Snapchat users could soon see more branded content from drug companies looking to tell younger consumers about vaccines, treatments and birth control.
The visual-heavy social media app has been ramping up its pitch to pharmaceutical companies in an effort to grab budget dollars for Snapchat campaigns focused on health and wellness offerings. Snap has not confirmed its advertising aim to reporters, but in February, Snap’s team presented advertising opportunities to drug marketing executives at the DigiPharma Connect Conference.
To make the case, it’s positioning itself as a friendlier social network than Facebook and Twitter, a place where young people feel comfortable discussing private matters and may be more receptive to ads that refer to health matters, according to a slide deck seen by CNBC.
… Throughout the presentation, Snap presented itself as the platform that doesn’t garner as much negativity in its culture and its comments as Facebook and Twitter. The idea is that Snap is a more comfortable place for users to talk about their sensitive health conditions, ranging from excessive sweating to sexually transmitted infections.
But the lack of negativity might also have another benefit: Unlike other advertisers on social media, pharma companies must report any adverse events about their drugs to federal agencies. That includes comments spread on social media. A more positive social media culture could mean fewer complaints to report, especially if the ads are set up in a format so that users don’t have a space to leave comments.
The news comes after Snap Inc. saw its stock price leap 21 percent after it announced earnings at the beginning of February that exceeded expert predictions across the board. Snap posted $0.04 loss per share, which was better than the Street’s forecast of $0.07. Snap revenues hit $390 million versus the $378 million forecast pre-earnings release. Additionally, the company had a daily average user count of 186 million compared to the expected 184.26.
As drug marketers embrace more digital campaigns and strategies, Snap has lucrative opportunities—especially if it can offer ad partners fewer negative comments from users about partners’ marketing messages.
Pharmaceutical companies still invest billions in television ads, their primary platform for reaching consumers, but recent reports suggest that they are increasingly shifting their budgets to digital, starting with Facebook and Google. According to a June 2018 eMarketer report, pharma digital ad spending reached $2.52 billion in 2017 and is expected to jump to more than $3 billion by the end of this year.
Snapchat has also added a pharmaceutical and health care content section within its advertising policies.
Competition and content challenges
As Snap enters the drug marketing ring, it faces stiff competition from competitors, as well as potential problems with policing inappropriate and controversial content.
Facebook started its successful foray into drug advertising a few years ago through its partnership with Bayer.
Facebook kicked things off in 2016 by partnering with global pharmaceutical giant Bayer, which created a first-of-its-kind ad campaign around a multiple sclerosis drug and injector. For Bayer, Facebook launched a scrolling feature inside the ad, which included necessary risk information about the treatment. People with multiple sclerosis tend to experience their first symptoms between the ages of 20 and 40, which sits squarely in Facebook’s core demographic.
Another new feature of the ad is the “call now” button, a feature Facebook added last year for business ads. However, for the Betaconnect ad, the phone button is connected to a live nursing-staffed line. To accommodate the real-time interaction, the ad was set up to run only between the weekday hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
… Bayer uses Facebook’s targeting to reach people on the platform who are interested in MS-related information, Demir said. The end result? A 96% decrease in costs per lead. It also increases the number of leads, so much so that it has at times overwhelmed the nursing staff, he said.
Though Snapchat has an active user base with younger consumers, it’s late to the advertising table. The app’s user growth is stagnant as well.
Snapchat boasts 186 million daily users. That huge audience is dwarfed in comparison to Facebook’s 1.5 billion users, YouTube’s more than 1 billion users and Instagram’s 500 million daily users.
“Given the daily usage on Snapchat and the footprint of the app, you just realize how much smaller it is that Facebook or Instagram,” says one ad agency exec, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It’s just a tougher sell for brands.”
Snap also faces potential scrutiny over controversial messaging and content, especially as it seeks to partner with health care and pharmaceutical organizations.
Several social media platforms have recently pulled anti-vaccine content from their sites.
The increased effort from tech giants, such as Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube, comes amid a relentless anti-vaccine movement, talk about “chickenpox parties”and concerns over measles outbreaks across the country. It also comes as the American Medical Association, the nation’s most prominent doctors’ organization, has urged social media platforms to ensure users have access to accurate information on vaccines.
Instagram, Amazon and GoFundMe also recently pulled anti-vaccine posts, books and fundraising campaigns from their respective platforms.
Though Snapchat has not announced any similar moves, social media platforms and apps are struggling to balance marketing partnerships with their responsibility to police users’ content.
The Post reported:
Experts say companies, especially social media platforms, are being tasked with new and challenging responsibilities as they learn to navigate the line between doing business and playing the role of censor in an age when misleading claims about health and science can have a profound impact on public health. At the same time, some anti-vaccination advocates suggest the crackdowns violate First Amendment rights, limit alternative views and give Big Pharma an upper hand. (Larry Cook, a prominent advocate, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post about the changes.)
What do you think about Snapchat’s offerings for pharmaceutical and health care marketers? How might this affect your campaigns?