IAB Member Q&A: Health & Fitness Marketing

On October 07, 2020 Research & Resources

Health and fitness is always top of mind with consumers in spring & with COVID driving a raft changes in hygiene, health and exercise habits health marketers have new challenges & opportunities. A few IAB member experts explore changes in health & lifestyle media consumption, showcase case studies for digital health advertising and look at innovative ways to connect with consumers with mental & physical health messages. Thanks to Tonic Media Network, Interplay and Faster Horses for their contributions.


Ben Murray, Director – Products & Technology, Interplay Media

 How can agencies & advertisers develop messages & creative that will hit the right note in what has been a stressful and uncertain year”

You’ve often heard the phrase “Content is key”, I would like to add to that “so is context”!

It’s crucial in the coming months and years that we are communicating the right brand messaging to consumers and Data Driven creative helps us to build ads that communicate that message much more effectively than generic brand messaging can hope to achieve.

Every mobile device pings four basic data sets on any given user. Their gender, what time of day it is, their geographic location and what the weather’s like (yes it can really affect mood). Messaging can be utilised to great effect when you communicate ads with this type of personal touch. 

A great example of this is an apparel brand, a trainer that depicts either male or female shoes, a hashtag pulling in the user’s city, a message based on the morning or afternoon e.g. “Start your Morning Fresh” AM “Stressful Day, Run Through It!” PM and a background change in the weather, all working in tandem. This example evokes a connection to the user engaging with the ad in real-time, much more so than a generic message.

This, combined with first-party data can provide an even greater user experience. Being able to provide an ad that can leverage the entry level time requirement for a 4K run in under sixteen minutes for the army for Defence Force Recruitment, to providing potential footfall attribution technology to provide information on how Covid has affected consumer behaviour, for example does the messaging need to reach people reluctant to leave the house and get back into their normal regimes, gyms will need to ensure their messaging encourages a post-covid norm approach that is trusted to those users. 

Creative Technology can help provide the right note, to the right audience for the right purpose.


Sev Celik, Commercial Director at Tonic Media Network

What sort of health, fitness & wellness content or tools have you seen consumers embrace this year?

 Health, fitness, and wellbeing have never been more important or relevant than in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a health boom, as Australians become more health literate and continue to seek health information, especially in an online environment.

Our online network (myDr.com.au, Healthline and Medical News Today) has seen a 22% increase in users since the start of the COVID-19 lockdown, as people demand more health information. In February 2020 the total users were 10 million per month. Now, our total users per month are just under 13 million, indicating that there is a growing demand for health and wellbeing content.

Respiratory health and high-traffic content, such as the Coronavirus resource centre were the most searched categories on myDr.com.au over the last 6 months, with regular updates added from Dr Norman Swan driving engagement. Users are also spending more time engaged with content, as the average time spent on myDr.com.au increased to 5 minutes. This content has been utilised by other agencies and partners to provide current and reliable information to their clients and staff.

Our health tools continue to be heavy traffic pages on myDr.com.au, with 10’s of thousands of individuals visiting these tools each month. 

The top three health tools are:

  1. Calories Burned Calculator
  2. Basal Metabolic Rate Calculator
  3. Ideal Weight Calculator

There is a constant demand for weight management resources, tools and content. This demand is consistent with Healthline and Medical News Today traffic, with nutrition and weight management content ranking in the top 5 most searched categories on both sites.


How has the recent uptick in e-commerce/telehealth impacted any digital advertising strategies for health marketing? 

 E-commerce has experienced viral growth in 2020

E-commerce has achieved close to 10 years of growth in the past 10 months. A recent IAB seminar revealed that April 2020 saw the highest levels of online transactions in the history of e-commerce, outpacing Christmases past and other popular online events such as Black Friday.

As more and more consumers experience the ease and convenience of online ordering and home delivery I have no doubt this trend will continue to drive transactions and innovation in the space. Logistics has been solved by a range of online platforms enabling an army of delivery personnel standing by for the next API driven delivery gig.

In the short term, we’ve seen brands shift focus slightly away from long term brand building creative to slightly more transactional activity to capitalise on this consumer behaviour. In the longer term, this will drive the development of new partnership models between brands, online retailers and market places.

Those brands who have traditionally had little real contact with their consumers will leverage the vast amount of behavioural and transactional data that comes from e-commerce to bring them closer to the consumer and help them continue to develop their products and services. Shopping carts are the new cookie.

Convenience is King – Solve for convenience

Here at Tonic, we’d been working for 18 months on the launch of Chemist2U, a convenient solution which enables our customers to purchase medicines and over the counter products from local community pharmacy partners for same-day delivery to their home.

Our fundamental belief is that looking after your health should be as easy as ordering a pizza. Our marketing is focussed around the promise of convenience and avoiding queues and the long wait times associated with getting a prescription filled in person.

In hindsight, our launch in March was perfectly timed to coincide with a dramatic acceleration in the digitisation of the modem patient/consumer journey in health. We’ve seen considerable change in legislation and technology to fast track the use of e-prescriptions and telehealth. We’re now building technical solutions to integrate the platform into multiple points along the patient journey.

Of course, we have the perfect network to promote the availability of a new innovative health service. A vast audience of 16 million across our waiting rooms and 12 million Australians who engage with our digital platform monthly.

Who said you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

I remember the frustration of seeing very low adoption of the once-maligned and very much underestimated QR code. Fast track to 2020 and even the staunchest critic would agree, the general public is now very aware of how QR codes work.

With the right combination of URL parameters and landing page technology, a QR code can be a powerful tool. I think this is the year the QR code becomes ubiquitous and we’ll start to see several innovative uses for this simple but powerful bundle of encoded goodness.


What innovation is taking place in health communications & marketing? What role is digital playing in this?

Here at Tonic Media Network, a key focus in our business has been the development and innovation of our programmatic channels, delivering buying automation across our digital screens. This innovation will change how marketers can communicate with our audiences, allowing them to respond in real time, to real events. 

COVID-19 has also highlighted a need for Out-of-Home to be more flexible and responsive to market conditions. Programmatic provides this flexibility, with the ability to be agile and react to market conditions.

When it comes to digital OOH activation, the introduction of our programmatic capabilities brings significate advantage and greater control for marketers. Such as;  

  • Speed to market – you can be live in a few hours, responsive to your brand needs. You can stop and start a campaign and in this climate that couldn’t be more important.
  • Targeting – programmatic enables a more targeted approach allowing buyers to focus on the audiences and locations at scale.
  • Flexible planning with no IO allows marketers to buy more control. 
  • Omnichannel planning. 
  • Transparency with reporting in single platform, making OOH more accountable.

With Tonic Media Network’s place-based screens in GP waiting rooms and at point of purchase in pharmacies, marketers are able to identify different steps of the consumer health care journey and target the right message, with the benefits of programmatic trading. 


Veronica Mayne, Managing Director, Fastser Horses

What does the increase in awareness and demand for mental health and holistic health services mean for marketers?

Mind your Mind!

Faster Horses has undertaken numerous health related studies recently for government departments, hospitals, broader community health based organisations including aged care and for commercial organisations. 

We are finding an increasing demand among consumers for a focus on mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical health and wellbeing. We are seeing this more specifically, but not confined to, either ends of the age spectrum – among older people who are receiving age care services and among teens and young twenties. Surprisingly given this trend, we are also still seeing that there is a stigma associated with mental health, which results in less funding being channeled in this direction. This is counter to the demands of consumers.

At the older end of the scale, there is a realisation that mental health and wellbeing is inextricably linked to physical wellbeing, and that aged care providers need to place more emphasis on mental health than has been the case in the past. Not only are the elderly demanding this, but so are their families. The industry has not yet met this need and tends to focus primarily on the physical sides of health – there is a large gap in meeting expectations in this regard. Our data from the Inside Aged Care Report 2020 shows that only 34% of people in Australia believe that aged care organisations focus on enhancing the mental health of those in their care … and 35% actively disagree with this statement.

At the younger end of the scale, teenagers and young twenties are very focussed on a holistic view of health. It appears that education in this space is highly developed in schools and is driving this awareness. The teens that we have spoken to as part of our research studies are very in touch with the issue of mental health, and very supportive of and open with others who have mental health issues. This has seen an enormous uptake in apps such as Calm and 10% Happier, which aim to rebalance and refocus the mind through meditation.

In addition to the greater holistic focus, the younger cohort also demands far more collaboration and inclusion when it comes to discussing their health – they want to be integrally involved in the health decisions impacting them. This is not the generation that will simply accept what they are told and adhere to it as their grandparents may have done. They question and want to understand their position, debate their treatment options and work out a solution that is bespoke and which works for their bodies, circumstances and cultural requirements.

This tells us that for marketers in the health space:

  1. There is a need to recognise that every body is different, and that a range of options need to be presented to people for consideration.
  2. That messaging needs to tap into both mental and physical benefits to optimise traction.
  3. And importantly there is a need to recognise how empowered and informed younger consumers are in their own health journeys – it is critical to include them in the conversations around health and give them the ability to make their own decisions by equipping them with knowledge.

While a simple message, taking a holistic, collaborative view is essential in getting traction in this space.