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Blog, Comment & Insight

For Pharmaceutical Marketing Analytics

Are You Measuring Real Results of Your Digital Marketing or Are You Being Deceived by Bots?

Posted by Dr. Andrée Bates | Dec 4, 2017 9:11:30 AM

Measurement of results of what we do is something we would always do. But what are you measuring? At Eularis, when we undertake an analytics project to solve a problem to drive Rx, we measure the increase in Rx and profits. However, even today we see pharma measuring visitors and other types of softer measures with their digital efforts.

But are you sure these are even real?

A pharma company in oncology was working with an oncology web in an attempt to deliver more targeted content to oncologists in the US. The results looked good and google analytics showed around 220,000 unique visitors and things looked like it was a job well done. But was it? Virtually all of the traffic was fake. Only 1 physician had ever visited the web site and the rest were an army of bots.

This kind of fraud is on the increase. The Association of National Advertisers and the cyber security group ‘White Ops’ created a report showing that around $6.5 billion was lost to this practice in 2017. 

But this kind of fraud is very difficult to detect. If you are paying per click or per visitor, you need to consider what is a widespread practice. Bots can and do simulate demographic profiles used to target ads. Medical publishers, including prestigious medical journals, are being visited by bots. According to Augustine Fou, a cybersecurity researcher with MSCG, bots visit sites physicians may visit and get cookies from them to simulate being physicians on other sites. According to Fou, after taking a look at medical publishing sites, he believes that bot traffic to these is probably small but they do go there to establish credibility as a doctor to collect the cookie from those sites to then attract retargeting dollars from other sites. The bids on getting them to sites is high as they look and feel like real physicians. These fake bot physicians are costing pharma companies paying for retargeting ads quite a lot of money.

How Can You Tell?

One sign that this is happening is large numbers. If you are getting 220,000 physicians to an oncology website, when there are probably roughly 15,000 oncologists in the US, it is probably bot driven. To limit exposure, when paying for pay per click, or retargeting, demand transparency about all traffic sources, and audience extension practices. Advertisers need to be careful with narrow targeting and consider getting their cybersecurity team to develop an ad fraud prevention solution.

The moral of the story is, what you measure should not be users or impressions but overall business impact. Forget reach and frequency online these days as most of it is bots.

Topics: Marketing Insights, Business Analytics, Digital Marketing

Written by Dr. Andrée Bates