.

Combining traditional and data-driven strategies

The power of programmatic lies in its ability to combine traditional advertising channels with the precision of data analytics. By utilizing a mix of CTV, display, and social media ads, healthcare marketers can craft a more rounded and effective advertising strategy. Here's how:

  • Data integration: Use programmatic platforms to integrate data from online and offline sources, such as patient surveys or in-hospital data collection.

  • Holistic view: By combining traditional and digital metrics, healthcare marketers can have a more holistic view of their campaigns' performance, thereby making informed decisions.

  • Adaptability: With programmatic, you can quickly pivot your strategy based on real-time analytics, ensuring your marketing spend is continuously optimized.

Why programmatic advertising is essential for healthcare marketing

Programmatic advertising holds incredible potential for healthcare marketing for several reasons:

  • Precision targeting: It allows healthcare organizations to target their desired audience based on specific criteria such as age, geography, and even medical history if permissible by privacy laws. This is crucial for campaigns related to specific treatments, conditions, or medications.

  • Cost-efficiency: With precise targeting, healthcare providers can optimize their budget, ensuring they're only paying to reach potential patients or caregivers genuinely interested in their services.

  • Data-driven decisions: Real-time analytics and data-driven insights allow healthcare marketers to tweak their campaigns as needed, ensuring optimal ROI.

Why compliance is non-negotiable

  • Legal ramifications: The healthcare industry is highly regulated. Failing to comply can lead to legal consequences that irreparably damage your brand’s reputation.

  • Consumer trust: A compliant advertisement builds trust. Your audience needs to know that their sensitive health data is handled carefully.

  • Market penetration: Some platforms will restrict or disallow your advertisements if they do not meet specific compliance standards, limiting your reach.

Compliant creatives that yield results

The emphasis on delivering high-performing, compliant creatives can't be overstated. Crafting compelling creative content that also adheres to healthcare regulations like HIPAA in the U.S., or GDPR in Europe, is a fine art. Effective programmatic advertising in this sector requires a meticulous balance between compliance and creativity.

Understanding your audience

In healthcare marketing, one size does not fit all. Different demographics have unique needs, preferences, and digital behaviors. Understanding your audience in-depth is essential to craft tailored advertising campaigns that target the right people and deliver accurate results.

Let’s look at some of the customer profiles you might be looking for:


  • Consumer interests: Family wellness, children's growth
  • Platform preferences: Parenting blogs, educational websites
  • Key messages: Pediatric care, family health plans

These are health seekers with specific consumer interests in family wellness and children's growth. They will likely actively visit websites and blogs about parenting, nutrition for kids, and childhood development.


  • Consumer interests: Alternative and natural medicine
  • Platform preferences: Blogs, health websites with a natural or holistic focus
  • Key messages: Organic products, natural remedies

This audience is health-conscious and particularly interested in alternative and natural medicine. They frequently visit websites offering advice on natural products, organic lifestyles, and holistic treatments.

Independently healthy

  • Consumer interests: Self-education, treatment options
  • Platform preferences: Health forums, medical journals
  • Key messages: Patient empowerment, alternative therapies

These patients are proactive and often visit forums, read medical journals, or watch educational videos to learn about treatment options, drug alternatives, and innovative therapies.

Busy professionals

  • Consumer interests: Business and career planning
  • Platform preferences: LinkedIn, business news websites
  • Key messages: Time-efficient health solutions, telehealth services

Busy professionals are usually engrossed in their careers and are looking for quick, effective healthcare solutions that fit their schedules.

Fitness enthusiasts

  • Consumer interests: Active lifestyle, nutrition, dietary supplements
  • Platform preferences: Fitness apps, wellness blogs
  • Key messages: Athletic health, dietary supplements

These are individuals who are committed to maintaining an active lifestyle. They frequently visit gyms, follow nutrition plans, and are likely interested in performance-related health solutions.

Healthcare professionals

  • Consumer interests: Industry trends, professional growth
  • Platform preferences: Medical journals, LinkedIn
  • Key messages: Career opportunities, advanced treatment options

Healthcare professionals are keen on professional growth and industry trends. They often read medical journals and whitepapers and are active on professional networking sites like LinkedIn.

How Eskimi helped Stada beat geopolitical challenges

Stada is a leading international pharmaceutical company that has been around for over 125 years. With a global presence, Stada specializes in three primary sectors – generic drugs, speciality Pharma, and non-prescription consumer healthcare products. Their strategy has kept them ahead in approximately 120 countries worldwide.

They came to Eskimi with a specific challenge: overcome recent audience targeting issues fueled partly by geopolitical factors, such as Russia's war in Ukraine. Their objective was to outsell the competition in Uzbekistan, particularly for their spray for acute respiratory diseases, Snup.

Overcoming advertising barriers

Stada faced considerable challenges in advertising. Otabek Zufarov, Brand Manager at Stada, mentioned that geopolitics had made it difficult to target audiences effectively. Additionally, the cost of TV advertising in Uzbekistan was becoming prohibitive.

The role of programmatic advertising

To address this, Stada turned to programmatic advertising, specifically leveraging Eskimi's platform, which offers rich media formats and precise audience targeting options. The shift towards digital media was further encouraged by the fast-paced digitalization in Uzbekistan and the pandemic driving everyone online.

Why performance metrics matter

Performance metrics aren't just numbers; they're the pulse of your campaign. In healthcare marketing, where the stakes are high, and ROI is critical, understanding the performance of your campaign can make the difference between its success or failure.

  • Personalization: Customization is key in healthcare. A performance-driven approach allows you to fine-tune your campaign for different demographics and psychographics.

  • Budget allocation: Knowing what's working allows you to allocate a budget more effectively, maximizing ROI.

  • Regulatory compliance: In healthcare, regulatory adherence isn't optional. Performance metrics can provide the proof of adherence required by authorities.

In Stada's case, performance metrics were crucial in several ways:

  • Strategic decision-making: With geopolitical factors affecting traditional marketing strategies, the performance metrics from their programmatic campaign gave them data-driven insights for informed decision-making.

  • Audience insights: In-depth performance data enabled Stada to understand their audience better—from age groups to device preferences—which helped refine targeting even further.

  • Measurable ROI: Stada was not shooting in the dark; they had a clear measurement framework that allowed them to understand the ROI of their investment in Eskimi's programmatic advertising platform.

For the Snup campaign, Stada used several different targeting criteria:

  • Age – targeting everyone above 25 years old
  • Location – all cities in Uzbekistan
  • Interest targeting – health (nursing, nutrition, pharmacy, oral & dental care), parents

Tangible outcomes

Understanding performance had direct implications for Stada

  • Viewability: Getting in front of more eyes is the beginning of every successful campaign.
  • CTR: Click-through rate is considered one of the most important stats. The increase for Stada was undeniable.
  • Sales growth: A 5% growth in sales YoY indicates the effectiveness of blending programmatic advertising into an integrated healthcare marketing strategy.

  • Meeting sales targets: Achieving 112% of their sales plan for 2022 wasn't an accident. It resulted from a meticulously planned and executed campaign, whose performance was continuously monitored and optimized.

Brand awareness and market share: The unseen benefits

By integrating Eskimi's programmatic advertising into its broader marketing strategy—including TV and outdoor advertising—Stada could meet and exceed its sales targets. This multi-channel approach ensured consistent brand visibility, keeping Stada top-of-mind for consumers and enhancing brand trust.

Healthcare is a sector where trust plays a significant role—placing your brand where it will be seen by your target audience multiple times increases its credibility.

Another point with layered meaning is that while immediate conversions are fantastic, healthcare decisions often involve longer sales cycles. Brand awareness keeps you in the consumer's consideration set throughout this process, increasing the chances of eventual conversion.

Results and key takeaways

Stada ran its Snup campaign between September and December, integrating it into its existing advertising mix, including TV and outdoor advertising.

  • Sales growth: They witnessed a 5% growth in sales compared to the previous year.

  • Meeting sales targets: Remarkably, Stada was able to fulfil its sales plan for 2022 by an astounding 112%.

The future of healthcare marketing

As we look toward the future of healthcare marketing, it's clear that traditional methods are making way for more sophisticated, technology-driven approaches.

AI and machine learning in marketing strategies

Artificial intelligence and machine learning offer incredible advantages in automating and optimizing healthcare marketing strategies. Their impact is vast and multi-faceted:

  • Predictive analytics: AI can predict patient behaviour and trends, helping marketers tailor content and campaigns.

  • Personalization: Machine learning algorithms can analyze large datasets to deliver personalized messages to individual patients or targeted demographics.

  • Chatbots: AI-powered chatbots can handle various customer service tasks, improving patient engagement and freeing human resources for more complex queries.

Healthcare marketers can create more effective, targeted, patient-centered campaigns by leveraging AI and machine learning.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in healthcare marketing

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are not just for gaming; they have found considerable application in healthcare marketing as well:

  • Virtual tours: Hospitals and clinics can offer virtual tours to prospective patients, providing an interactive and immersive experience of their facilities.

  • Patient education: AR can overlay digital information on physical objects, helping explain patient education and treatment.

  • Engagement: Utilizing VR and AR can significantly improve engagement in wellness programs, as they offer an interactive and entertaining way to educate about healthcare topics.

The experiential marketing capabilities of VR and AR are unmatched. They offer a way to connect with patients emotionally, which is often key in healthcare decisions.

Best practices and key takeaways

Keep the patient at the centre of your efforts

In healthcare marketing, especially when employing programmatic advertising, never lose sight of the fact that patient needs come first. Crafting highly personalized messages based on data analytics is good, but those messages must offer value to the patient, not just the organization. Keep the content relatable, factual, and actionable for the best patient engagement.

Leverage multi-channel marketing

Patients, caregivers, and healthcare professionals use a variety of platforms. Don't put all your eggs in one basket; diversify your marketing channels to include social media, search engines, web portals, and even traditional media like TV or radio to reach a broad spectrum of your target audience. Programmatic advertising allows you to automate this process across different platforms, making your campaigns more efficient.

Data privacy

Compliance with healthcare regulations such as HIPAA in the United States or GDPR in the European Union is not optional. Always obtain explicit consent before collecting and using data. Not only is this a legal requirement, but it also builds trust with your audience. Ensure your data storage and transaction methods are secure to protect against breaches.

Optimize in real-time

One of the beauties of programmatic advertising is its real-time capabilities. You can track metrics that matter the most to your campaign and adjust your strategies instantaneously. Are specific keywords driving more engagement? Is one demographic converting better than another? Use this information to optimize your ROI continually.

Invest in education-based marketing

Especially in healthcare, people crave reliable information. Utilize your platforms not just for advertising but also for educating your audience. Whitepapers, webinars, FAQs, and how-to guides can position you as an industry authority. These resources also offer excellent opportunities for programmatic advertising placements.

Test, measure, adjust, repeat

In the ever-evolving landscape of healthcare marketing, what worked yesterday may not work tomorrow. Regularly test your campaigns, measure their effectiveness using KPIs, adjust your strategies based on these insights, and repeat the process. This cycle allows you to stay ahead of industry trends and consumer behaviours.

Embrace technological innovations

AI, machine learning, AR, VR, and blockchain are not mere buzzwords; they are shaping the future of healthcare marketing. They allow for predictive analytics, personalized messaging, heightened patient engagement, and secure data transactions. Start integrating these technologies now to be ahead of the curve.

Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
Antonis has a decade of experience in marketing. From blog posts to newsletters, he is responsible for (almost) all things content at Eskimi. When he is not typing away, he is searching for new restaurants or adding more travel destinations to his bucket list.
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