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Game of Phones: Digital Dominion and the Death of TV

VP Strategy

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New data reveals ad dollars are inexorably shifting from TV to digital, attributable to the exponentially increasing popularity of mobile and social video. Let’s take a look at the trending, and discuss the incredible opportunities for healthcare marketers…

Everybody’s favorite show on HBO is delightfully notorious for slowly drawing viewers into utterly compelling characters who are suddenly murdered. Although television is far from dead, the rush of digital ad spend to just a single percentage point below that of TV is equally shocking and surprising, the imminent and inevitable flip no doubt a harbinger of a completely digital universe ruled by bots and plugged into the Internet of Everything.

Dig these eye-popper eMarketer stats:


eMarketer Stats


If you’re like this humble blog writer and grew up before computers, cable, and the Internet then this chart will make you go “Wow!” Television ad spend remains the projected channel leader at $70.60B, but Holy Zeros-and-Ones, Batman, projected digital ad spend is a whopping $68.82B—a statistically negligible difference, with an overall budget that blows away print, radio, out-of-home, and everything else combined.

In terms of the types of ad buys, programmatic and mobile have similarly risen from marginal curiosities to dominant players:




Advertisers in the US will spend a projected $21.55B on programmatic buys, more than two-thirds of total display ad spend. Overall mobile ad spend is projected at $43.60B, blowing away the $25.22B for desktop—and is set to double by next year. Game of phones indeed!

Shifting our point of view from dollars to monthly audience reach, our friends at comScore provide another chart that confirms digital channels can engage just as massive an audience as primetime television:


comScore Chart


Hard Pill for Pharma to Swallow

Given the incontestable surge of digital, programmatic, and mobile spend, the projected pharma spend increases in the mid- to low-teens for the next few years seem far too conservative:


pharma spend


Even last year’s 19.5% increase seems disproportionately small compared to the 31.7% increase in pharma TV spend. As percentage of total digital ad spending, pharma as an industry hovers below 3% until 2020, reflecting tight budgets and frustrated marketers.

Compounding the challenge is the relatively pervasive use of digital ad blockers:


ad blockers


And the reality that over half of the digital ads purchased never get seen by human beings, let alone acted upon:




With tight digital budgets, blocked and unseen ads, what’s a pharma marketer to do?


Klick Health: Media and More

You need a healthcare-dedicated communications and commercialization expert who not only knows your challenges, but can capitalize on the diverse opportunities of the volatile and complex media landscape. From precision targeting and attribution modeling to omnichannel strategy and social video, you need a dedicated partner who understands your brand goals, audiences, and regulatory constraints. Fully integrated with client services, creative, content, and analytics, Klick Media puts your targets at the center of every model, and uses data to maximize reach and engagement. Want conversions? We even do TV! Talk to Klick!



More About the Author

Michael Spitz

A digital health expert since before digital health was cool, Spitz has since developed omnichannel campaigns for top pharma and device brands, and helps drive agency innovation, digital transformation, and emerging channels. See him present at conferences, read his blogs, and follow him for the latest trends and opinions on Twitter @SpitzStrategy.

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