Data: Digital Marketing’s Essential Ingredient

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Digital media marketing accounted for $107 billion of the ad spend in the USA in 2018 and is quickly becoming the industry’s focus. As media becomes more and more fractured across devices and platforms, it’s impossible to rely on the mass marketing advertising methods of 10 or 20 years ago. In a world of ultra-proliferated media, data is feeding successful digital marketing campaigns.

Data is the lifeblood of digital marketing. As Geoffrey Moore, author of “Crossing the Chasm: Marketing and Selling High-Tech Products to Mainstream Consumers,” put it, “Without big data, you are blind and deaf and in the middle of a freeway.”

This is where data-driven digital advertisements trump traditional advertising. Using data and programmatic adtech, a campaign can target people who are known to have trouble sleeping. For example, they may have a sleep tracker downloaded on their phone and search ‘how to fall asleep earlier’ or ‘why can’t I fall asleep.’ Not only that, you can further segment this demographic by choosing people who are also interested in using sleep medication- for example, those who may have searched “best sleep aids.”

For healthcare marketers, the shift towards digital marketing has been slower than the rest of the advertising industry sectors. In 2018, the healthcare and pharma industries increased their digital ad spend by only 12.7%, the lowest of all major industries. This is likely due to healthcare marketers’ concerns about using data to drive digital campaigns for fear of HIPAA violations. However, there are many ways healthcare marketers can utilize data legally and ethically to improve the user experience, raise conversion rates and lower ad spend.

Different Types of Data

The first step in using data ethically and effectively is understanding the different types of data: probabilistic, deterministic, first-party, second-party, and third-party data. The categories are determined by how the data is obtained. Different types of data serve different purposes and can influence the success of your digital advertising campaign in different ways.

Deterministic and Probabilistic Data

Deterministic data is digitized facts we know to be true about a consumer such as their email address. This data is accurate and therefore extremely valuable. Clean data like this lays the groundwork for successful, hyper-targeted campaigns. However, it is limited.

Probabilistic data is extrapolated from consumer behavior and habits. Using proxy methods, we may assume that a particular customer has certain attributes based on their online behavior.

Probabilistic data allows you to scale your reach without the need for hard facts, while deterministic data provides a groundwork for you to test the legitimacy of your method.

First-Party Data

First-party data is deterministic data obtained when a customer visits a company’s website. The data stored includes actions, buying habits and explicitly given personal information. This data is often the most accurate of the three types and lays the groundwork for successful ad campaigns.

Part of the high rate of success of Adfire Health’s campaigns is due to our clean and accurate first-party database that contains over 99% of healthcare providers.

Second-Party Data

Second-party data can be probabilistic data that is inferred from first-party data. Based on one’s browsing patterns and clicks, analytics will extrapolate data about a customer. Although this is not as accurate as first-party data, it is still valuable in scaling an audience base. When you buy another company’s first-party data, this is also considered second-party data.

Third-Party Data

Third-party data is collected by data companies that customers don’t directly interact with. For example, a customer may visit a health magazine website. If the site has a data company’s tag on it, the data company will gain information from the customer’s browsing session and then add it to their own data assets.

Third-party data is highly usable data and is the form of data that programmatic adtech uses to produce its outputs.

Ways Healthcare Marketers Can Use Data

By utilizing data, healthcare marketers can hyper-target, retarget and create lookalike audiences in order to reach the people they need. In the healthcare industry, this is especially important because placing the right product in front of the right consumer could be life-changing.


Hyper-targeting delivers customized messaging to very specific audiences across varying mediums. Advertisers greatly reduce their ad spend by compressing the number of unique users they’d like to reach from an almost infinite number to a diamond of highly-qualified customers. Hyper-targeting’s personalized messaging improves ad effectiveness and efficiency.

Ten to 20 years ago, if you wanted to increase awareness for a sleep aid medication, you might have bought advertisement time late at night to try to target people who are having trouble sleeping. This is a guess at best. You didn’t really have any data to tell you why those viewers, the people you were ‘targeting,’ were up late watching TV.

This is where data-driven digital advertisements trump traditional advertising. Using data and programmatic adtech, a campaign can target people who are known to have trouble sleeping. For example, they may have a sleep tracker downloaded on their phone and search ‘how to fall asleep earlier’ or ‘why can’t I fall asleep.’ Not only that, you can further segment this demographic by choosing people who are also interested in using sleep medication- for example, those who may have searched “best sleep aids.”


Retargeting campaigns reach customers who have interacted with a particular site or product. This helps increase conversion rates by placing relevant content in front of consumers at the right time. Advertisers can customize retargeting ads to match where those customers are at in the sales funnel.

Let’s say this person who is having trouble sleeping through the night sees your ad, clicks and goes to your site. He reads about the product and then leaves the site for Netflix. Maybe he’s realized it’s too late and needs some background noise.

Now, he’s already aware of the product and has discovered it. Instead of putting the same ad on the same site at the same time the next day, you can retarget him earlier in the day and include a discount code. Now, he is in the evaluation phase of the sales funnel and incentivized with a discount code.

Predictive Advertising

Predictive advertising creates lookalike audiences from deterministic data about an existing audience. Attributes such as demographics, buying history and online habits are included when building these new audiences. For example, using what knowledge you have about your current sleep aid customers, you can procure a lookalike audience that has similar attributes to your current client base. Lookalike audiences are not as reliable as existing audiences because you don’t know the actual audience you are reaching. However, predictive advertising is a good way to affordably scale your reach quickly without organically growing your audience.

How Programmatic Uses Data

Targeting a specific demographic is easier than ever because of data. But with such a vast amount of space to place ads, how do you choose the most efficient and cost-effective spots?

The answer is: you don’t – programmatic does.

Programmatic technology allows advertisers to bid for ad space around the web and across devices in real time, using the selected requirements for spend. First-party data identifying a target audience is fed into a third-party database that’s stored in the data management program. When the target audience is identified online, ads land in front of users who match the selected criteria. Programmatic continuously and automatically selects the most cost-efficient spaces while increasing click-through-rates by buying space that converts.

For example, if you wanted to get your sleep aid in front of sonologists, Adfire Health would provide 2,537 possible targets from our proprietary database, which includes 99% of healthcare providers. From there, you may decide you want to target them while they appear to have free time, maybe while they are reading the New York Times. We put this information into our programmatic system and it does the buying for us in real time and at the absolute lowest cost. In fact, we can buy 1000 banner impressions that will appear on the New York Times for as little as $10.

The Bottom Line

As an industry, healthcare marketers have been slow to utilize data-driven campaigns, accounting for only 2.7% of the entire digital marketing spend in 2018. This is costing healthcare marketers extra money and prolonging customers’ search for great products and solutions.

As healthcare marketers move towards increasing our spend in digital advertising spaces, predicted to be at $3.14 billion in 2019, we can place ads in the most efficient and effective ways by using data. Using ethically sourced data and programmatic ad tech, we can hyper-target and retarget specific audiences, obtain new audiences and buy ad space at a fraction of the cost. Data-driven campaigns are the way forward for the healthcare industry.

Adfire Health leverages our clean, verified database of over 8 million segmented healthcare professionals to help advertisers grow their reach and increase their engagement efficiently and effectively.

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