Category Archives: Tech

Wouldn’t it be nice if Blockchain really worked?

It looks like Big Pharma will finally hop on the blockchain bandwagon pulled by the cryptocurrency train, or will they? This read offers a fresh look from the customer’s perspective to help you stay focussed on outcomes when you’re shopping for blockchain as a service (BaaS) providers.

The possibilities for virtually distributed ledgers (what blockchain boils down to) seem promising: Identify and trace certain prescription drugs. Eliminate counterfeiting and other types of fraud. Track drugs through the supply chain. Prevent patients from participating in multiple studies simultaneously. But will blockchain really live up to the hype? Or will it stall on the peak of inflated expectations (autonomous vehicles, anyone?)

Source: Gartner, Inc.

If you ask me – It depends. If it’s accessible, easy to understand and robust to operate, I’ll use it. Otherwise, it’s either a classic car or I wouldn’t spend a penny (although it looks like any industry using transactions is most likely to be disrupted by blockchain, so I’ll save my pennies).

So join me on a journey back in time to study three technologies that equally started off as innovation triggers, find out why they went through the lows of disillusionment, and learn what it takes to properly introduce blockchain for health and life sciences.

Late check-in

Let’s start out with something trivial. Have you ever tried and succeeded in making a doctor’s appointment online? It really looks like the hotel reservation paradigm has found its way into healthcare. You know, where the common misconception is that the booking agency forwards your details to the hotel (which they do) but you still have to fill in the form with a ballpoint pen upon your arrival no matter how late.

Same at the doctors. Although I’m equipped with a digital ID issued to German citizens by the local registration offices, I still find myself undergoing interrogation as if I was applying for a loan each time I enter the practice. And even though I got myself an electronic smart card reader for my Mac I still can’t use it, for they had added another variable that is missing from my first generation ID card. Bummer.

Say cheese

Second example: QR-Codes. You know, the type of matrix barcode (or 2-D barcode) invented for Toyota in 1994 to track auto parts on a factory assembly line. When the first iPhone came out in 2007, someone had the brilliant idea to put them into a magazine -next to a substantial manual of how to install a QR code reader- so that people could jump to a website by taking a picture with their phone.

© Twitter

It’s ten years later and you see QR-Codes on billboards all over the subway. If you’re like me, however, you probably wonder why anyone would install an app, dig her phone out of the bag, reach across the wagon and take a picture of a chess pattern instead of just looking up the freaking audiobook/shoes/drain cleaner… (insert an item of choice) on Amazon. It wasn’t until recently that Apple ships a QR code reader with its native camera app. Oh, and ‘QR’ stands for “quick response” – just in case you wondered.

Hall of fame

The third example is a quick one. HealthKit. Having meticulously tracked every breath I took, every move I made, every step I took over the course of a whole year, I just found out in May that I lost half of my health data when I switched to my new phone last Christmas. How on earth could I expect that it was stored in the cloud?

Apparently, the merits of data regulations went so far as that none of my data was stored at all, at least not outside my phone. I was supposed to make a backup in iTunes and restore it from there, which of course I never do because, you guessed it, my data is in the Cloud.

Well, at least my all-time high score from Super Mario Run in December is still there.

So what’s the point?

In the first example (making a doctor’s appointment) I faced a very reasonable challenge but the healthcare system didn’t provide me with an accessible solution. In the second example (QR-Codes), the solution was there but it wasn’t designed with the user’s experience in mind. And in the third example (HealthKit), the solution was very comfortable to access and a breeze to use, but data storage wasn’t very robust.

If it’s accessible, easy to understand and robust to operate, I’ll use it.

Last time I checked with my client, blockchain was all about personal wallets and private ledgers (running the infrastructure for a full-scale blockchain operation is quite expensive, or so it seems). And then there were plans for having a shadow database just in case the distributed ledger got corrupted. Didn’t occur all that robust to me.

But then there are people that will tell you that problems such as making a doctor’s appointment online, decoding information from photographs, and managing health data in the cloud could actually be solved by using decentralized structures.

Blockchain in pharma

Of course, you don’t buy and use a blockchain as such. It’s an underlying technology that can be applied across all industries such as finance, supply chain management, and, well, pharma.

How it works:

  • A blockchain is a distributed (decentralised) virtual ledger in which transactions are processed, validated and recorded.
  • New transactions are bundled into ‘blocks’ which are added to the chain using cryptography so that nobody can edit or delete any data.
  • Think Who, What, and When as the type of data for which blockchain is particularly suitable, e.g. tracking prescriptions and drug regimen.

Such distributed ledgers can be used by the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors to record sensitive information such as patient health data in a permanent and incorruptible way.

Who’s in it already?

In the United States, blockchain is being tested for eliminating counterfeiting and other types of fraud for demonstrating compliance with the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) to identify and trace certain prescription drugs.

In China, a new blockchain platform is being introduced which will track drugs through the supply chain and encrypt trading records, making it easier for smaller companies to access credit and reducing the time it takes for payments to be processed.

In developing countries, blockchain could help smaller retailers in supply chain management to access financing for delivered medicines that are paid months later.

Blockchain could be used to create so-called ‘smart contracts’, stored with all parties at the same time, which would significantly reduce inefficiency in the overall pharma and healthcare ecosystems where multiple parties enter into an agreement where there is potential for miscommunication and mistrust.

Also, blockchain could be a key to the management of clinical trials, where the confidentiality of patient information, and the integrity of trial data, are of paramount concern. One possible use for blockchain in this context is to create and store unique identities for trial participants, preventing patients from participating in multiple studies simultaneously.

By securely sharing information on the blockchain across trials, pharmaceutical companies will be able to access up-to-date information on trial progress and facilitate new modes of collaboration, hoping that the timeline for clinical development could be shortened.

From here

Study the Gartner Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2017 and you will see that blockchain, artificial intelligence and augmented reality are expected to unfold their full business potential in just a few years.

You might want to have a look at blockchain as a service (BaaS) solutions from Amazon and Microsoft Azure, or check out Oracle’s Blockchain Cloud Service, and IBM’s Blockchain Platform. To get you started, our research and development team at Nitro Digital can help you answer the exact digital marketing questions you have with blockchain and clinical trials tailored towards your specific needs.

To get in touch, reach out to us at, we would love to get your opinion.


The fourth industrial revolution and what this means for medicine

Individual technology advancements have been vast for the last 100 years, however, the convergence of these technologies we are seeing over the last few years, the speed, the velocity and disruption of change is something which has never been experienced before

To put in context, what is today the widely adopted telephone took around 70 years to really penetrate the majority of households. The personal computer was around for 20 years before it became widely popular. The iPhone took Apple just 6.5 years to reach the penetration of half a billion in a global audience. In more recent years the likes of Uber are now collecting data points of over 40 million monthly users as we go about our daily business. For Facebook in the 13 years, it has been around, has become now the 2nd biggest organisation (in terms number of members) on the blue planet, only a small margin behind to the entire combined Christian religious sects of the world! So it’s clear the speed and intensity that technology is swarming over us is only increasing.

The 4 waves

The 1st Industrial revolution in the 19th century broadly brought in the era of automated machines, mechanical innovations and large metal industrial machines which changed the landscape for factory workers and industry

The 2nd Industrial revolution brought around the ability to mass produce through assembly lines and electrification

The 3rd industrial revolution through the 1970s to the early noughties brought mainframe computing, personal computers and the internet

Today we stand on the doorstep of the 4th industrial revolution where radical system-wide innovation can happen in only a few years. The intersection of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, IoT sensors and computing power will create realities which we have previously thought unthinkable. Access to technology will mean almost anyone will be in a position to create new products and services cheaply and with rapid pace – this will disrupt and change the business model of each and every industry.

As the technology moves so fast, and the wave of excitement (by some) gears up to the possibilities ahead of us, It is important to ensure that we take stock, and ask the ethical question to ensure that this is used ‘for the good’. The balance between what we stand to win and what we might lose as a society is for another debate, but one thing for sure is that we must ensure that this evolution happens with humans centred at the core of it and not the technology. Much of the bad press that some of these technologies (such as Alexa recording a private conversation or the driverless car causing injury or death) are obviously not to be ignored, so ensuring that regulations and a universal code of ethics are established along with the technology development is equally as important in my view.

‘The only constant is, change’

But what could this mean for the healthcare industry, a $7.5 trillion global annual spend industry? Few industries have the potential to be changed so profoundly by digital technology as healthcare, but the challenges facing innovators – from regulatory barriers to difficulties in digitizing patient data – should not be underestimated.

By almost any measure, global health has improved dramatically in recent decades. However, the current model for providing healthcare is being slowly torn apart by the opposing forces of an ageing population and greater restraints on government spending.

However, the revolution of technology which has built such momentum in the social conversation through the decades has provided an umbrella to another revolution which has unassumingly been happening – the genetics revolution!

Similar to technology, the human genome is an information processing device; just one produced by biology and evolution rather being programmed with a computer. The 4th industrial revolution will also power the automation of biology, and we stand on the cusp of an incredible take off of genomic technology.

Today, 4% of the world’s data collected is in health data, a relatively low percentage of the overall data collected. But this is changing…fast. By 2030 it is predicted that 41% of the world’s data collected will be related to health. With the application of various techniques from the Artificial Intelligence world to allow for large-scale biology automation, this is posing questions, both quantitatively and qualitatively, that have never been asked before. What is a disease for example, and how does this manifest itself against different genotypes? Rather than a blanket, one-size-fits-most approach, medical professionals will be able to personalize the treatment choices for patients based on a dataset consisting of information that is extracted from your genetic profile (which you have inherited from your family), your daily habits, where you live and other environmental factors. The cost of reaching these outcomes has dramatically decreased also. Decoding the first genome in 2004 costs hundreds of millions of dollars yet by today’s standards, machines can sequence 18,000 annually for around $1000. Companies or initiatives like 23andme have brought some aspect of DNA profiling to the consumer market while the ‘quiet’ revolution in the deep genetic profiling space by companies such as Foundation Medicine and Helix, is paving the way for a real revolution in healthcare and medicine as we know it.

Digital and healthcare are at the core of what we do at Nitro. We love to get into these aspects and how we can help realise, with our partners, the challenges intersecting digital and healthcare. These two frontiers will continue to collide, and ensuring that we do all we can to adhere to the basic principle of ensuring that we keep the human user at the heart of it all and, solve problems for the ultimate good.

Get in touch we’d love to chat more on this or tell us what you think?


The voices you can’t ignore

From the first WAP phones of the late nineties (Nokia 7110 anyone?), and the introduction of the game changing iPhone in 2007, the idea that users can have on-demand connectivity to the internet on a portable device has led a drive for better, faster devices. Before the iPhone, the trend was ‘the smaller, the better’, but with today’s feature rich devices, the image quality and resolution is important. Screens are getting bigger, but to what end?

While screens are getting bigger, using a keyboard on a phone is not getting any easier. We can’t wait for human evolution catch up, and our fingers become small enough to interact with these devices easily.

Luckily, we don’t have to wait that long, as voice services are here. For several years, the technology just hasn’t been there to allow a machine to understand what you say to it. However, that piece is generally agreed to have been cracked (with some notable exceptions), and with the release of services such as Amazon’s Transcribe to the developer community, it’s never been easier to convert speech to text, and to build these services into our apps and devices. Machine learning as a service allows the transcriptions to get better over time, as the systems learn and build contextual vocabularies to make these faster, more accurate, and with a far higher degree of confidence.

The Growth of Voice

This has been, and will continue to be, much more of a sea-change than the mobile ‘revolution’ has been. Considering how slowly the need for mobile-first, responsive websites was realised amongst brands and creative agencies, the rapid emergence of voice searches is something that can’t be shrugged off. At the very least, if you’re not optimising your web assets for voice, you will be left trailing in the wake of those brands that do. Consider the following statistics:

“50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020”, according to comscore

“As of January 2018, there were an estimated one billion voice searches per month”, according to Alpine.AI.

“60% of people using voice search have started in the last year”, according to MindMeld

“We estimate that 325.8 million people used voice control in the past month”, according to Global Web Index

“47% expect their voice technology usage to increase”, according to ComScore

If you want this massive potential audience to discover your content and engage with your brand, you have to act now.

This doesn’t mean just making your web pages ‘readable’. Publishers already understand that content needs to be optimised for mobile, and the same is true when delivering your content in response to voice searches. A predominantly mobile audience does not want to be presented with a lot of hi-resolution video content, and audio users certainly don’t want to be presented with pages of turgid prose. Audio optimised pages need to be highly relevant, concise and punchy in tone, not delivered like a lecture.

Every piece of content you publish must have not just a omni-channel audience in mind, and publishers need to be aware of the need to engage with their audience in different ways at different times. This presents a challenge to publishers, but it is one that is easily met. There are many Content Management Systems that can publish ‘versions’ of a page, but these are mostly oriented at a visual audience – delivering different content depending on device type and/or screen size.

Where to start?

The open-source content management framework Drupal, in its latest release, has opted to largely separate the Content aspect from the delivery piece. This means Drupal is more than just a tool for building websites (indeed, if that’s all you want to do, Drupal is probably not the solution you are looking for). Drupal is built with integrations in mind, and supports a large number of APIs straight out of the box. This API-first approach means you can have a central application, publishing content to all of your channels; traditional web, social media, mobile apps and voice searches. You can build your applications in any technology you want – and your users will never have to interact with Drupal at all. This separation of the content from the presentation is known as headless, or de-coupled architecture, and is the way forward.

Drupal is an ideal tool for the job. You can construct content that have ‘flavours’ optimised for any audience, whoever and wherever they are. A properly architected system allows you to track any individual’s interaction with all of your content, on all devices.This helps you build a very detailed profile of all of your viewers. This insight allows you to further personalise the experience, delivering the content your audience wants. Utilising machine learning algorithms, you can constantly improve this experience over time.

We’re technology agnostic but solution focused

Nitro Digital have been working with Drupal for over 6 years. We have a number of highly skilled, Acquia certified developers, site Builders and Solution Architects with a combined experience of nearly 60 years. We can help you achieve the outcomes you want, and look forward to understanding your problem in more detail.

Please call us on +44 (0) 207 148 6821, or contact us here to talk to an expert.

What will the future look like?

The Robot Will See You Now. How Pharma Can Approach Using Chatbots.

Innovation can be defined as ‘the production of something original and useful in order to create value for society, business or both’. In line with many of the other great society changing landmarks that have occurred in our age of technology, such as the birth of television, the creation of digital music or the evolution of the mobile phone, we can find an intersection of how technology and a human need collide—which fosters the innovation.

One of the most common examples of human demand which has now been extrapolated in the internet digital era is the need to ‘access information’. But we are becoming lazier in our ever increasing busier lives, and looking it up in a book like when I was a kid is pretty obsolete. Humans tolerate less delay these days; we want it NOW, instantly and requiring limited effort. Chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI) are innovations which are already changing and will continue to change, allowing humans easier access to information through advanced AI platforms.

Messaging continues to dominate

That’s great and all, I hear you say, but isn’t it just another passing phase? Why is it important? Why should you care? Isn’t it just another ‘channel’ of info? In the last couple of years messaging platforms (FB Messenger, Snapchat, WhatsApp etc.) have surpassed the big four social media network channels in terms of size of audience, and clearly this is one of the main reasons that the Googles, Microsofts and Facebooks of this world are sinking billions of dollars into developing their offerings in this space. Now, stop and think about that for a second, and what an impact the current social platforms have had on society and the way we engage with each other today; that’s a pretty big deal, and now there is something that’s bigger!! With audience adoption of these messaging apps being so pervasive, it would make sense if you’re a digital business that’s interested in reach of any sort for this to be part of your channel strategy mix. The pharma industry needs to start aligning with the new consumer on-demand mindset that has been set by online businesses such as Netflix and Amazon. However, don’t include new technology just for the sake of being able to say you are doing it; you still need to put user needs at the centre and make sure you’re creating something that is relevant, valuable and useful to users. Otherwise, don’t bother. 

Technology in this space has progressed leaps and bounds in the last few years.  The rate of machine learning evolves quickly and this technology will only continue to get smarter, faster, more relevant and human-like in its operation. Working in the pharma sector, we know that traditionally this industry as a whole is somewhat of a laggard against more ‘innovation’ leading industry sectors. I think many understand where these blending of human and machine interactions can create immediate efficiencies, convenience and customer experience, so there certainly is an appetite for it. Healthcare is predicted to benefit greatly from this technology evolution and in an increasingly patient/customer-centric world, one of the questions we are constantly asked by our clients  is ‘How do I use this for my customers and in my pharma company?’.

Doing it for pharma

For all pharma organisations, naturally, control and risk mitigation are important factors. The thought of relying on an accurate Siri response to a customer’s question is enough to scare the life out of the typical pharma marketer, or at least elicit cries of ‘code breach!’. However, chatbots can actually be deemed a safe, secure channel, as they can (platform choice dependent) act in a one-to-one environment with customers, rather than social media’s typical one-to-many configuration. Part of the challenge of implementing innovation in a regulated market is about tackling the ‘folklore’ head on and also following successful examples set by your competitors. There are usually ways around these barriers, though, and it doesn’t have to start with anything overly complicated to set your own company precedent for these activities.

At Nitro Digital, we have found there are three typical approaches which pharma can take when addressing chatbots; which of these is the right choice for you really depends on the nature and objectives of your business:

    This operates a curated and controlled experience, with predetermined answers and scripts defined and approved for use. It it limited in scope but is currently a model which pharma marketers favour as they begin to explore this space.
    This model is machine learning driven, and it works by delivering natural language responses to questions and queries through learnt behaviour. This can, however, be unpredictable and its level of sophistication currently will still cause concerns as to the degree of control that can be kept.
    The third option is a mix of the previous two. It allows for the gathering of insights and builds on the knowledge base which customer interactions can offer by capturing these queries and storing them. This way, we prepare for the technology advancement in the platform without losing any of the rich learnings, which is something that pharma will typically do before jumping in. It is a more risk cautious method of approaching chatbots: whilst you are offering a curated experience,  you are also building the datasets of learning to apply to your development at a later date.

Of course, there are still challenges for the industry, like obtaining content approvals, ensuring the Fair Balance Act is upheld, observing privacy laws, etc., but these are obstacles with workarounds rather than showstoppers. However, as we have advised many eager and ambitious clients wanting to be the first to bring chatbots into their organisations—’Let’s not do this just for sake of doing it’—we still need to fill a user need, and it is still an activity which requires a commitment and needs ongoing maintenance and improvement.

‘But isn’t machine learning really difficult and expensive to do?’ you may ask. The truth is that creating a successful automation bot is more of a user experience (UX) challenge than one of technology complexity. And in that respect, it should be approached like any other social or digital activity. Think about the goals you want to achieve; what is the problem you are solving for your users; what is in it for them; what could be automated; what efficiencies can you make; what risk mitigation could this help with; is this something that will deliver cost saving: are all good questions to ask yourself. Start simple, learn, test and evolve the process.  

It’s evident that chatbots are another great technology which can help deliver value within digital marketing—and especially so for pharma and healthcare brands looking for a shortcut to offer value and information to their customers. Examples of instances where chatbots can provide value and enhanced patient care are doctor discussion guides, benefits verification support, medication and refill reminders and overall customer support and content delivery that the user can access whenever they want, 24/7, personalised for their needs. Artificial intelligence has advanced greatly in the last few years, so anyone with some coding smarts can do this, and, in addition, there are already lots of platforms and tools to leverage. Nitro has a 40+ strong team of keen software developers looking to experiment with this tech to solve problems for you.

So, start thinking about this now as this needs to be part of your digital strategy, not a bolt-on, nice-to-have afterthought. And you need to be thinking about this now for 2018, not 2020, as by then the market will be saturated and you’ll have missed the robo-party. You can read more about how chatbots can benefit  your marketing strategy in general here.

For any help exploring this area, please get in touch with us directly at, we would love to hear from you.




2017-Nitro Digital-vision-graphic

2017: The Life Sciences Marketplace and the Imperative for Change

Let me start the year not with a retrospective, but with a call out to what we want to build at Nitro.

First off, it’s worth stating what we believe, or rather hypothesise:

  • That a fundamental shift must occur in the way the life sciences industry approaches marketing.
  • That this is necessary in order to make healthcare sustainable. Life sciences companies are major contributors to R&D, and their participation in society is not only necessary, but vital.
  • That the companies that are best placed to contribute will not be just those with the right drug at the right price, but those which, having got that mix right, are then able to combine it with collaborative HCPs and a layer of digital and communication services that support either real work outcomes, professional collaboration or patient care.
  • That the way to achieve this goal is not simply using sales reps as glorified delivery men and women. I’d go further, and say that few doctors want to see reps anymore for product information alone.
  • That creating a new promotional and educational distribution model for the pharma industry is not easy, nor is there a single silver bullet. Healthcare is, so far, reluctant to see the rise of an Alibaba or Uber in its sector; perhaps it will come, but perhaps the system is too fragmented, complex and non-commoditised for that. (although, if you continue the Alibaba analogy, that would make it ideal for a bit of disruption. . .which brings me to my next point nearly).
  • That everyone wins if a more efficient, digitally enabled, two-sided market emerges in healthcare.
  • That technology is essentially borderless and has the power to effect global change in our industry as much as it has in others.

We started Nitro 15 years ago based on these beliefs. We believe them now. Achieving a solution to the issues created by the challenges above has proved elusive, but I genuinely believe we have developed the scale and expertise in what is an ever moving tech and process stack that means we can take major steps forward in 2017 towards helping our clients find more efficient, tech-enabled ways of engaging with HCPS, patients and other stakeholders for better healthcare overall.

Of course, the journey will not be competed this year, or the next, or perhaps ever. But maybe that’s part of the fun of it.

So, all that being said, we think we have—through some deep and testing experience—a clearer idea of what the makings of a two-sided marketplace for life sciences looks like and what this means for the sales and marketing model for the sector. We refer to this as life sciences social closed loop marketing (CLM), and at the heart of it is a powerful combination of a BuzzFeed-esque content marketing model, a tech stack configured to cope with the regulatory and global nuances of our industry, and a data-driven understanding of customer experience and the means and modes of acquisition and retention. Ultimately, to us it’s about helping life sciences companies build up their own proprietary distribution channels.

Here’s what it could look like:


In our opinion, life sciences companies need to work iteratively (emphasis on iterative collaborative working) to build the following business processes and tech stack to compete effectively in the world that awaits us.

  • A Content Engine that contains the people, processes and tools to deliver high quality, targeted, relevant (to the audience’s needs) and consistent content in a variety of media types. It should produce creative and ethical content backed by science, and conforming to modern internet content marketing techniques: think Buzz Feed meets the BMJ! Notably, the resulting items should be incredibly timely and published more frequently. There should be a mix of interactive, service-based and information communication, most of which will be curated and created by KOLs. This content engine is not just about production, but also technologies that facilitate the creation, curation and publishing of content, like Nitro’s own proprietary ULTRA Buzz system, the Veeva Vault or web services like Grammarly.
  • A Multichannel Publishing System, whether it’s an owned media one using a CMS-like Drupal or Adobe’s Creative Cloud, or using earned platforms, like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • An Acquisition Strategy, since we know from having built thousands of sites that ‘build it and they will come’ just doesn’t work in the life sciences sector. Marketers, therefore, must (in our humble opinion) have an effective user acquisition strategy in place using a mix of media tailored specifically to their target audience’s needs, to be able to reach them where and when they want to be reached. Nitro’s media effectiveness database assembled using over a decade of data-driven experience allows for easy budget optimisation across a range of disparate media channels and across a full range of therapy areas.

All of the above creates visibility for your online assets, but as the cost of media in our industry is relatively high, it’s critical to provide an engaging interaction and to extend the ROI beyond the first visit. To encourage this ‘stickiness’  you’ll need:

  • A Measurement/Analytics plan, as well as a Customer Experience and Data Management strategy, whether it’s gathering feedback through net promoter score usage or other surveys; data from interactive services,; creating cookie-dropped user tag lists; email capture or sign up; or analytic services such as Google or Adobe using their respective tag managers. This activity is primarily to ensure you deliver and can measure the value you are providing but also about allowing you to segment and augment data so that you can:
  • Pull data back into and sync with your CRM (Veeva, Agnito, Salesforce) (data extension strategy) and enable your KAMs and other colleagues to leverage it, and;
  • Critically—and so far largely absent in our industry—a retargeting strategy utilising not just valuable and relevant high frequency content (see 1 above!) and email, but also cookie and data-driven and programmatic retargeting marketplaces. Talk to me any day about the relative ROI of buying media in this way compared to the cost of initial acquisition. This is the realisation of a core internet economy principle, the development by brands of their own proprietary distribution channel.
  • Finally, the output of all these efforts can’t be directly about shifting ‘drug product’ through share of voice (through that last point plays an import role in acquisition). It’s about (again, in our opinion) building genuine advocacy through listening, responding and partnering. This builds trust and will at scale be reflected in content creation which if you follow the logic through will create a virtuous circle fuelling the company’s content engine (see the diagram above!). Beautiful!

So that’s it in a nutshell. It’s not a simple vision, way more complex than just content and communications but, if successful, way more valuable for all concerned. It would be amazing to build a company that delivered on this.

That’s our plan. 2017 and beyond.

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 2017, up 44% from 2016 (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.