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Healthcare Marketing Takeaways from DTC National

We have seen a substantial return to live events for the industry as we head into planning season and the summer months. DTC National, part of the Xpectives Health Summit, returned to Boston this past April, and presenters, sponsors, and attendees were eager to connect with industry peers to share the latest DTC trends along with the next phase of DTC marketing for pharma and health brands.

With the excitement of what's next still buzzing in our ears, we wanted to share a few highlights from the conference.


Connected TV, new customer experiences, and a call for empathic marketing were critical themes of the two-day conference. 

These themes highlighted the industry's increased ability to more accurately target consumers and create personalized messaging. They also spoke to consumers' increased engagement with digital and TV content, while still seeing an overwhelming need for in-person contact and trusted personal connections in the healthcare space.


IQVIA presented a thoughtful discussion on the delicate balance of managing consumer privacy and hyper-targeting in the DTC environment. 

With the increased ability to target with Connected TV (CTV) or cross-platform marketing, IQVIA shared best practices for messaging and targeting audiences safely and practically. The key advice from the IQVIA team was that "trust is not legislated, it is earned," and to rely on first-party opt-ins for your most relevant or personalized messaging.

Until you have that hand raise, IQVIA advises you to keep targeting and messaging broadly and avoid "getting creepy" with your messaging, even if the data or audience targeting presents that opportunity. It also recommends not to use creative where the content assumes a person has a condition.


Roku and Samsung shared data demonstrating increased utilization of streaming platforms, smart TVs, and other forms of Connected TV. 

Roku discussed the growth trends of OTT (Over the Top) TV and streaming platforms across all generations. 

Usage is no longer a question for consumer audiences; the question now is how to best reach consumers with this engagement platform. Roku also states that US consumers are more likely to take positive actions after being exposed to CTV ads compared to ads on linear TV.

Samsung shared a case study with Cancer Treatment Centers of America on its successful media campaign move from broadcast to CTV ads on the Samsung Smart TV platform after testing audiences and platform while working with Merkle. Using insurance submissions as a KPI for conversion, CTV provided dramatic results for optimizing its acquisition and ultimately allowed Cancer Treatment Centers of America to reduce budgets by more than 60%. 


Matt McNally, Global President of Dentsu Health, presented a keynote that resonated with attendees on the theme of a renaissance of human care. 

McNally shared the latest results of dentsu International's Health Navigator series that asked consumers what they really want from the health and wellness industry. 

Dentsu also sees a strong upward trend of health literacy and tracking indicated by increased demand for self-serve health information and services.  

You can view the complete survey and results here

However, with the increased demand and access to tools and info, consumers still crave the personal side of healthcare. Trust in personal relationships and in-person interactions are preferred, as 75% of Americans still prefer in-person visits with doctors. DTC marketers recognize this essential need. McNally offered this inspiration to the DTC marketers, and it was received enthusiastically: "Creativity and innovation are needed for optimism in the future of health." As marketers, we need to speak in a way that prioritizes care and acts with ethical empathy. 

Want more healthcare-industry insights? Learn more about Merkle’s healthcare marketing capabilities.

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