Channel Agnostic Media Planning for HCP Audiences

Background and Industry Implications

Media strategy has long been about the channel.  For example, journals were considered the “go to” channel to most effectively bring non-personal promotion (NPP) to healthcare professionals (HCPs).  Digital and other non-traditional media channel budgets have been slowly climbing since they can offer more substantive metrics than the basic reach and frequency scores delivered by journals. Digital channels are starting to become preferred channels for reaching certain HCPs – especially highly desirable targets that may now be less accessible through journals. Participation in the more innovative media channels can also bring a “tech-savvy” halo to a brand. As our industry continues to change and pressures on HCPs’ time increase, the media planning status quo is no longer acceptable.

While it’s important to choose the appropriate medium to match the message, a channel neutral planning process that leverages the best of combined channels is key to success – because (for the most part) brands can no longer reach all of their key targets through a single medium.  Estimating your promotional brand planning budgets based upon predetermined channel by channel allocations is no longer as effective.

In a recent CMI/Compas study of promotional accessibility among 10 physician specialties, we found that all 10 specialties surveyed were highly accessible through multiple channels, with access to over 70% percent of physicians when using three or more channels. For nine of these specialties, a majority (more than 50 percent) of physicians were accessible using a combination of five to six channels. The only exception is Psychiatry, with 41 percent who could be accessed using five to six channels. Utilizing more than one channel can significantly improve engagement with your key physician audiences in a media plan.

Still, there can be barriers to integrating a channel-neutral media strategy for the first time.


Measurement is a critical component of channel-neutral planning. Traditional measurement (such as reach and frequency counts or performance against general exposure benchmarks to meet “awareness” goals) does little to demonstrate how NPP media placements have truly moved the needle for a brand. This is your chance to require more meaningful, actionable measures of success for your campaign.


A channel-focused planning budget will look very different from a channel-neutral planning budget; this change in perspective can create another internal obstacle for a client.  For example, the working (actual media placements) to non-working media (fee) ratio is wider when an agency only places media in lower overhead, minimal maintenance channels such as journals or broadcast television that reach wider audiences. A mobile or more customized digital placement might require a higher non-working (fee) cost to cover reporting and iterative optimization. The higher fee is, however, balanced by more efficient working media choices which directly and substantively measure success against your brand objectives with less waste. Overall, a channel neutral plan will offer a mix of placements that together take into consideration the importance of key performance indicators for your brand (KPIs).


Strong HCP media plans leverage the preferences and behaviors of your audience in the context of your brand objectives.  Media channel or particular vehicle choices should be a secondary consideration, which is why channel agnostic planning practices can lead to more efficiency and success. As our 10 Specialty Report found, prescribers universally want access to valuable information wherever they are and whenever they want it – they are less loyal to particular channels than in the past.

Through our proprietary ByDoctor® tools at CMI/Compas, we have learned to selectively optimize channel choice to maximize against HCP channel preferences by specialty and your target list as well as audience access and channel/supplier performance. Such tools hold the key to expanded opportunities for targeting to increase media channel efficiency/effectiveness for HCPs. These tools provide even greater accuracy than those used in consumer campaign modeling since they can be tied both to prescription data and your aggregated, customized target list of physicians to measure lift.  Brand managers would be well served by insisting that such channel agnostic tools and considerations serve as the foundation of their consultative strategic planning process with their agency to ensure media recommendations reflect the best prediction of an efficient investment of promotional funds against the target audience in the context of brand objectives.

Marketers should also ensure that their agency is deploying meaningful and actionable measurement mechanisms in parallel with the media planning and execution process. This will more markedly demonstrate the efficacy of your NPP media in relation to specific HCP brand objectives.

And finally, clients should work with their agencies to ensure that while the right message is an important part of the plan, parallel efforts to ensure that the message gets to the right target when and where they are most interested are crucial if we hope to influence behavior.