What Do Casual Games And Pharmaceuticals Have In Common?

I recently flipped through an issue of Time magazine and noticed that pharmaceutical companies not only push their latest sleep aids, cholesterol suppressors and erectile dysfunction meds, but they also compete for market share amongst themselves.

The issue I looked at had ads for Actonel, AdVair, Ambien, Cymbalta, Cypher Stent, Medco, Rozerem and Zetia. My first thought was, There is an awful lot of money used to advertise these well-known drug brands. At the same time, I thought about the value proposition of online video advertising:

  • touches millions of consumers each month.
  • has sophisticated consumer targeting and tracking with each ad served.

Out of curiosity I looked at Time's online rate card, and with simple math I calculated the combined monthly ad-spend of all the pharmaceutical companies to be in the neighborhood of $3 million  -- just one issue. I looked deeper into what Time offers advertisers and found that the magazine guarantees 19.5 million impressions per month, charges a hefty $48 CPM for black-and-white full-page ads and a whopping $74 CPM for full-page color ads.  I also noticed that each pharmaceutical ad was two full pages:

  • Page one -- the actual full-color ad.
  • Page two -- the full-page disclosure that generally appears on the back of the page of the color ad



This suggests each drug company buys two pages per month for an average cost per thousand of $61. WOW.

With my background primarily in radio and television advertising, I was initially shocked by these prices, but then I considered that Time is printed weekly and has great pass-along rate -- think about those old magazines you see in your dentist's office. So, I can possibly justify that CPMs for ad space in a prestigious magazine such as Time far outweight national television CPMs (range is generally $5 to $60 including cable and broadcast).


According to Time's online media kit, the audience's

  • Median age is 48.
  • It skews 54 percent male.
  • Median household income is $68,500.

Time also offers advertisers the opportunity to appear adjacent to or wrapped around contextually relevant articles. I believe this is a pretty good place for the pharmaceutical companies to reach potential or existing customers.


Now let's take a look at how the pharmaceutical companies can take advantage of online video advertising. Assuming most of the pharmaceutical ads in Time have corresponding television creative:

  • The initial hurdle of no video assets is eclipsed.
  • Television ads can be repurposed.
  • In most cases, videos and banners are clickable.
  • In most cases, consumers can go directly from an ad to a landing page of the advertiser's choice (in this case the pharma companies can link directly to their product pages).


Online video advertising is as easy to buy as television, yet more accountable in terms of metrics, costs less per thousand impressions, and has the ability to link a consumer directly to an advertiser via ad click-thru capabilities. So what else? Different types of inventory fit a variety of advertiser and marketer needs, including in-game, in-stream, overlay and custom options.

Consider online casual gaming for a moment. Often video ads run while the game player loads and during natural breaks in game play, i.e. when the cards are shuffled or between game levels. According to an eMarketer study, 80 percent of online casual gamers are female, with a median age of 47, 33% have children under 18 in the home, and the worldwide casual gaming audience is estimated to be over 200 million unique players. Median age of 47 -- that sounds familiar, maybe because Time's median age is 48. So, if I am P&G Pharmaceuticals and marketing Actonel to women suffering from osteoporosis, this is a prime place to target the demographic. Casual games are time wasters, and while traffic is highest from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week, there are lots of people logged on to play late at night because they are up and cannot sleep; this creates a natural environment for this brand to reach the night owls.

Overall the Internet is a vast space of content. While many advertisers are weary of going from traditional media outlets to the cyber world, online video advertising offers access to the Web's hottest ad space while keeping advertisers in their comfort zone by executing media buys like television buys. Add in the engaged audience factor and the clickable videos, and the potential is astounding.

1 comment about "What Do Casual Games And Pharmaceuticals Have In Common? ".
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  1. R.J. Lewis from e-Healthcare Solutions, LLC, March 20, 2009 at 7:30 p.m.

    Does anyone have any data on the number of pharma brands running online video advertising today? My sense is many of the TV assets don't translate well online since online formats are best as :15 or :30 second clips (and often pharma TV spots are :60). Some companies, like Sanofi-Aventis do a great job with online clips on their own sites (see:, but I'm not sure where (or IF) they are getting that great creative out into the mainstream of online health video. Comments? Thoughts?

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