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Innovative study: Driving impact with pharma search advertising

Microsoft Advertising and Veeva Crossix, a leading healthcare data analytics firm, partnered on an innovative study to show the impact of search advertising. The research showed how a single paid search ad exposure led to brand and category lifts for advertising participants.

Pharmaceutical study background

The Crossix / Microsoft Advertising study sought to find answers to several advertising performance scenarios:

  1. Does unbranded search drive new prescriptions?
  2. Does a paid search click deliver more conversions than an ad exposure?
  3. Is mainline (top of page) advertising more impactful than ads appearing outside the mainline?
  4. Are multiple ad exposures more impactful than a single ad exposure?

Diabetes advertisers were selected to measure the effectiveness of search advertising. Microsoft Advertising provided six months of search behavioral data from Microsoft Bing, and Veeva Crossix measured the impact of the advertising on offline prescriptions and doctor visitation over a three-month period. The study used unbranded search query data collected from January 2019 to June 2019. Microsoft Advertising provided two sets of searcher data to Crossix: a “test” group comprised of Bing searchers who were shown ads for the diabetes brands, and a “control” group comprised of Bing searchers who queried the same keywords as the test group but were not shown ads for the diabetes brands. The study leveraged Veeva Crossix’s industry-leading privacy-preserving methodology to ensure searchers’ anonymity.

Substantial results with paid search ad exposure

The study made paid search ad exposure a priority. Many previous studies only analyzed clicks, but Crossix and Microsoft Advertising wanted to understand the impact of ad exposures better. Approximately 90% of test group members did not click the ads they viewed while searching.

When Veeva Crossix analysts scrutinized the searcher data, they discovered that people in the test group who saw an ad had a significant increase in conversion to new treatments on relevant brands. The study also showed that brands with the best market position saw higher conversion rates. The lift was also seen across the advertisers in the study. For the category, the lift ranged from 14% to 39%.

“The most exciting part of the study was the exposure to search advertising,” said Hart Mechlin, Media Partnerships Lead at Veeva Crossix. “While we’ve been measuring the impact of exposure to digital display ads for years, this is the first time we’ve measured the impact on those who saw — but did not click — on a paid search ad. Microsoft Advertising provided the attributes and users that we could use to match one-to-one for the four hypotheses.”

Next, Veeva Crossix analysts sliced the data to look at the impact of multiple exposures or a single exposure to paid search ads. As expected, multiple exposures led to significant lifts in conversions, up to 153%, for specific advertisers, and up to 59% for the category.

But even a single ad exposure made an impact! For two brands in the study, there was about a 70% lift in conversion performance. For the category, it ranged from 16% to 39%.

See the full presentation for more on the analysis.

Viewed once vs. viewed 2+ times (brand conversion)

These charts show the impact of a single ad exposure and multiple ad exposures for 2 advertisers. The first advertiser, Campaign A, had a nearly 70% lift in conversions after a single ad exposure. For multiple exposures, Campaign A had a 153% increase in conversions.
These charts show the impact of a single ad exposure and multiple ad exposures for 2 advertisers. The second advertiser, Campaign B, reported a 70% lift in conversions after a single ad exposure. For multiple ad exposures, Campaign B recorded a 33% increase in conversions.
A single ad exposure (Campaign A) led to conversion lifts, but more exposures (Campaign B) improved conversion performance.

In other analyses within the research, Crossix confirmed that clicked ads drive the highest lift1 (+400% for one brand in the study), and ads appearing in the mainline deliver more conversions as well (+75% lift for a leading brand and up to 48% for the category).

Key takeaways for pharmaceutical advertisers

For digital marketers and search advertisers, our study has shown:

  • Unbranded healthcare search advertising drives impact on brand and category conversion.
  • Exposure to search ads alone — not just clicks — drives an increase in brand and category conversions.
  • Mainline ad exposure has more impact than bottom-of-page placements.
  • Multiple ad exposures deliver higher lift in conversions, but a single exposure drives significant brand conversions as well.

Learn more from the details of the Veeva Crossix and Microsoft Advertising study: Download the report.


If you’re interested in more actionable analyses, seasonal and vertical industry insights, and research, visit the Microsoft Advertising Insights content hub, which is updated weekly. Also get the latest thought leadership, industry trends, and insights automatically by subscribing to the Microsoft Advertising Insider weekly newsletter.