3 Expert Tips to Maximize Your Pharma Digital Ad Campaign's Performance


BLP’s Favorite Ad Hacks on Facebook, Google, and TikTok

The pharmaceutical ad industry continues to see explosive growth in the 2020s. It’s hard to believe that in just 6 years, digital ad spend in this vertical has risen over 5x, from $2.2 billion in 2016 to $11.25 billion in 2022 (source: Statista). Online advertising dollars are now more than double that of TV, giving pharmaceutical marketers the opportunity to maximize the effectiveness of their budgets utilizing channels known for their efficiency in driving awareness and acquisition. 

Our experience as an agency managing ad spend for several prominent pharmaceutical brands has taught us many valuable lessons along the way and we’re here to share our favorite hacks on Facebook, Google and TikTok. 

Ad Hack #1: A Workaround for iOS 14 Breakdowns on Facebook and Instagram Ads

Amidst the post-iOS 14 madness, perhaps the biggest challenge for Facebook advertisers now is the lack of any insightful breakdown data. In the past, advertisers could easily break down the efficacy of their ad spend via key segments: age, gender, region, impression device (iOS vs. Android vs. desktop), state, city, hour of day, and more. These days, all that can be seen is very basic data like spend, CTR, CPC, and CPM by segment. Nothing related to conversion goals, which almost makes it all feel useless.

While many pharma advertisers may already know who they’re broadly going after, given the nature of the brand, variables like CPM, conversion rate, and ad placement can completely skew the cost per lead, cost per key page view, or any desired conversion goal. In such cases, an optimal segment might not necessarily be yielding the best return on ad spend.

Unless the objective is solely awareness, you’ll likely want to know a lot more than simply who’s clicking on your ad. Here’s a lightweight tactic we’ve developed that helps us learn more, faster, using a low overall percentage of our campaign budgets to learn.

At the onset of our campaigns, we’ll run separate ad sets to a variety of segments on their own (ie: gender, age, geographic location, etc). This becomes especially important if your product is targeting a wider band of the population. By parsing out different segments, you can uncover important relative learnings that otherwise won’t be available. Every pharmaceutical offering is different, where some only cater to one gender or specific age groups - so choosing which segments to test will be decided on a brand-by-brand basis.The overall idea here is to get as specific as you can within the segments that matter most, in order to spend your budget toward who (demographics), when (time of day/day of week), and where (geographic regions) you’ll see the best results on Facebook and Instagram ad spend.

Important note: Typically, Facebook and Instagram will see a relative loss of efficiency when you get too granular with your segmentation. The audiences are smaller and Facebook/IG therefore have less potential people likely converters within each audience to draw from. In addition, the auction-based nature of the ad platform means that bids against smaller audiences will usually lead to inflated CPMs.

Our advice is to allocate a small percentage of overall spend that leads to statistically significant findings, and then combining the best segments (wherever appropriate) into larger audiences.

Look at it like this: even if you spend the first 5% of your campaign budget in this way and see a modest efficiency loss, the learnings you generate from such a simple test will surely improve the remaining 95% of your budget by far more than 5%.

This is a no-brainer as we see it, especially when dealing with a new product and have less (or no) historical platform data to draw from. In our experience, these efforts have led to clear efficiency gains for our clients that range from 30% to 160%.

Ad Hack #2: Our Favorite Secret to Google and YouTube Ads Mastery

While breakdowns on the Meta ad platform are a frustrating black box, most breakdown data is thankfully still available on the Google Ads platform.

You can therefore begin your campaign casting a wider net, but dig into the performance data and look for all of the breakdowns you possibly can. There’s gold in there.

Once you’ve done this, our favorite tactic is the use of bid adjustments. We commonly adjust bids (decreases where weak, increases where strong) around the following segments on Google and YouTube ads:

1. Time of day/day of week: Dayparting via bid adjustments is one of the easiest ways to improve the performance of any Google or YouTube ads campaign. It’s amazing to see how overlooked such a simple yet effective tactic tends to be. When it comes down to it, people simply have more time on their hands during certain times of day, and certain days of the week. They’re typically more likely to complete your conversion objective when they have more time.

2. Impression device: Desktop, tablet, and mobile users typically convert at different rates on almost every campaign that we run. Make these bid adjustments to normalize your CPA across all device types.

3. Geographic region: Whether it’s by state or city, you can be certain that some parts of the country will perform better than others on any ad campaign, and usually with good reason since your core buyer persona is more likely to live in some places than others. Making bid adjustments at state and city levels can have a profound impact on your overall campaign performance. It’s a tedious task, but even if it takes you 2 hours of redundant work, those 2 hours will yield such an enormous return on your time when you consider the months and years of incremental efficiency you’ll get out of these adjustments.

4. Gender, age, and income level: While Google recently removed the ability to globally make these adjustments, there’s an easy way around this: simply split these out into different ad groups and manually set different bids. Unlike Facebook, you won’t see the CPM increases or efficiency loss since your bid will dictate your eCPM or average CPA. This isn’t to say that you want 30 ad groups running since that would simply be a headache to manage, but there’s no harm in breaking these down at a higher level and combining closely related segments to form 5-10 of these, each with their own bids.

Ad Hack #3: Bonus TikTok Ads Secret

Are you running ads on TikTok yet? If not, you must! CPMs are more competitive than on Facebook and Google, and the average age of a TikTok user continues to increase as the platform marches toward critical mass across all age groups.

TikTok’s Creator Marketplace has been our secret weapon for the past year. Not only will it help your TikTok campaigns, but it can also supercharge your Facebook and YouTube results as well. If you aren’t familiar with it, the premise is simple: you can find active TikTok users with large followings who, for a fee, will create a video ad for you to use in your campaigns.

You may be asking yourself why you’d want this when you likely have professionally filmed video assets that may look worlds better in terms of overall quality. 

The answer is simple:

TikTok users are far more likely to engage with ads that look native to the platform. And as these are users with large follower bases, they only got to that place by creating content loved by other users.

Try running a native TikTok ad as your creative. You’ll naturally need to ensure that any verbiage and claims used within the ad meet regulatory requirements, but the results of a well-made TikTok ad via the Creator Marketplace can blow a conventional ad out of the water.

If all that isn’t enough, here’s one more extra perk: you can reuse that video ad on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube and there’s a good chance it’ll become a top performer in those campaigns as well. This authentic creative style transcends TikTok and works well just about everywhere these days.

How the BLP Team Can Help

The pharma industry is inarguably one of the most difficult industries for advertising, but the BLP team understands it better than anyone else. Our team of experts has the effective and cost-efficient solutions to help you scale your campaigns across search and social platforms. To learn more about how we can enhance your digital ad campaigns, drop us an email at