As we look toward 2018, one thing is certain: Digital ad fraud is here to stay. Beating it will require a thorough understanding of bots, bot detection technologies, and digital audience identification.
These are complex topics, and early next year we’ll begin a blog series that takes an in-depth look at many of them. In the meantime, we want to answer some of the basic questions that will continue to inform pharma marketing’s response to digital ad fraud.
Why is ad fraud such a problem in pharma?
Ad fraud is a high-margin business across industries, but pharma is especially lucrative for cybercriminals. In 2017, U.S. digital ad spend was expected to increase 18 percent to $70 billion, and pharma continues to be one of the leading industries by total media ad spending. Cost per click (CPC) and cost per thousand impressions (CPM) are significantly higher in pharma than in other industries.
At the same time, “bots” are just automated browser tools that can be developed quickly and inexpensively. So cybercriminals who target pharma may see margins as high as 99 percent.
How do bots undermine pharma marketing?
Bots threaten pharma marketing in a number of ways. When you run ads on websites with heavy bot traffic, you’re almost certain to:
- Overpay for ad space. If nine of every 10 clicks are made by bots, you’re paying for 10 impressions, but only engaging one human.
- Lose conversions. Bots will never become prescribers. When you pay to advertise to them, your conversion rate and advertising ROI both suffer.
- Draw inaccurate conclusions from marketing data. If you don’t recognize bots for what they are, they’ll be counted as visitors. This throws off your analytics and marketing planning, and thereby limits the effectiveness of future marketing initiatives.
What can pharma marketers do to stop bots?
Dr. Augustine Fou, an independent ad fraud researcher and pharma industry veteran, recommends starting with these easy, low-tech solutions:
- Check where website visitors are coming from. Bots come from data centers, human visitors don’t.
- Establish benchmarks. Use organic search data to set a baseline for human browsing behavior.
- Be wary. Any data that looks too good to be true probably is.
- Check your web analytics. Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics may not be filtering out bots. Instead they may be only sifting out the good, and not the bad.
Recognizing the difference between bots and human visitors is essential, but it’s just the beginning. In pharma, you also need to be able to verify that human visitors are physicians, and ideally, physicians in your target market.
Pharma is especially lucrative for cybercriminals due to high CPM relative to other industries.
With that in mind, the next step is identifying the individual HCPs who view your ads. Audience identity management technology makes this possible by reporting the name, NPI number, medical specialty, and practice location of “tagged,” opted-in HCPs when they visit participating medical websites. To date, approximately 1.5 million HCPs have been tagged and more than 300 medical websites have joined the digital audience identity ecosystem.
As ad fraud continues to evolve, we’re committed to helping you stay informed. Last week we highlighted 6 Essential Ad Fraud Resources for Pharma Marketers, including an article in Healthcare Analytics News that describes my recent demonstration of how easily cybercriminals can generate bot traffic. In 2018, we’ll take a closer look at issues like good and bad bots, blacklisting and whitelisting, and how to know if your website visitors are really physicians.