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Online advertising spending by the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry will reach $975 million in 2007 – a gain of 19% over 2006 – and surpass the $1 billion mark in 2008, or a gain of 22% year over year, according to eMarketer. The rise comes as hospitals are putting more pressure on below-the-line, non-media sales tactics.

The pharmaceutical category will account for 4.5% of the total US online ad spending in 2007, down from 4.9% in 2006, according to the forecast; but by 2011 the category is forecast to reach $2.2 billion and account for 5% of US online ad spending.

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Pharmaceutical marketers nevertheless have a rigid view of the internet as merely an information-delivery vehicle, whereas consumers are using the internet to interact with one another and with brands, according to eMarketer’s “Pharmaceutical Marketing Online: Stuck in Web 1.5” report.

(Also see “Nine of 10 Women Online Seek Health Info via Web.”)

Having restricted their brand sites to mere online information centers – often pages of text and a slow-to-load TV commercial – pharma marketers are missing big opportunities to engage consumers and boost confidence in their brands, eMarketer said.

“Messages must be interactive because consumers are looking for a dialogue, especially when their health is involved,” said Lisa Phillips, senior analyst and author of the report. “Something as simple as offering mobile or internet alerts to prompt patients to take their medicine are opt-in tactics that benefit patients.”

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