How native ads function in healthcare

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Since the advent of the internet, advertising online has been much more complicated than on older platforms such as television and radio. An influential and still-relevant 1997 article on web ads by a founder of the Nielsen Norman Group noted that, unlike TV, the web is a cognitive medium in which users proactively search for content instead of passively consuming it. Accordingly, it’s more difficult for advertisers to hold their attention.

A health team discusses advertising strategy.

How native ads solve this problem

Early forms of online advertising like banner ads were relatively ineffective. That set them up for displacement by more nuanced alternatives, including programmatic ad buying delivering targeted advertisements at the moment a user visits a site, and the even subtler native advertising. The latter is designed to look as much as possible like a “normal” piece of content on a site, meaning it usually takes the form of an article or video that blends in with the rest of the page, perhaps with a small disclaimer clarifying that it is sponsored.

Advertorials are archetypal examples of native ads, as are advertiser-funded programs and most promoted posts on social media. As a category, native advertising stands apart from other major forms of web monetization such as paid search or in-stream advertisements. It often seems more relevant and helpful than classic display ads to viewers, leading marketers to invest heavily in it.

A 2018 survey by eMarketer estimated that by 2019, native ads would be a $41 billion market, accounting for more than 61 percent of all digital display ad spending. That’s up from $16.73 billion and a 47.5 percent market share in 2016. Business Insider foresees native ads driving almost three-quarters of ad revenue by 2021.

The role of native ads in healthcare environments

Healthcare might not be one of the most obvious subjects for advertising, but it’s a substantial and growing market. Another eMarketer report found that in 2017, the health and pharmaceutical sectors spent $2.53 billion on digital ads and are on track for $4.5 billion in total spending by 2021.

Advertising plays a pivotal part in raising awareness of products such as prescription and over-the-counter drugs and in differentiating individual providers from what some consumers perceive as a vast array of similar organizations. The healthcare industry may also inspire low expectations in patients, who associate it with high costs and poor customer service, as demonstrated in the results of the 2018 American Consumer Satisfaction Index. Effective marketing campaigns ― including native advertising ― can re-calibrate these perceptions and potentially help health providers and payers sustain success in an evolving industry.

So what does a successful native ad look like in healthcare? Let’s say a pharmacy or clinic is offering flu shots. The flu is a highly seasonal ailment, leading to elevated search intent during the peak months. At those times, flu shot providers might run sponsored stories or post promoted video containing tips for minimizing flu exposure, including washing your hands, quitting smoking and of course getting a shot. Such articles can cultivate goodwill with readers by offering relevant and helpful advice, all without ever coming off as an ad meant to promote a sale ― even if that’s ultimately what it does by encouraging more people to visit places where they can purchase a flu shot.

Similarly, health providers can post feel-good stories about how individuals benefited from orthopedic surgery or taking certain medications and supplements. Positive native ads are well-positioned to stand out amid the negative stories that frequently dominate many news sites and social media feeds.

What do you need for a digital marketing career in healthcare?

The ongoing growth of digital advertising in healthcare has created openings for health professionals with fluency in this domain. Earning a Healthcare Master of Business Administration (HCMBA) from the George Washington University (GW) can give you the background necessary for pursuing executive-level marketing roles.

The HCMBA is highly flexible and customizable. All students start by completing a core set of courses that cover the financial and managerial aspects of healthcare, including accounting, strategic management, operations, finance, microeconomics and marketing. From there, they can fulfill the remaining requirements with a variety of electives and graduate certificates that focus on wide range of topics in modern healthcare. The current certification possibilities include:

  • Clinical Research Administration
  • Clinical Research Practice
  • Clinical & Translational Research
  • Health Care Quality
  • Health Sciences
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Regulatory Affairs

With combined expertise in marketing, finance and healthcare, HCMBA recipients can bring considerable knowledge to the table in designing and executing native advertising campaigns. The HCMBA also provides opportunities to connect with a vast network of alumni in the healthcare industry, from physicians and other clinicians to consultants, finance directors and C-level executives. In addition to benefits related to the job search, this network supports HCMBA students in discovering and developing new ideas on how to shape their marketing initiatives.

A healthcare marketer reviews documentation.

The GW HCMBA is fully online. Students can work toward their degrees while maintaining current professional and personal commitments, without being limited by a traditional on-campus schedule. GW is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, and the School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. The HCMBA you earn is the same degree as the one being offered on-campus and can prepare you for career advancement.

To learn more about the HCMBA coursework, take a look at the program details page. You can also return to our main program page to answer a few simple questions to receive a free copy of our program brochure.

Recommended Readings:
Marketing Decisions in Health Care
3 Reasons to Get Your Healthcare MBA vs Your MHA

2018 Healthcare Marketing Trends Playbook
Pharma and healthcare boost digital ad spend on the way to $4.5B in 2021
Native will dominate display spending in 20185 Ways healthcare systems can succeed with online advertising
Why Advertising Doesn’t Work on the Web (1997)