Posted by miccor01 on January 9th, 2017

We all know the promise and yes, sometimes the creepiness of online ads that are directly targeted to our personal information, interests or behavior.  Done correctly and responsibly however, there is great value in ad targeting – both to the viewer and the advertiser.

Data-enabled ad targeting combined with the process of programmatic buying of digital ad units on the web, social and other platforms has been providing greater effectiveness and efficiency to the majority of digital advertising in the consumer and B2B space for a few years now.  Only about 15% of pharma and healthcare advertisers however are using this method to market their products and services to either consumers or healthcare professionals (HCPs).  Some of this hesitance is based on compliance and privacy concerns and some on lack of understanding of how all the pieces come together to create an effective solution.

As an advertiser, you have many choices of how and where to buy ad inventory and what data to use to fuel the accurate targeting of your campaigns.  Like any marketing discipline, it’s important to understand all aspects of the process to bring confidence that you will meet your objectives.

MedData Group obviously provides digital data solutions so that is where I’ll focus some thoughts.  On the data side of programmatic, you have many choices to make and understand.  However, the choices of available data are not all the same.  In fact, not nearly the same.

In order to have accurate digital targeting, the one-to-one relationship between offline identity, (sometimes called offline persona) to the online identity (digital persona) is key to not only effectiveness but also regulatory compliance.

Like many things, the methods that achieve this offline/online linkage are not binary but rather they are on a continuum from what we call deterministic matching to probabilistic matching.  As the names imply, deterministic means extremely high confidence that the identity link is accurate, while probabilistic means that well, there is some level of probability that the link is accurate.

Though somewhat beaten up in the press, cookies or digital tags, are the ‘glue’ between offline and online. (And editorial comment – they are also what keeps the vast majority of digital content free to viewers.)  But who drops or sets the cookie and how it is associated to offline identity determines how accurate (deterministic) or possibly inaccurate (probabilistic) the link might be.

The most accurate linkage method is to bake the cookie yourself (ok, I’ll stop now) – meaning upon a visit to your website or an open or click of an email, you have a chance to set a cookie and immediately associate that cookie ID to PII (personally identifiable information) that you already know about that individual.  You can do this either with a first party cookie (cookie associated to your domain) or a 3rd party cookie (a cookie set by another entity but still associated to PII that you own).  As you head down the accuracy continuum, you get to a process called ‘onboarding’.  Onboarding is a process provided by big data companies that aggregate very large amounts of PII and associate those offline identities to their own and other 3rd party cookies creating the offline/online identity linkage.  Onboarding however can be accomplished in many ways – some of which are more accurate than others.  For instance, matching an email that you own via an onboarding service to data that the onboarding provider has, can be reasonably accurate.  However, matching your offline data to theirs based on demographic data like names, address, phone and other elements, is usually highly probabilistic which might be ok for marketing cars or other consumer products, but definitely not ok for marketing pharmaceuticals to healthcare professionals.

The big data ecosystem that creates the linkage of petabytes of offline data, to online identity and then on to cookie IDs that can be used to target your programmatic digital campaigns is complex and sometimes confusing.  But just like the email world of HCP marketing where the most important thing is the linkage of an HCP NPI number to his/her accurate email address, the questions you should be thinking about and asking any vendor you talk to, is how do they make the offline/online link and why should you trust that it is accurate.

In other words, how do they bake their cookies?

We’d love to hear from you about how our solutions can help you.  Contact me today with your questions, comments and feedback or contact sales directly at: [email protected] or call 978-887-0039.


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