The $8 Million CPM

A programmatic audience-buying platform has figured out an ingenious way to improve the odds of what is likely one of the most expensive conversions in any brand category: recruiting consumers to participate in clinical-trial studies for prospective pharmaceutical brands.

“As we sit here today, there are 56 million seats available for people to participate in clinical trials,” explains Sloan Gaon, CEO of PulsePoint, a programmatic media platform specializing in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industry.

By seats, Gaon means the number of patients that need to be recruited by pharma companies and the clinical research organizations they use to find and recruit people eligible to participate in trials necessary to test and gain regulatory approval for new prescription drugs.

Of that total, Gaon estimates only 2 million people will be successfully enrolled in trials, and only about 1 million of those will successfully complete the studies.

It’s a high-stakes business. Pharma brands spend an estimated $8 billion annually recruiting and managing consumers through the clinical trial process, with about half that money in the form of payments made directly to participants for enduring the trials, including potential side effects and complications from the drugs being tested.

Do the math. In media-buying terms, that's likely one of the highest effective CPMs: $8 billion divided by 1 million successful trial participants = $8,000 per person, or an $8 million effective CPM.

That’s where PulsePoint’s ingenious use of programmatic data and audience targeting technology comes in. In an effort to target users who don’t simply meet the trials' criteria, but are also likely to successfully complete the studies, Gaon’s team discovered a strong correlation between people who have high consumer credit scores and completing clinical trials.

“We’re not sure why it correlates, but it makes sense,” Gaon explains, adding, “People who have good credit have made a commitment to be disciplined and stick with something over time.”

As a result, PulsePoint utilizes a highly structured source of data -- federally regulated FICO scores -- to target and recruit consumers with good credit histories.

According to PulsePoint's proprietary estimates, people with high FICO scores index 34% higher than people with low FICO scores in terms of completing clinical trials.

Gaon acknowledges that screening people on that basis could influence the outcomes of clinical trial studies -- because there could be other health or medical factors associated with high- and low-credit scoring people -- but he says that the method so far is generating good results.

“We have to be very careful about how we do this -- especially to ensure there is validity in our data models,” he says.

Meanwhile, PulsePoint continues to research, develop and test other sources of data that might lead to even more effective outcomes, he says.

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