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Data management programs enabled with technologies have completely changed how marketers buy media today. Increasingly more companies are embracing technologies that facilitate media transactions in real-efforts and with a granular level. Programmatic buying ecosystem is at the core of the revolution and has triggered a paradigm shift from healthcare advertising buying to targeted ad placements depending on user behavior.

Programmatic buying means sale and get of media live within an automated manner through software and algorithms. Automation is live and accurate to such extent that it not only saves time but additionally improves efficiencies when it comes to ROIs and reaching a target market with laser-guided precision.

While Programmatic buying has not yet taken the healthcare domain by storm, a buzz around the topic has started getting louder in recent times.

Media buying in healthcare quintessentially has been carried out a regular manner through sales teams approaching publishers either offline or on the internet and then go via a long process RFQs, negotiations, preparing artworks and specs modifications, purchase indenting, vendor onboarding and in the end releasing payment. And this convoluted process has to endure ahead of the ad is even published. Hence there exists a lag between purchase intent and actual media release. And that is certainly what Programmatic is nice at solving.

Now how does Programmatic buying works and why hasn’t it caught the imaginations of healthcare marketer yet? Let us dig into details.

How can Programmatic Buying Works? The Programmatic Ecosystem

First, let us understand some popular terms found in the Programmatic Buying world plus the way the Programmatic ecosystem actually works.

Step One:

Whenever a user clicks an online page containing an advertising space onto it, the publisher from the web page sends a cookie to user’s web browser (Chrome, Internet Explorer, Bing… whichever).

What is Cookie: Cookie, in simple terms, can be a small data file that is certainly sent from publisher’s web server to user’s internet browser which serves to determine user’s identity

Step 2:

Just in case an inventory (advertising space on a web page) is available, it triggers a request from publisher’s Ad Server to their Supply Side Platform (SSP) to fill the Ad slot

Concept of SSP: You may be thinking of Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) like a library or storehouse of Ad Inventories designed for placing your advertisement. It is actually a platform that connects sellers (sites, blogs, directories etc.) with buyers or advertisers who compete against each other for available Ad space.

Several of the well-known supply side platforms are AppNexus, PubMatic, AOL or Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange.

Step Three:

SSP then issues a bid request to Demand Side Platform (DSP). This bid request contains specifics of the consumer who is about to see the Ad like her demographic profile, browsing history, etc. These details helps DSPs to help make an educated decision regarding a user before you make a bid.

What exactly is a DSP? : Demand Side Platform or DSP, since they are referred in programmatic world, is actually a doorway to buy advertising space in an automated fashion. Think of DSPs as advertiser’s gatekeepers who matches inventories with buyer’s marketing objectives. DSPs make bidding decision for a buyer after evaluating parameters like publisher’s profile, ad placement, a floor price of available impression, etc.).

A number of better-known DSPs include DoubleClick Bid Manager by Google, AdMission, MediaMath etc.

Step 4:

Depending on the algorithm, DSPs assesses inventories to determine how valuable the impression is and whether to participate in the auction with respect to an advertiser. If DSP decides to participate in bid auction, it sends a bid response back to SSP

Step 5:

SSP gathers all bid responses and picks a winner in line with the second-price auction, this means, the individual who bids slightly higher than the second highest bidder.

Step 6:

SSP notifies winning DSP along with the DSP, in turn, sends Ad serving code to SSP. Finally, SSP passes on Ad serving code to user’s browser and renders the Ad. The Ad will be served along with other content over a web page.

And all sorts of these steps occur with a lightning speed at the back end even though the page loads!

Forms of Programmatic Buying

Programmatic Buying, as you may know now, is automated buying of ad space with a website. There are fundamentally 2 types of programmatic buying based on if the ad space or inventory is bought through auction (Auction based) or by paying a set rate for the publisher (fixed price).

Auction based:

Open auction: This is founded on real-time auction-based bidding. Most prevalent of all the programmatic buying

Invitation-only auction: This too is auction-based but bidding has limitations to choose advertisers selected from a publisher. More premium inventory sold with a higher price. Some publishers give ‘first look’ benefit to some advertisers before ad space is seen to others

Fixed priced:

Unreserved fixed rate: Prices are prefixed but no ad space is defined aside in advance

Automated guaranteed or Programmatic premium: It becomes an automated procedure for buying guaranteed ad space that doesn’t involve an auction, where the cost is prefixed and impressions are guaranteed. Generally, this kind is most premium of all.

Scope of Programmatic Buying in Healthcare

Programmatic marketing has not yet taken health care industry by storm yet by any stretch in the imagination, especially so in India. Although this marketing phenomenon is discussed in marketing conferences and agency boardrooms however its role continues to be limited to lexicons and concept as opposed to on actual spending of promoting dollars. Out of your global spending of USD 22 Bn on Programmatic buying in 2015, spending in India was actually a mere USD 25 M that makes it just above 1% share (Source: Media Global report cited in eMarketer )

By 2018, it’s projected that this healthcare industry will spend $2.2 billion on digital media. With roughly 40% of most media buys being programmatic, healthcare marketers use a great opportunity on the hands. Not merely is programmatic the new buzzword, but it is estimated that 70% of all media buys will likely be programmatic in 2016. That’s significant growth over 2 years.

Healthcare media buying in India remains to be predominantly completed by traditional spray-and-pray, at best loosely targeted media campaigns involving humans (read- sales team) that negotiate with publishers or media agencies to get ad space or inventory. Programmatic buying, on the other hand, allows precision and previously unthought-of granularity to arrive at target customers with better engagement and lower costs. I want to present some actual life scenarios to give home the impact of Programmatic Buying dental marketing solutions.

Imagine you might be visiting nearby pharmacy store to buy sugar control medication after doing some online search about medicines dosage and adverse reactions. Suddenly your smartphone buzzes. Curious to learn, you examine your inbox and discover email message inviting anyone to require a free diabetes check-up at a Clinic just a block away from what your location is.

Almost scary, isn’t it! Well, this is what Programmatic is capable of doing. It reaches your predefined customers or audience with the right moment by using a right message. And all this happens in milliseconds in an automated fashion, due to footprints, or say Cookies, you left while searching the world wide web.

Programmatic buying has changed the approach from rendering same advertising message to an incredible number of customers to creating an original message for individual customers depending on her need right then of time. A evidence of concept for this might be how health insurance could possibly be bought using a Programmatic platform.

As you were renewing medical insurance policy online to your parents, an advertisement banner flashed across your laptop screen proclaiming to supply better coverage with accessories with a lesser premium. The message is so timely and apt that you may not resist but clicking the ad. It feels that ‘someone’ is after the foot trails online. It appears there should indeed be ‘someone’ that follow users to deliver messages which can be very apt and timely.

In ways, data analytics is the lifeblood of automated buying. Although a tremendous level of info is gathered inside the health care industry, as an example, a hospital, virtually no of this is utilized effectively to create effective data-driven strategy.

First party data sources in hospitals like patient registration kiosk of Hospital Information System, CRMs or possibly a Website can be used to capture customer intent by placing a cookie on customer’s browser which can then follow and track a customer’s online journey and put meaningful and compelling messages to operate a vehicle engagement with patients or customers. This primary data in addition to a second-party data from affiliates or online subscription agencies and third-party data bought from outside data aggregators like telecom companies, other CRMs etc., is clustered to make homogenous group of audiences having similar traits like age, web browsing history, online purchases, content sharing on social websites, medical content consumed, etc.

Let us conjure up a probable scenario for a hospital that is going to launch Diabetes Management Program and wishes to reach targeted audience employing their primary data base gathered over past years. Data points like e-mail address and make contact with amounts of patients undergoing care under endocrinologist would turn into a good audience pool to perform targeted messages using GSP (Gmail Sponsored Promotions) or RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) campaigns. While a GSP would enable messages being transported to prospective patient’s Gmail inbox, the RLSA campaign would make certain that message is rendered on user’s SERPs wherever they search online.

The good thing of programmatic advertising is that it can integrate all media delivery options and provide the message to right audiences wherever they live online whether it be video, search ads, mobile, display or social networking. Such media optimization gets a captive and engaged audience to marketers causing maximum value from marketing dollar spent.

Say you would like to target women with their early 40s located in North Bangalore for promoting breast cancer screening. Programmatic-means of achieving this is deliver your message on the in-market audience directly by capturing basic patient’s intent then tracking their online behavior. For instance, say 45-years old women that visited your Oncology web page and is searching information online on “prevention of breast cancer”.

Programmatic Buying permits you to meet the needs of your particular audience who may be in the far end of buyer’s journey and has a greater propensity of purchasing in case your message touches their cord. Programmatic Buying enables you to track investment or put simply, makes returns attributable. Advertising has developed into a niche endeavor and Programmatic Buying has come as a potent tool in marketers purpose to unravel key steps to niche marketing.

Programmatic Buying comes with its share of challenges and unethical practices that digital marketers need to stand guard against. Such bad practices permeate across the Programmatic ecosystem and so are omnipresent across industries including healthcare.

Within a highly regulated healthcare sector, these challenges are a lot more evident. So permit me to address some burning issues plaguing the Programmatic Buying in healthcare

1) Restrictions on retargeting: Hospital industry continues to be slow to adapt programmatic buying because medical ethics restrict any type of advertising to patients, the audience retargeting using cookies

2) Ad misplacement: Ad placement while trying to reach a prospect, say a health care provider in a non-clinical environment just like a Game Center or Expedia Travel site may actually dilute importance of brand and message

3) Control: As mentioned before, Demand Side Platforms are aggregators of inventory to make them accessible for Advertisers. However, in medical industry, hardly any reputed medical publishers like PubMed, WebMD, The Lancet, NEJM etc. may renounce control of their inventory to permit open ad ecosystem like Programmatic take over. That is the reason why most medical publishers still prefer reserved, non-auction based on programmatic buying like either Programmatic Direct.

4) Higher costs: On account of publisher’s reluctance towards open-auction bidding in healthcare for reasons stated above, cost per impression (CPM) is greater than in other industries like retail and travel.

5) Inventory scale: Since ad spaces on medical sites is limited and finite, mostly they can be bought via direct 1-to-1 Publisher-Advertiser model creating inflated CPMs and suboptimal performance parameters (read ROI)

6) Stale-on-Sale:General impression is the fact that a media bought through Programmatic model can be a leftover, remnant inventory. This is simply not entirely untrue in healthcare either. Media space buying in healthcare predominantly is through either direct buyout involving humans or direct buyout involving automation, called the Programmatic Direct. Hence, precisely what is left is a less coveted, tier-2 inventory. Although buying this inventory could help derive engagement at far lower cost.

7) Private Healthcare Ad Exchanges:In view of medical data security, misplacements and privacy issues in healthcare, some proponents of exclusive healthcare ad exchanges emerged. In reality we already have some media buying platforms in healthcare like MM&M, Compas etc. that allow automated buying to healthcare publishers. However, provided that transparency and neutrality of open buying platform can be compromised by using these agencies, there is very little incentive for advertisers to use such private ad exchanges. Besides, scale and inventory provided by such private exchanges can also be limited compared to full-service media agencies.

Aside these challenges that are specific to health care industry, Programmatic Buying has some inherent problems that are pervasive across industries. Such as some outlined below:

8) Non-human traffic: Non-human traffic or even the NHT as they are commonly referred in Programmatic world is easily the most prevalent form of fraud whereby programs imitate desired online behavior and register false matrices like impressions, views or clicks. Bots pretend to get actual humans while actually these are part of malware that inflates the performance matrices by masquerading as organic activity. Common instances of this can be paid ‘likes’ or ‘ 1s’ on social websites.

9) Viewability: Viewability is the odds of an advert to be noticed. Many times a large proportion of impressions that advertisers pay money for goes unseen either on account of below-the-fold 60dextpky or user might scroll a page too rapidly to discover the ad.

Ad blocking: Today’s sophisticated programs allow users to eliminate advertising while browsing the net or using apps. Most publishers and professional bloggers depend upon advertising as the main way to obtain their revenue. And with ad blocking set up, a blogger would lose a reason to create free-to-consume content unless the alternate stream of revenue is available to them. Likewise, publisher websites lose interest since their revenue model based upon content-for-advertising is compromised

In conclusion:

Programmatic buying is a prominent inclusion in marketer’s quiver since last decade. Health care industry has become slow to wake up to this phenomenon because of industry-specific challenges. However, adoption of web data, involvement of social media companies and proliferation of healthcare specific ad networks to manage automated buying in healthcare would only mitigate these challenges.

The marketing plastic surgery including hospitals and pharmaceutical companies could be best if you consider programmatic buying as part of a core web marketing strategy and move from broad, segment-based marketing to specific fine-grained messages crafted to bring in, nurture and convert potential customers or patients.