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Pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest marketers in America. But with products that often have unusual names and benefits that take more than thirty seconds to explain – not to mention the required government warning disclosures – traditional advertising has been a challenge. That’s opening some up to the prospect of using podcasts to reach consumers.

“When a patient hears health news, they look for info. One of the first places you go is the internet and podcasts online can be a way to answer these questions in an interesting way,” said iHeartPodcast Network President Conal Byrne. He made the pitch at Publicis Health Media’s inaugural HealthFront last year, which speaking to the prospects of the category, included iHeartMedia as one of the sponsors of the pharma market conference.

Gayle Troberman, iHeart’s Chief Marketing Officer told the gathering of health professionals there’s even an impact on the human body from audio ads. “Any piece of audio content that starts with the simple power of the human voice will make our blood pressure go up,” Troberman said.

What is sure to get hearts racing in media sales departments is more interest from a category that Kantar Media says spent about $6.5 billion in 2018, an increase of 4.8% compared to the previous year. For many drug makers, the decision to embrace the growing podcast medium has been made easier by an ability to deliver messages that are longer than the traditional spot that might air on broadcast radio or television. And that’s led many to take the next step and create their own branded podcast, often times with podcasters as their production partner. Other times they’re opting to go it alone and produce shows in-house. 

Pfizer launched a new podcast called The Antigen in November. The eight-episode show hosted by Dr. Yasmeen Agosti examined the scientific, cultural, and political elements of vaccination, including the rise of the anti-vaccination movement that in part led to more than 1,200 confirmed Measles cases in 2019. The goal was more ambitious than what a traditional Pfizer spot could probably achieve. “My goal is to actually change the tone when talking about vaccines, to calm down the conversation so that you can learn and become interested and invested,” said Agosti. “My hope is that when you are informed about vaccination, you really feel that you are gaining an important benefit for yourself, and for the people around you.”

Pfizer also produces two other podcasts, including the health-focused interview show Diverse Perspectives and the research-focused Get Science shows. Pfizer isn’t alone. Eli Lilly’s Elixir Factor and Roche’s Two Scientists Walk Into A Bar podcasts are among the other shows in production.

Not only are pharmaceutical companies responding to data showing more Americans are listening to podcasts than ever before, but also research that shows podcast ads generate better brand recall when compared to other forms of digital marketing. An analysis by Nielsen, commissioned by Stitcher’s ad-selling unit Midroll Media, showed that podcasts generate up to 4.4-times better brand recall than display ads. In addition to the lift in brand awareness, the studies revealed that 61% of consumers exposed to podcast ads for well-known national brands become more likely to purchase the advertised product.