How to Create an HCP-Level Pharmaceutical Advertising Strategy

How to Create an HCP-Level Pharmaceutical Advertising Strategy

Human connection has been at the heart of pharma reps’ HCP engagement playbook for years. By getting in the same room, they could foster relationships, demonstrate value, and rebut concerns. Face-to-face meetings were the ol’ reliable and a big part of any effective pharmaceutical advertising strategy.

But changing behaviors across healthcare are limiting these interactions and forcing pharma companies to find other ways to engage. This is why we’re seeing an increase in pharma digital spending. Between 2017 and 2020, healthcare ad spending increased by more than 50%.1

Moving forward, success will find pharma companies that can implement the best pharma digital campaigns and keep themselves engaged with HCPs in a digital-first world.

What’s an HCP-Level Pharmaceutical Advertising Strategy?

A pharmaceutical advertising strategy is a combination of digital tactics that engage doctors, nurses, physicians, pharmacists, and other medical professionals (HCPs) when they’re online using connected devices, such as smartphones. Pharmaceutical advertising campaigns can help you build brand and product awareness, generate consideration, and increase revenue.

HCP-level pharmaceutical advertising campaigns are important for several reasons:

  • Digital Usage in Healthcare: More HCPs are using digital devices. 60% of doctors recommended electronic health records (EHRs) to their patients, while 57% recommended remote/virtual consultations with an HCP.2
  • Declining In-person Interactions: Some HCPs have become less likely to accept in-person meetings. 87% of providers reported a preference for virtual or a mix of virtual and in-person meetings with pharmaceutical reps—even after the pandemic.3
  • Increased Competition: More pharma companies are competing for HCPs’ attention. An effective pharma ad strategy is the only reliable way to one-up the competition.

How to Create an HCP-Level Pharma Digital Advertising Campaign in 2022

Creating a pharmaceutical advertising strategy in 2022 is all about your attention to detail. Your successful competitors will put a premium on advanced HCP data that can reach campaign goals without surpassing their pharmaceutical advertising budget. Similarly, high expectations from HCPs require you to take a more creative approach that delights them in ways they aren’t expecting.

Here’s the process:

1: Set Specific KPIs

Start by selecting KPIs that align with your goals and target audience. A good way to think about this step is to separate KPIs by stages of the purchase journey.

  • Awareness: Impressions, website traffic, social engagement, etc
  • Consideration: Click-through rate (CTR), cost per click (CPC), demo requests, etc.
  • Purchase: Sales, script lift, etc.

Ask yourself about campaign goals: What’s the desired action you want HCPs to take? Do you want them to purchase your product? Request a demo? Do you just want to get your name out there? Whatever you decide, make sure your KPIs align.

2: Create an Audience With First-Party Data

Brand awareness campaigns can still be effective, but they often lack the strength to support an entire pharma ad strategy. Today, you need to craft more meaningful audiences based on a refined list of HCPs.

The best way to do this is by using first-party data. This strategy solves many of the challenges associated with the downfall of third-party cookies, and it increases the chance that you’ll engage with HCPs who actually want to hear from you.

Go through your list and decide which HCPs you want to engage with. For example, if you’re planning to launch a conversion campaign promoting a new heart medication, maybe you pick cardiologists with senior positions, and thus, more buying power.

Then, team up with a third-party partner that has access to brand-safe and advanced HCP data. With their help, you can match your data with online identities and reach these HCPs when they’re spending time online.

#3: Deliver Memorable Experiences

When you go to in-person meetings, you put on a nice outfit, clean yourself up, and practice your pitch. Your goal is to make a good impression. Think of this step the same way, except that the ad is doing the talking.

To do that, you’ll need to step up your game and experiment with advanced ad types—ones that aren’t necessarily as tried-and-tested as other options. Interactive banner ads are a great example. So, too, are high-impact mobile ads that take advantage of the valuable real estate on HCPs’ handheld devices, as well as vertical and outstream video ads.

#4: Measure KPIs With HCP-Level Measurement & Reporting

Pharma advertising is a giant game of chess. It’s your job to play, study the game, and make adjustments. In chess, you adjust your strategy. In advertising, you optimize with HCP-level measurement and reporting.

Just like a chess player has many avenues to turn down, you have many optimizations you can make, such as ad types, copy, frequency, bid multipliers, and data. Making smart in-flight optimizations is not only essential to maximize your current campaign, but your learnings can help inform your future campaigns and drive net-new cost-efficiencies

3 Real-World Pharmaceutical Online Advertising Campaigns

Do you need some inspiration? Here are some of our favorite pharma campaigns.

How an RX Drug Manufacturer Used Adfire Health to Achieve a 14:1 ROI

A drug manufacturer teamed up with Adfire Health to improve ad spending efficiency, understand ad fraud, and evaluate its media players. Working with Adfire Health to build an engaged audience that utilized programmatic advertising to physicians, the company saw a 14:1 ROI.

Helping a #1 Branded Rx Drug Increase Pharma Conversions by 295%

A #1 branded Rx drug planned to stop sales because a generic and more affordable version of its drug was coming onto the market. Working with Adfire Health to engage HCPs via a retargeting campaign, the company delivered more than 62MM HCP impressions, increased conversions by 295%, and stayed on the market.

A Top-Tier Pharma Brand Decreases Cost Per Exposed Physician by 95%

A pharma brand with a preventative treatment Rx drug wanted to maximize reach and generate conversions. Using HCP data, Adfire Health helped the company increase reach by 244% while generating a conversion rate 17.4% higher than industry standards.

Simplifying Your Pharmaceutical Advertising Strategy for 2022

Between shifting HCP behaviors, more competition, and evolving privacy restrictions, building and launching pharma ad campaigns is incredibly complex. But it doesn’t have to be. By setting the right KPIs, using advanced HCP data, delivering engaging experiences, and focusing on measurement, you can maximize ad performance and efficiency in 2022.


  1. Droesch B. US Healthcare and Pharma Digital Ad Spending 2020. eMarketer. Published September 30, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2021.  
  2. Stewart C. Have you recommended the use of any of the following digital health tools to your patients? Statista. Published June 2021. Accessed November 5, 2021.
  3. Wozniak L. Pharma Companies Have Improved How They Engage with Healthcare Providers During COVID-19, Finds New Research from Accenture. Accenture. Published August 10, 2020. Accessed November 5, 2021.

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