Bayer pharma makes every effort to purchase digital media, moving external operations in-house


In an increasingly digital world, information is king. And data management is one of the main reasons Bayer is moving its digital media purchases in-house. The shift in the pharmaceutical business follows the shift of its consumer group Bayer Consumer Health Division to in-house digital media buying more than two years ago.

For Bayer, what is even more important than the obvious savings of not paying an external agency is the fact that buying in-house means more effective and efficient data control.

“Digital media and our ability to improve the ROI of our digital media dollars is at the heart of it all,” said Brian Cantwell, vice president of digital strategy and operations at Bayer Pharma.

As discussions escalated over Google’s plans to eliminate cookies next year, Cantwell said it was not a deciding factor in Bayer’s pressure to move media in-house. Instead, Google’s move confirms that the company is making the right choice in moving towards more direct data management in what will become a post-cookie world.

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“We realize that to be successful in the 21st century, we need to have more robust digital capabilities to respond to our customers where they are on the digital channels where they consume information and seek to make better decisions about their health,” Cantwell noted.

To facilitate change, Bayer is establishing a dedicated department of in-house digital specialists that includes experts in analytics, branding and creation.

“We are really looking to develop differentiated internal digital capabilities to support our overall transformation,” he said.

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While consumer marketing has increasingly brought digital media buying in-house, pharma has been slower to move. Cantwell believes Bayer is the first pharmaceutical company to fully commit to the new model.

Fortunately, the anticipated challenge of change turned out to be more worrying for Bayer than the actual move. The Jan. 1 operational move was “seamless,” Cantwell said.

The biggest challenge he sees is a cultural shift from core pharmaceutical tasks towards in-house strategic media planning and buying. For now, Bayer is using a specialized transition agency to facilitate the transition from the old outsourced model to the new one with the goal of having a team of full-time employees by mid-2022.

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