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programmatic for hcp marketing

It’s time pharma realised the potential of programmatic media buying to reach HCP customers more intelligently


Programmatic is alive and well. It has cemented itself into the daily process of digital communication practices across the world and there are the numbers to prove it. In the UK alone, it is estimated that the programmatic display ad market will be worth £2.67 billion by the end of 2016, up 44% from 2015 (source: emarketer)

There are industries where programmatic has become standard practice, but there are some, such as pharma, that have been slower to adopt automated media buying to deliver their marketing campaigns. Whilst there is a lack of understanding on how the technology works, the concerns around regulatory risks have prevented pharma marketers to take a chance on programmatic technology. Adoption, however, rather than being technological or legal needs fundamentally to be focussed on customer delivery. If as a brand marketer all you want to do is deliver product messages, programmatic will not help you (for now, at least).

Why won’t it help you?

  • Because the vast majority of medical publishers and communities do not serve programmatic advertising;
  • Because, as a pharma marketer, you are probably still too focused on marketing the product features and benefits rather than delivering value to your customers and wider stakeholders, where programmatic media can be served. 

The world has moved on from features and benefits, and you need to too. However, we are now seeing a shift in consideration taking place. We know the landscape for targeting healthcare professionals is narrow and expensive. But the modern customer journey has become increasingly complex. We live in an age where customers are always connected, engaged and want to see relevant messages. In order to deliver a seamless experience to customers, pharma is recognising that it has to catch up and embrace the shift towards customer experience and with it the latest in responsive technology to deliver on their needs cost effectively.

Marketing starts with understanding the customer, and what programmatic advertising has to offer is a rich layer of audience insight on top of what we already have. The door is open to target precisely and verify advertising exposure to a defined list of healthcare professionals, and this is what is now attracting pharma clients’ attention. It means we can reach audiences outside the standard environments whilst adding greater intelligence to the media we buy to ensure we are connecting with the right people and at the right time.

Programmatic advertising is not just about satisfying top of the marketing funnel either. The ability to build and reach new audiences, on top of retargeting existing and engaging existing customers proves the value of programmatic in delivering both top and bottom of the conversion funnel.

At Nitro Digital we believe in and champion the many benefits programmatic advertising can deliver for pharma and we have highlighted the top advantages for why programmatic buying should be integrated into pharma digital marketing strategies:

Greater transparency
Greater visibility on media performance means campaigns can be better refined and optimised. In the past, when working directly with publishers we were completely reliant on the limited insight they could provide. We now can see what is delivered, and where, whilst learning what is working and what is not.

Greater data and insights
Data is at the heart of the programmatic process. So, not only do you minimise wastage from purchased inventory by targeting the right audiences, but you are also getting greater insight to better understand your online customers. And those learnings are happening in real time, which means campaigns can be optimised throughout its duration and the value of this can also increase a return on your investment.

Improved tracking capabilities
With programmatic technology it is easier to track and analyse data more efficiently from advertising views, to interaction through to website visits and actions. Audiences can be intricately segmented, which makes targeting messages in the right context, and at the right time far more effective.

Consistency across multiple channels
Programmatic can be thought of as a centralised buying platform. What this means is that we have the ability to combine the power of data to deliver effective communications where the audiences are active – across desktop, mobile, tablet, video and social channels.

Our conclusion

At Nitro Digital we have proven the value of running programmatic campaigns for our clients in pharma. We have successfully delivered greater exposure, at lower price points to highly targeted healthcare audiences. And the quality in targeting is demonstrated in the increase in responses we are seeing. Because, ultimately, we are delivering the right message at the right time and to the right people.

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Brexit: what does it mean for science?

A few days after the vote that will lead to the UK’s departure from the EU and Cameron’s resignation, the articles about consequences of Brexit are numerous. Journalists, politicians and even celebrities such as J.K. Rowling  have underscored the effect Brexit have.

tweet rowling

The author J.K. Rowling expressed her shocked by calling the magic of the fantasy world she created.


The vice chancellor of Germany Sigmar Gabriel was quick to tweet his dismay and the result saying: ‘Damn! bad day for Europe!’

Besides politicians and former pro-Remain voters, there are other people who fear the future outside the EU: scientist and researchers. Indeed, as The Guardian reports, this vote may have a big impact on how the pharmaceutical industry works. explains that the physicist Stephen Hawking and more than 150 fellows of the Royal Society called the Brexit a “disaster for U.K. science” in a letter to The Times.

Most scientists voted ‘Remain’ according polls, expressing concern over how Brexit would harm science in the UK, and in the EU at large. They argue that one of the strengths of British research is its worldwide scale, and the welcoming of researchers from foreign countries. The European Union was a great means to enable free exchange between the UK and other nations. It allowed the UK to benefit from a network of new people with new ideas… which is the best means to innovate, to move forward.

Brexit is probably not going to condemn the research area in the UK, given that the country is one of the top leaders in this field. But there is no denying that its new status will certainly imply some readjustments, if the Union wants to keep this asset.



Meet Leka, the first toy designed specifically for children with autism

That sounds futuristic, and yet it is true! A French start-up has designed a rolling robot capable of engaging children with special needs, particularly children on the “autism spectrum”.


The future is coming

Shaped like a ball, it has an endearing ‘face’ that changes expressions, and uses sound, light and colours to interact with users through adaptable games that improve cognitive and motor skills. More than a tool for caregivers and educators, Leka is described by its developers as a “robotic companion”. For children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), connecting with others can be challenging.  The robot is able to guide children through a range of activities, helping them to improve their communication skills and ability to learn.

Leka may also help parents and caregivers, by providing data on how children interact with the device and enabling data sharing across a social network. It will provide understanding on the type of guidance that is more helpful to the child to complete a task. All of this information is displayed in graphs in the shared interface and parents or caregivers can comment on them, communicate with each other or share notes on a child’s use.

How can a robot change things?

ASD affects about 70 million people worldwide. In order to develop an efficient toy, Leka’s developers worked closely with children with ASD, parents and educators, to determine their needs and the role that the robot could play. The developers realised that children with ASD respond especially well to robots. Why? Because for these children, repetition and predictability are essential. Performing the same activity over and over can be hard for parents or educators.

Doing the same thing over and over is proper to robots. “The robotics help by repeating the same thing every single time and providing the child a sense of safety” – Ladislas de Toldi, Leka’s CEO and co-founder.

The rolling robot may also help child development by being controlled via Bluetooth and programmed through an app (available for both iOS and Android). Leka responds to a child’s participation in games, supplying positive images and sounds — for instance, showing a smiling face — to reward progress and encourage confidence. Currently programmed with three educational games, Leka will offer a total of seven activities toward 2017.

Adaptability is the key strength of this rolling robot. Caregivers can adjust the level of stimulation to fit each child’s needs – by changing the settings – , allowing the child’s progress to be tracked over time. Meanwhile, handling the spherical Leka provides children with a uniquely tactile interactive experience that they can’t get from a touch screen.

“Our mission is to help exceptional children live exceptional lives by reducing the learning inequalities that many children with different developmental disorders currently deal with” – Ladislas de Toldi.

Both these features justify the Leka’s cost of $699, say its developers. The robot is priced between an iPad Air and the iPad Pro… which are not exactly cheap, however the Indiegogo campaign (152% funded)  would enable mass production of the device and make it more affordable.  Besides, the start-up claims that the developers are looking for a solution for parents who can’t afford such a price but do need a Leka.


The initiative highlights how a robot could enhance our way of living. Do you think robotics can change lives too? Do you like the article? Leave a comment then!



Digital customer experience in the life sciences industry

The importance for Life sciences to communicate across digital channels has been clear for a long time, but whilst the benefits of engaging on ‘social’ channels is increasing, internal company approvals for this activity is far from simple and does not seem to be getting easier. So, we would like to help you learn how you can take advantage of these channels both creatively and compliantly for brand and company.

We’ll be producing a series of content focused on social media and digital experiences that will include real world industry examples to help demonstrate that it can be done. But, before we start, we would really like to get your input into our quick social media survey so that we can tackle the key issues that you face together with our partner Zinc Ahead.

Executing across digital is no longer a box ticking exercise, it’s key to nurturing relationships and driving advocacy for you. You now need to deliver compelling experiences that make a difference to your users.

You’ll be expected by your customers to deliver compelling experiences that help bring them (and your wider stakeholders) closer online through engagement and ultimately conversation and collaboration. If you don’t, your competitors will, and as your customers flood to use online channels and rep forces are streamlined, you’ll be edged out of the conversation. It’s time to start engaging online now.

We get it though, as soon as you start talking about engagement and using the words, ‘social media’ the barriers go up. Approvals can be hard, and require willpower and commitment to get initiatives through medical, legal and regulatory. This is why Nitro Digital is delighted to be partnering with Zinc, the leading provider of world class compliance for content and rich media experiences in the life sciences industry, to help our customers and the wider industry deliver innovative, exciting but crucially compliant customer experiences through ‘social media’.

Nitro Digital has been pioneering the use of engaging and collaborative platforms and communication for our clients to enhance their customer communication over the last few years, so have learnt how to help others who also want to take advantage of digital in a more engaging way to create compelling customer experiences in the new normal for web users.

So, if you aren’t sure about how to engage with your customers on digital platforms, think it’s too risky, or just cannot persuade your management to participate, then you really should take part. You might be surprised what you can achieve.

Click through to the Survey now.

Internship at Nitro Digital

Interning at Nitro Digital

In September this year I started a three month internship as a Digital Content Writer with Nitro Digital. I’m writing this in my final week (sob!) and I’m not sure I’ll be able to do it justice in the confines of a blog post, but here goes…

Backstage access

I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did during my time at Nitro, and I think it’s rare that an intern gets to do as much as I did, and with as much support as I received.  I worked on numerous projects, from internal tasks to big budget external campaigns, all the while experiencing professional life in a fast-paced and dynamic environment.

In the digital world so much goes on behind the scenes that you just don’t get to see unless you’re there in the middle of it. It’s made me really appreciate the amount of work that goes into the websites I casually scroll through, the apps I take for granted and the marketing campaigns I’ve idly admired. We’re so used to these things working as they should that we don’t consider the effort that’s gone into doing just that, and it’s teams like Nitro Digital we have to thank for it.

With Nitro operating in such a fast-growing and enterprising industry, there was never a dull moment. The digital world is constantly developing, seamlessly becoming commonplace in our everyday lives – hence keeping the team at Nitro very busy! Keeping on top of the latest health and tech developments was near impossible, thanks to the sheer amount of incredible stuff going on, but also exciting and very interesting. Writing about them was an added bonus!

Shakespeare wins

In my position as Digital Content Writer I learnt so many skills, like how to write for different audiences, how to edit and subedit, how to write for social media and track the analytics, and tons more. Researching healthtech became part of my daily routine, and new tasks were thrown at me every day. Although some of the more business-focused work was initially challenging, I could appreciate how useful it was for me to pick up on (which I eventually did!)

From my internship I’ll take away not only a great new skillset but a thirst for all things tech and health-orientated. The leaps being made in the industry really are huge and I’m keen to see what the future holds.

However, I do want to point out that even in this tech-savvy world, the written word is as important as ever. Being a writer, you may say I’m biased, but it’s true. Communication in this industry is key. And all communication, even spoken, first has to be put down on paper. Look around you. How many marketing and advertising campaigns would be rendered questionable, if not useless, without the syntax holding them together? And it’s not like those catchy phrases are accidents – again, there’s a lot more than meets the eye. Hence my time at Nitro made me appreciate the beauty of writing even more than I did before.

I’m not a barista

All in all, it was incredibly valuable to experience life in a busy agency, and just from being in the office I picked up on so much stuff I wasn’t even working on (not all of it went over my head – yay!) I was put to work on important projects and felt like I was a real asset to the team. Let’s just say it wasn’t your typical making-the-coffee internship!

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10 Reasons why Custom Audiences are Awesome

The concept of Custom Audiences was introduced in 2012 and is one of the most revolutionary tools for advertising on Facebook. When used in the context of Life Science or Pharmaceutical company multi-channel marketing it offers unparalleled disruptive opportunities.

Custom Audiences offer an approach to advertising that’s more than just advertising to the masses, it’s about exactly who you want to reach, going far beyond broader targeting options like gender, location, age, relationship status and interests. It has been used successfully by large and small businesses since its launch in the consumer and B2B sectors, but, surprisingly, has so far had relatively little use in the Life Sciences industry. Facebook have the most advanced and available tools, Twitter are close behind, and while LinkedIn is more bespoke, currently we’d bet on them to launch a credible, at scale service soon. The services allow companies to engage with not only their existing audience but also reach potential new audiences with highly targeted messages across the world’s largest social networks. But it offers much more than that…

‘I don’t really do social media’ – SAID NO-ONE EVER.

Contrary to popular belief, healthcare professionals do use popular digital media channels – social media. 87% of physicians aged 26-55 say they use social media, and a majority see the benefits of using social media to reach current, high-quality information. Therefore Custom Audiences can be used to contact HCPs with meaningful messages whilst they scroll through their friend’s latest statuses or photos of their last holiday.

Just like eating Fairtrade chocolate.

By making adverts visible and accessible only to HCPs in Custom Audiences who have been pre-identified or are existing customers, any ethical ambiguity about the social advertising of drugs, disease awareness campaigns and medical products to the general public disappears, something that can’t really be claimed by the majority of scientific and medical publishing networks. With our service, only verified professionals receive the ads, which are not only relevant to them, but contain content that is suitable for and safe in their highly-skilled hands. Mmm. Delicious.

Very very cheap (one pound fish).

Due to the ethical safety nets in place and closed community nature of private medical networks, previously advertisers had to spend a lot of buck for not much bang. Luckily, social media advertising is dirt cheap by comparison if you’re not too fussed about who you reach. Custom Audiences enable healthcare advertisers to reach known audiences at consumer rates, making tools like better than great value, offering a low market cost whilst reaching a targeted, highly qualified audience – win-win.

No doubt! (Don’t speak, I know what you’re saying).

‘Yeah, but Healthcare Professionals don’t want to receive work related ads in their social networks right?’ Wrong! We strongly beg to differ, sir. The reduction in media wastage offered by carefully constructed Custom Audiences trumps this contextual argument and we have the evidence to show it, with our users acquired through attaining better than market bounce rates, dwell time and conversion rates. It’s all about making sure there is a value exchange in advertising for the healthcare professional (education, events and news work brilliantly!) Get in touch, we’d love to talk you through the data.

Getting up close and personal.

Advertisers have the wealth of data that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn offer at their service – your age, gender, location and even interests – and can use this in audience optimisation. For example, Custom Audiences could notify an HCP of a seminar about cardiology being held in their area. Layering these parameters on top of Custom Audience lists means customers can be segmented and receive a highly personal message. Think birthday card from your mum vs a mass email from Moonpig.

You don’t need to tell everyone.

To further tailor Custom Audiences, advertisers can use ‘exclusion targeting’ to exclude certain audience members from particular messages. For instance, if an advertiser were running a campaign aimed purely at recently graduated medical students, despite shared qualifications and interests, they could use exclusion targeting to leave out older graduates from the audience.

Spreads like butter.

Advertisers can target not only their existing audience but have the potential to spread to new audiences using the ‘Lookalike Audiences’ feature. Lookalike Audiences expands a businesses’ potential audience by finding people similar to those in their existing Custom Audience list. It takes out the hard work of finding new audiences and what’s more, the service is free.

Safe as houses. Houses with huge security gates and a guard dog named Killer.

All data entered into Custom Audiences by the advertiser is protected and encrypted, while no Facebook user rights are infringed. When data is uploaded it is ‘hashed,’ meaning Facebook cannot access the data but they create a ‘fingerprint’ of it, which functions as a summary. Therefore data never leaves the company server – a key feature due to the importance of confidentiality in the healthcare industry.

Track your audience like a FedEx package.

The ‘Custom Audience Pixel’ means companies can track their audience members’ progress, recording individual click-through rate (CTR) and general online activity. For example, using this tool, advertisers could target people who were browsing medical journals and perhaps began a checkout process for subscription. Directing ads their way for the product they’ve already shown an interest in can help complete the conversion.

Innovate like the valley! (The Silicon one that is).

Let’s face it – non-data driven media buys are a bit old school. Custom Audiences offer the chance for healthcare brands to differentiate and disrupt. As the media is performance related, you can experiment, meaning you can A/B test and iterate so you get relevant campaign optimisation and learn from it. With the additional cost advantages, if ever there was a case for innovating your brand plan this has got to be it. Let’s get you your ‘innovation hero’ badge today!

Quite simply, Custom Audiences delivers results. It is more effective than blanket social media advertising as it effectively targets an appropriate and interested audience, rather than using a hit-and-miss system. It works across platforms, offering tools to target web and mobile app visitors as well as contacts via email – increasing audience scope while maintaining focus to reduce wasted advertising. Various case studies reveal increased CTRs and conversion rates, and decreased cost per user. Campaigns have seen Custom Audiences deliver over five times return on ad spend as compared to standard interest targeting – exciting stuff. is one such innovative development successfully making use of Custom Audiences to target individuals in the healthcare and life sciences industry, and initial figures look more-than promising. is a unique global healthcare advertising channel that uses Custom Audiences to help advertisers connect with and collaborate with healthcare professionals. If you’d like to learn more about why we think Custom Audiences are so awesome please give us a call today on: 020 7148 6814