HCPs are Consumers too, a ConnectedTV POV

Cliff Covey, Vice President, SEM & Emerging Media | Jason Sibley, Vice President, SEM & Emerging Media

September 21, 2021


As the TV market changes through platform fragmentation, Linear TV ratings falling and COVID accelerating the growth of cord cutting, many brands are jumping onto the ConnectedTV (CTV) bandwagon.

During the June 2021 Digital Pharma Innovation Week panel on How Biddable Media is the Essential Connection Point in the Consumer Health Journey, moderated by Andrew Miller of CMI Media Group, CTV was a hot topic. Jenn Willey, Sr Director, Client Development at The Trade Desk, noted that 75% of adults ages 45-55 and more than half of adults 55+ in the US are adopting CTV1. These numbers help correct the misperception that CTV is only for millennials and are, in fact, key demographics in the health and wellness space. Additionally, Megan Bensette, Consumer Marketing Lead at AstraZeneca, noted that 20 years ago we wouldn’t see certain areas of pharma promote on broadcast TV due to small patient populations, but now, with CTV, we can reach the right patients with the right messaging. As a result, it’s essential that brands are taking advantage of this massive audience on CTV.

Why You Should Target HCPs as Consumers Using DTC Creative

Remember that HCPs are consumers too and can be reached via consumer-facing TV. According to CMI Media Group’s 2020/21 Media Vitals research, 74% of HCPs notice branded Pharma ads when watching TV, with 39% searching for more information after seeing TV ads. With the insight that our HCP audience is engaging with DTC TV commercials, the growth of CTV adoption and with the unique targeting capabilities of CTV, online video advertising (OLV) and over-the-top (OTT), there is opportunity to utilize DTC TV creative to target HCPs on a 1:1 (household) basis.

There are many benefits to utilizing DTC TV creative to target HCPs. To start, this will aid in brand awareness and visibility outside of standard non-personal promotion. This also grants HCPs the opportunity to educate themselves on the content that their patients are seeing and will be asking about. Lastly, it opens the door for an opportunity to engage HCPs with longer form content and results in embracing an omni-channel approach that reaches HCPs in the content they are engaging with.

Methods for Reaching HCPs Using CTV

One way to target HCPs is through OTT, OLV and CTV ads, which are delivered straight to viewers over the internet through streaming video services or devices. OTT bypasses traditional TV providers, so advertisers can reach audiences directly. Since these ad formats reach at a household level, they are positioned well to be a strong channel as the industry moves to the third party cookie-less world.

Targeting or third-party cookies may be used by a company to build a profile of a user’s interests and ensure that they are targeting that individual precisely with relevant advertising. Consumers are asking for privacy and ownership of this data and large tech giants have already taken the leap or are at least moving in that direction to appease the consumers’ wishes. Apple and Firefox disabled third-party cookies years ago and Google announced its plan to stop supporting third-party cookies in Google’s Chrome browsers by late 2023. This is where OTT and CTV ads come into the picture as a strong channel that can be leveraged to reach a target audience.

Reaching HCPs with CTV: A Case Study

In 2020, a number of CMI Media Group clients utilized CTV and OLV to target HCPs via both target list and broader specialty targeting. This concept was explored as a reaction to the loss of rep access to HCPs during the pandemic. CMI Media Group was also hoping to increase reach by targeting HCPs with longer form content. The campaigns’ goals were to reach and engage HCPs, whether target list or broader specialty, with long form content to drive completions of video content. The plan was that the targeted HCPs could view streamed TV/video content on any device (TV/mobile/desktop/tablet) and they would see DTC TV Commercials during breaks in the content.

Campaign 1: Specialty Targeting

  • Campaign 1 utilized a 30- and 60-second spot to target 2 distinct HCP specialties, in a non-skippable format
  • On almost 3.5MM impressions, the campaign generated a 92% completion rate, well above the benchmark of 85%
  • HCPs spent 39k+ hours engaging with brand’s video content in just a 3-month pilot, during an especially important time when sales reps were not able to call on doctors in person
  • The strong engagement rates indicate the data providers and CTV vendors provide strong and effective targeting to a high-quality HCP audience

Campaign 2: Target List

  • Campaign 2 utilized a 90-second spot to target their priority target list HCPs, but the goal for the future of this campaign is to cut down on length to open up additional inventory in the CTV space
  • Due to the small audience size (compared to the broader specialty targeted campaign), CMI Media Group supplemented CTV reach with online video (OLV) placements as well
  • The campaign reached 50% of the target list with an 8.4x frequency
  • The strong engagement rates (0.20% click through rate) indicate the data providers and CTV/OLV vendors provide strong and effective targeting to a high-quality HCP audience


Both pilots were successful in a variety of ways. During the pandemic, pharma lost the ability to have direct, face-to-face access to target HCPs, and marketers were faced with the challenge of making up for the lost interaction and to think outside the box when finding a new or innovative means of reach. The industry has evolved over the past few years with more partners and capabilities for pharma advertisers to reach target healthcare professionals on a 1:1 basis outside of the endemic space (reaching HCPs as consumers), and their ability to pass back data to evaluate the effectiveness of these initiatives. In both cases, either target list or broader specialty, both campaigns were able to deliver on the reach goal of their campaign. This approach allowed the brands to reach the specific HCP audiences in the non-endemic space with video content.

Engagement has also been a successful component of these pilots, specifically video completion rates and click- through rates from HCPs. When positioning reach in the non-endemic space pharma marketers all too often resort to solely relying on reach via banners. It is not common to utilize short form video to reach the HCP audience.

Both pilots not only clearly demonstrated the value of video as a means of driving engagement with target audiences but also repurposing short form DTC promotional content to reach the HCP audience.

Due to proven effectiveness, this can and should be taken a step further to make small refinements to calls-to- action within video content to speak directly to the HCP audience.

Next steps & why your brand should be in this channel

With the TV landscape rapidly changing and the advanced targeting capabilities of CTV and OLV, we should be communicating with our audience in the content they are engaging with. CTV pilots using DTC creative have proven effective from a front-end completion rate, but have more importantly shown positive ROI. It’s important, now more than ever, to look at your video creative with a wider lens. Linear TV is still important but identifying additional channels like CTV to leverage videos to reach a target audience should also be top of mind. This should influence content, budgets, messaging and more based on the tactic being used and with the increasing usage of CTV, brands need to start making this a priority.

CTV has proven to be an effective method of engaging HCPs, reaching our target audience at scale with strong engagement/completion/ROI results.