Using OTT to Transform Healthcare Advertising

The word is out — streaming television offers new and innovative opportunities to reach targeted audiences at scale. But why are pharmaceutical brands hesitating to make the move despite the increase in OTT viewership?

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Could this be the future of pharma advertising?

It can feel like we are drowning in companies pushing AI capabilities or embedding AI in their apps, and that’s just what we see on the surface. Our reactions run the gamut — from fear that we will lose control to “wow, I barely need to think when I compose an email.” As a result, we find ourselves in a curious place: torn between intrigue at the potential of AI to create new connections in our data-rich world, and skeptical that it can really deliver what companies claim.

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Our take? Today’s hesitation is healthy – and warranted. It may seem surprising to see company touting the use of AI in our solutions suggest that it’s not the “silver bullet” that solves all our marketing challenges, but we believe that AI only achieves its full potential when coupled with something else: human intelligence.

But what is human intelligence? We define it with three key parts: 1) our collected knowledge base and expertise, 2) our ability to think critically and ethically through the choices we make, and 3) our ability to interpret results within the appropriate context. And while artificial intelligence and other technologies can facilitate or mimic some of these facets, what it can’t do is fully replace them.

Why Human Intelligence Will Always Be Relevant in Pharma Innovation

The story of pharma has always been one of innovation, seeking the next clinical breakthrough that transforms lives. In fact, pharma R&D provides us with a clear example of how marrying human and artificial intelligence has resulted in a new era of productivity – and the role each has played in getting us there.

Clinical development is notoriously time intensive and high risk, but we’ve seen AI start to mitigate those risks. AI is currently being used in areas from drug target identification and candidate prioritization to drug design and molecular simulations. And the technology is paying off, as more AI-supported candidates enter clinical testing and early analyses suggest that AI tools are delivering significant time and cost savings.

But this application of AI doesn’t exist in a void. It’s only found success by building on our prior (human-developed) knowledge base, and by following algorithmic models built by human developers and experts. AI excels at finding connections and patterns in data by working faster, more efficiently and across more complex data than the human mind can process – but human intelligence is necessary to interpret the results, assess the relevance, and leverage the implications of those findings.

Managing the Leap to AI-Enabled Pharma Marketing

Pharma R&D shows how AI can deliver value by accelerating complex or data-heavy processes, but its use in pharma marketing is far more limited – and challenging. Unlike recorded or modeled clinical data, our audience data (i.e. patients), are far more complex, decentralized, and fragmented. Communications are subject to extensive regulation and oversight, and pharmaceutical functional areas are more siloed and independent, especially those in big pharma. While none of these factors necessarily prevent us from applying AI to our marketing challenges, they do demand human intelligence keep AI-driven practices ethical and compliant. Technology alone can’t grow a brand in a competitive market, successfully launch a new drug, or build stronger physician/patient relationships, it succeeds only with our perspective and input.

While bench clinicians and R&D teams have had years to increase their adoption of and comfort with AI tools, pharma marketers are still at the beginning of the journey. And for all the hype at conferences and in opinion pieces, we’re still processing how to make AI work for our needs – and within our boundaries. For example, we’re a long way from having reliable AI tools to generate compliant, MLR-approved brand content. But we can follow the lead of pharma R&D and look first to the areas where AI can accelerate the analysis and connection of real-world data and evidence beyond our current capacity. Through this lens, the ideal starting point is not content generation, but dynamic patient / HCP profiling, identification, and targeting.

With the right (human) oversight and application, AI is ideally suited for processing and analyzing our rich resources of patient clinical, consumer, and social/behavioral data, including underserved areas, and can do so with speed and accuracy not possible through manual processes. And in doing so, it advances us towards two longstanding goals – the increased personalization of pharma brand marketing and the achievement of better health outcomes. AI can identify patients on the threshold of brand eligibility or patients at risk of non-compliance with their medication(s). It can reveal patient and HCP media consumption patterns, then seamlessly optimize channel selection. It can create dynamic NPI lists based on the patients HCPs are expected to see in the coming week, because timing is still everything. As a result, AI gives pharma marketers the precise audience segmentation that is proven to improve the relevance and timing of brand communications: reducing wasted impressions, driving higher script lift, and increasing ROI.

Get Your Brand Ready for the Future Ahead

Tempting as it is to state that the future of marketing is here and AI-driven, we’re marketers too. That means we’re keenly aware that there’s more to success than the tools we use, however “innovative” they may be. AI is no different – and even the most sophisticated technology falls short without the right data inputs and strategic application. Last we checked, these still require the human factor. And in looking back at both the legacy of AI in pharma, and the bright future ahead, it's clear to us that human intelligence is the force that will carry us over the threshold to the next phase of tech- and data-enabled precision marketing.

As you parse countless vendors’ marketing claims, explore not only what their technology / AI actually does, but the human intelligence behind it. It’s this combination of human and technology that will lead you to the partner who can assist, educate, and grow with your brand, so you can collaborate to find the right solution for today – and the opportunities to strive for in the future.