Advertisers need to be inventive to adhere to health marketing regulations, particularly since 2011, when the IAB banned health marketers from using cookies to target patients.
PageScience’s approach is to bring contextual, cookie-less targeting to its clients through page scoring. On Wednesday, the company made public its Health Insights dashboard, which lets brands and agencies analyze ad impression availabilities in specific health-condition categories. Grapeshot and Sizmek’s Peer39 both offer similar solutions, though neither focuses on the health and pharma industry.
“With programmatic buying increasing dramatically, agencies, pharma companies, and hospital brands have been asking for an easy way to estimate reach for niche conditions,” said PageScience CEO Bill Jennings. “So we developed Health Insights for ad buyers to quickly determine the maximum avails for their PageScience-scored inventory.”
PageScience, formerly Precision Health Media, specializes in page-level (i.e. contextual) targeting for health and pharma advertisers, and clients include major hospitals like MD Anderson, Mass General, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Moffitt, and Dartmouth Hitchcock. The company has 15 employees, and Jennings declined to comment on the current number of active campaigns.
PaceScience’s tech scans the Web to locate and score the best environments to target specific ailments and partners with AppNexus for execution. This year, the company worked with more than 50 pharma advertisers and 300 publishers in its private marketplace.
“If a page shows up on MS or diabetes, for example, Health Insights checks our data warehouse to see if that page is scored highly, and then it executes the bid,” Jennings said.
“But the safety factor is critical,” he added. “Any site can be removed from our targeting process. So the combination of targetability and safety is what makes us unique.”
Pages are scored on a number of criteria, but most important are contextual relevancy, viewability, and historical ad performance. PageScience’s contextual relevancy scoring, for instance, can determine if a word like “diabetes” only appears on a page as a link. If so, the firm has filters in place to weed out content that might mislead an advertising bid. To measure viewability, PageScience partners with AdYapper, a company that offers below-the-fold reporting on impressions.
Jennings said the firm scores about 100 million pages a month and offers buyers the ability to see ad availabilities that can target for any of the 60 major health conditions the company’s tech tracks.
“We’re really setting up our clients to have something that resembles a trading desk approach,” said Jennings. “And they can also see how the impressions have trended going back 90 days.”
In that way, PageScience’s offering is reminiscent of how ad networks are offering self-serve options lately, thereby becoming their own demand-side platforms. But does that comparison ring true for PageScience?
“Some of the major ad networks have always had a health channel, but they’ve had a hard time providing really strong reach within a niche health condition,” said Jennings. “I don’t know that self-serve really solves all the issues that pharma faces. And [our clients] still have to come to PageScience to execute a buy,” he added.
One of those clients is Underscore Marketing, a media agency for health and wellness brands, which employs about 50 people, runs three offices in the US and one in Krakow, Poland, and works with about a dozen clients, including Gilead Sciences, Daiichi Sankyo and Novo Nordisk.
“We’re always looking for ways that we can get to patients who may suffer from a condition. But, obviously, we want to do that in a way that’s not intrusive,” Underscore Marketing founder and Chief Media Officer Tom Hespos told AdExchanger. “PageScience offered us a way to reach those patients efficiently without having to rely on cookies or anything that would be looked at as a non-ethical way of targeting.”
When shopping around for viable ways to target patients with a particular health condition, Hespos said the company also considered NetSeer. And Underscore Marketing’s trading desk, Vigilant, offers a tool to target audiences in a cookie-less way, which the firm uses in addition to PageScience’s offering, said Hespos.
So what makes PageScience’s offering a necessary addition? “Often when you’re talking about a condition package with a lot of other major health publishers, you do have to take quite a bit of untargeted inventory along with the targeted stuff,” Hespos explained. “PageScience’s offering is good workaround for that sort of thing.”
“And if you’re a patient, and you had a sensitive condition, you wouldn’t want to be seeing ads out of context,” Hespos added. “If we’re able to stick to relevant content, we don’t have our patients wondering how we’re targeting them. That’s the biggest selling point, along with added efficiencies.”
PageScience has been using the Health Insights dashboard internally for the past three years in its ad ops group and decided to make it public in response to agencies’ inquiries on availabilities. Now PageScience is customizing each of its client’s dashboards to better target niche audiences.
“We’re starting to work with some of the trading desks as well, and we’re providing them access to our data,” said Jennings.
Though PageScience has historically served the healthcare and pharma industry, the firm has started to score pages in the automotive, travel, and financial sectors in the last nine months. “We chose to add these industries because they’re areas where context is also deeply important,” Jennings said. The company is also gradually beginning to score mobile pages.
“We’re a media- and tech-driven business, but like any ad-tech company, the challenge is always finding large amounts of reach that still maintains the quality of inventory,” Jennings concluded. “Ultimately, all of us in digital are trying to compete with other media like television, which is a very untargeted medium but has large reach.”