10 Critical Questions to Ask an HCP Advertising Agency Before Signing an IO

10 Critical Questions to Ask an HCP Advertising Agency Before Signing an IO

Working with an HCP advertising agency is a lot like working with a financial advisor. You give them your money — in your case, your ad spend — and hope to see a return. If they underperform, you’re out potentially tens of thousands of dollars. This is why having an in-depth conversation with any HCP agency you’re considering prior to signing an insertion order (IO) is essential. Here are 10 questions to ask an HCP advertising agency before signing on the dotted line.

What to Ask an HCP Advertising Agency

Wondering what to ask an HCP advertising agency? When you sit down with an HCP advertising agency, come prepared with questions about targeting, reporting, inventory, reach, and price.

#1: Which Websites Can You Deliver Ads On?

HCPs are surfing tons of websites both in and out of the workplace (endemic and non-endemic websites). For example, during the workday, they might visit WebMD and Medical News Today. They may also visit Reddit and play Sudoku during their breaks. When they get home, they’re likely to switch to exclusively to non-endemic websites, such as The New York Times. This means that your healthcare ad agency needs to have the ability to reach HCPs across all of these websites.

No matter where they are, your ads need to find HCPs. At the same time, they also need to be able to blacklist websites you don’t want your ads to appear on, especially unsafe or fraudulent ones.

#2: Can You Do NPI Targeting?

The hallmark of any good relationship between you and a healthcare advertising agency is their ability to deliver results consistently. While they can accomplish this in various ways, you’ll probably agree that the most effective and efficient one is with audience targeting. More than half of client-side advertisers said using data for more effective segmentation and targeting is among their top three priorities.1 This is where NPI targeting comes in, enabling you to engage NPIs by AMA-recognized medical specialty and characteristics. Your ad agency must be able to do this.

#3: Can You Do NPI Reporting?

What good is a campaign if you can’t tie it to bottom-line-boosting results? Answer: not good. It’s essential that the agency not only runs your campaigns but provides you with indisputable and transparent evidence that they’re working via NPI reporting.

NPI reporting breaks down campaign performance by individual NPI numbers, allowing you to get a crystal clear understanding of which HCPs in your target audience are responding to your ads (and which ones aren’t). From there, you can make intelligent optimizations that boost performance and cost-efficiencies.

#4: Can You Use a Custom Target List?

Every campaign is different, which means your NPI-targeting strategies will vary as well. For example, if you’re promoting an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD), you may only need to target cardiologists. With such a specialized campaign, targeting all HCPs doesn’t make sense. This is why your healthcare ad agency should be able to apply custom target lists to your campaigns. Asking about a custom target list up front will remove much of the uncertainty around audience targeting and help generate more HCP engagement.

#5: What Are Your Counts?

So, you give your agency a custom list of HCPs. Now what? Well, you hope they can use it. But before they can, they need to tie it to their first-party data. Said another way, they identify HCPs that the two lists (yours and theirs) have in common and run it through ad tech to establish online identities. From there, they can deliver targeted ads across the web.

However, their ability to do this relies on them having access to a data list with a large number of HCPs. So, when you’re looking for an HCP ad agency, make sure to ask them about their counts. If you were to ask us, we’d tell you that our proprietary database has 1.4MM registered NPIs and 7MM associated HCPs.

#6: How Much Is a Minimum Buy?

Nothing’s worse than finding an agency with a proven track record, only to find out that you don’t meet their spending threshold, i.e., you’re not spending enough money on your campaigns. Major ad agencies that work with brands across all industries often require their clients to spend anywhere from $300K to $2MM a month. These lofty numbers protect their bottom line since most get paid based on a percentage of media spend. In contrast, some agencies provide a minimum buy that’s around $10K a month (the smallest have no minimum buy at all), allowing smaller or startup healthcare companies to take advantage of online advertising.

Obviously, there’s a big range, so it’s important to ask them early in the conversation if you’re in the same ballpark. If you are, great. If not, we bet they can recommend another agency they believe will be a good fit.

#7: What Types of Video Inventory Do You Recommend?

Video advertising should be central to building brand awareness and converting leads among HCPs. But there are many types of video inventory, so your agency should help you pick a strategy that fits with your goals.

For example, vertical video is gaining traction. Today’s smartphone users spend 94% of their screen time in the vertical position, and this format gives HCPs an ideal video experience for in-app and web ads.2 It also offers an impactful way to engage healthcare providers and showcase your brand. If your campaign goal is viewability, the agency may recommend outstream video ads, which appear on the page as users scroll. This format allows your brand to be associated with the content that HCPs are already interacting with.

#8: What Type of Message Should I Deliver to My Target HCP?

This question isn’t about their capabilities but more about their ability to understand your target audience. So, ask them about messaging and other creative elements. For example, if you’re planning a campaign about Artificial Eye Lenses (Pseudophakia), ask them how they’d approach a campaign aimed at ophthalmologists. Granted, they’re not going to tell you everything, but most will give you a taste, as well as examples of similar campaigns. Their answer should give you a good idea if they have what it takes to engage your target HCP.

#9: Can You Do Telehealth and EHR Advertising?

Telehealth and Electronic Health Records (EHRs) will be at the center of everything HCPs do for decades to come. In fact, EHRs have been adopted by 90% of healthcare providers, with some specialities having a 99% adoption rate.3

On top of that, 76% of U.S. hospitals are currently connecting with patients and consulting practitioners at a distance through the use of video and other technology.4 To keep up with these trends, your healthcare ad agency must be able to activate effective campaigns across these devices and channels.

#10: What’s the Best Reach and Frequency I Can Expect?

The ol’ reach and frequency question will undoubtedly come up, i.e., how many people the agency can reach and how often they’ll serve ads to them. When asking about this, you’re looking for a glimpse into how they approach digital advertising. Make sure they’re committed to taking an HCP-first approach rather than a we’ll-flood-HCPs-with-ads-until-we-hit-our-benchmarks approach.

The agency should keep the frequency as low as possible without diminishing performance. This will help improve ad experiences for HCPs, but also save you money since you won’t be spending on unnecessary impressions.

Setting a Foundation: Questions to Ask a Healthcare Advertising Agency

We get it. You just want to launch your next campaign and start seeing performance. While nothing is holding you back from that, the smart move would be to sit down with a handful of healthcare advertising agencies and ask them some questions to see if you’re really a match. Your due diligence will be worth it. Trust us.


  1. Benes R. Awash in Data, Marketers Still Find Ad Targeting Capabilities Lacking. eMarketer. Published April 11, 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  2. Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide. A MULTI-CHANNEL MARKETER’S LOOK AT INTEGRATING EHRS INTO THE DIGITAL ECOSYSTEM. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  3. Subsign. Vertical vs Horizontal Video. Published March 20, 2017. Accessed September 10, 2021.
  4. Fact Sheet: Telehealth. American Hospital Association. Published 2019. Accessed September 10, 2021.

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