HealthJuly 29, 2022

When advertising to oncologists, first impressions are everything

Medical advertisers engaging oncologists should include clinical data and peer-reviewed content in their promotions that substantiate their product claims.

Oncologists don’t expect ads in their preferred publications, but they respond better than other physicians when ads have clinical and peer-reviewed data.

As physicians’ understanding of COVID-19 and its impacts has improved, they are relying less on Google and less on direct communication with peers for insights in favor of targeted, data-supported professional content. This shift has a real impact on the efficacy of advertisements within physicians' preferred resources, where all physicians in sum are less likely to respond to ads featuring unsubstantiated claims.

The desire for proof is especially pronounced among oncologists, who are less likely to anticipate ads in their professional content in the first place. Even so, recent data from Lippincott shows that oncologists are more likely than all physicians in sum to respond to ads featuring peer-reviewed and clinical data supporting an ad’s claim. Oncologists’ content consumption habits mostly overlap with other physicians but differ in unique and interesting ways as well.

About the 2022 Lippincott Physician Resource Study

Lippincott surveyed more than 1,000 physicians from October 2021 to January 2022, with key findings about oncologists that can inform advertisers hoping to engage this audience. In this article, we take a closer look at researchers’ findings about oncologists as they encounter promotional content within their preferred professional resources.

Oncologists’ content preferences are similar to other physicians

In most ways, oncologists are at parity with other physicians in terms of the professional content they prefer for learning new treatment options, understanding patient outcomes, and staying up to date in their field. For example, as with all physicians in sum, most oncologists consider peer-reviewed content (51.4%), CME/CE content (54.29%), and review articles (54.29%) more influential in terms of treatment options and patient outcomes. Most oncologists (68.6%) also consider peer-reviewed content their #1 most influential content type among seven options.

But oncologists also have unique habits in terms of the content they prefer, which are considerably different from the habits of physicians across specialties. For example, oncologists are more likely than all physicians in sum to use conferences and symposia for new information in their field — 65.7% versus 53.5%, respectively. As we will find, oncologists’ preferences and expectations about promotional content also differ from those of other physicians.

Oncologists don’t expect to see ads and struggle to find them credible

Interestingly, oncologists are less likely to anticipate advertisements or promotional content in their resources than all physicians in sum. Only 34.3% of oncologists expect to see advertisements in their professional content — far fewer than those among other specialties. In other words, they are more likely to come across advertisements unexpectedly within their preferred resources. Oncologists are also less likely to find sponsored content credible across professional publications than physicians in many other specialties.

These aspects may come across as a disadvantage to some advertisers. However, they do create potential advantages if advertisers consider oncologists’ mindset as content consumers: They expect trustworthy information, supported by clinical data and peer-reviewed content. Advertisers need only align their promotional content with these expectations to succeed.

Oncologists still are receptive to promotional content

Although oncologists don’t expect to see ads in their professional content, they are not outright dismissive of promotional content and even suspect they will find value in some ads under certain circumstances. According to our study, most oncologists (50.5%) agree that promotional content or advertisements can offer some value, depending on the topics covered.

The task for advertisers then is to facilitate those circumstances — and context is critical. Oncologists are reserved in terms of the contexts in which they find sponsored content credible. But nearly one-quarter of oncologists (24.6%) claim the placement of an industry sponsorship in a conference or symposia, their most-cited resource for staying up to date on information about their specialty, makes it more credible. Oncologists feel this way at similar rates when it comes to their other preferred sources for professional content — namely, CME/CE activities (29.1%) and print journals (21.5%).

Create promotional content with inherent and recognized value

The essential takeaway for advertisers looking to engage oncologists successfully is this:

Oncologists are more likely than other physicians to find advertisements compelling when they include clinical data and peer-reviewed research.

According to our study, 70.6% of oncologists claim having independent peer-reviewed research supporting or substantiating a claim in an advertisement or promotion adds credibility to advertisements, compared to 61.0% of all physicians in sum. Similarly, 47.1% of oncologists claim having clinical data supporting or substantiating a claim in an advertisement adds credibility, compared to 41.2% of all physicians in sum.

Four ways advertisers can engage oncologists successfully

With this in mind, advertisers may surprise oncologists —in a good way — if they craft their message and place their advertisements effectively. Here are some tips for advertisers hoping to build successful campaigns in these ways:

1. Source relevant clinical data and peer-reviewed materials

Repurpose them within promotional content in ways that are honest and helpful to readers. Useful sources will support the key value proposition of your product or service. The sources also may highlight a particular need where your product or service adds value.

2. Determine the best way to share your sourced information

Ensure your ads are concise but add value for readers. Your goal is to pique the interest of oncologists as they’re in the mindset of absorbing clinical and peer-reviewed information, not to become a distraction to their content consumption “goals.”

3. Choose relevant placements where your content is likely to succeed

Your promotional content should exist in publications that both (1) oncologists prefer and that (2) are conducive to your message and the sources you’re using to add value. For example, conferences, symposia, and their publications attract oncologists, but your message may be more relevant within peer-reviewed journals and therefore more approachable to readers.

4. Design ads that focus not on your product but on professional results for oncologists

Because oncologists approach professional content without a buyer’s mindset, they will be more receptive to promotional content that aligns with their content “goals,” such as better treatments, better patient outcomes, and insights into their field. Promotional content that puts those things at the forefront will fit better within an oncologist’s ideal professional content experience.

By applying these tips, advertisers can design promotional content that has a fighting chance of piquing oncologists’ interest in meaningful ways.

Non-intrusive and effective advertisements

Oncologists are an attractive and viable audience for professional advertisements. But perhaps more than most, oncologists have specific expectations for what lies within the sources of content they access. Arguably, they are also more likely to be turned off by poorly crafted or poorly positioned ads.

A key finding from our study was this: “The most impactful industry sponsorships highlight research data to validate the messaging but do so in a non-intrusive manner.” For other physicians, “non-intrusive” often refers to an ad’s location within a publication. For oncologists, it refers almost exclusively to the messaging and purpose of the ad.

Partner with Lippincott® HCP Access at Wolters Kluwer

The audience solution experts at Lippincott® HCP Access ensure your brand is delivering the right message, in the right format, at the right time. Contact an expert when you’re ready for personalized advice on a successful oncology content strategy.

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