PHM HealthFront: The Industry’s Healthcare-Focused Upfront

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By Andrea Palmer, Publicis Health Media’s President

The media calendar has long been anchored by the Upfronts, an industry-dominating, star-studded investment event in which advertisers commit the lion’s share of their budgets for the year ahead. As media’s major marketplace, Upfronts as well as NewFronts have historically played host to the newest innovations, often sold as first-mover opportunities.

This system has secured prime placements and top dollars for years, and healthcare is no stranger to the benefits of early mover pricing. But when it comes to product innovation and solutions development, the industry has fallen short on delivering against the specific needs and opportunities unique to patient and provider audiences.  

It’s past time that Upfronts, the grande dame of the media world, be augmented with a more targeted type of event—one focused exclusively on a single industry, where advertising opportunities can be tailored to a specific client base. This is why my team and I have created and launched the PHM HealthFront, an event customized for the healthcare media marketplace, to provide industry-specific solutions and opportunities.

Though pharma has long been a leader in advertising spend (with an incredible 90% increase in digital spend since 2017), the time is right for this forum to connect innovative thinkers in healthcare media. In this article, I’d like to shed some light on a few important reasons the healthcare space needs more tailored opportunities and events like this.

Sharing the mic amid constricted supply

One major reason why healthcare and pharma need new forums to optimize the current marketplace is the constricted supply occurring in linear TV. As I discussed in a recent piece, linear TV spend continues to grow due to limited supply priced at a premium, further exacerbated by new entrants into the marketplace. With this shrinking supply and growing demand, it’s crucial that healthcare marketers find new solutions to speak to their finite patient populations rather than relying on broad and increasingly expensive tactics.

Taking new risks, finding new audiences

While pharma has been known to be risk-averse in advertising, the shifting marketplace requires a creative approach to speak to patient audiences with unmet needs. Traditional Upfronts have been successful in creating blockbuster solutions to speak to a large and broad audience. But for healthcare, which needs to operate within regulatory and privacy restrictions, innovation can look and feel quite different, as target audiences are constrained and finite. Privacy laws and restrictions mean that marketers must continually innovate and re-imagine how to effectively identify and reach their audience.

Driving innovation in healthcare-specific channels

In addition to unique audience restrictions and behaviors, healthcare also leverages channels not accessed by other industries, and thus not represented in other media-buying forums. Point of care is a significant marketplace in healthcare, with channels like telemedicine on a major growth trajectory. With a more industry-focused environment, we can focus on the rise of these channels and how best to leverage their increasing ubiquity.

Building a media ecosystem

The power of the Upfront is the ability to reach a broad audience with innovative new tools. This will continue, as it should, to be a major force in media. However, in health, this kind of reach and scale needs to be balanced with credible information delivered to a consumer at the exact moment in their health journey. In the healthcare market, a consumer decision is not an isolated purchase or a single decision, but one of many smaller decisions. 

Pharma and healthcare marketers need innovative new forums to compete in the modern market. Media isn’t one size fits all—not for health and not for a good many other industries struggling to adapt today. A focused program can help advertisers achieve their specific goals and really move the needle for their business and clients, resulting in better health opportunities and outcomes for people. 

In any business, it’s important to identify a niche, develop a specialty and re-imagine that specialty in a way that makes your business stand out and deliver results above and beyond.