Building Privacy-Safe Health Audience Segments

As many state legislatures and ad tech companies focus on the responsible use of data in digital advertising, health marketers can use Network Advertising Initiative (NAI) guidelines to ensure that their campaigns are privacy-safe.

The NAI is the leading self-regulatory association dedicated to responsible data collection and its use in digital advertising in the United States. The NAI’s Health Audience Targeting guidelines represent the only set of rules specifically focused on the appropriate and ethical use of data to target health ads to consumers.

In the guidelines, targeting data falls into two buckets—sensitive and non-sensitive information. Sensitive information includes user-level health information and browsing behavior. To use this sensitive information, advertisers must have opt-in consent from consumers.

Developing and activating audience segments

Most health marketers rely on audience segments developed using non-sensitive data to activate audience targeting at scale. The NAI guidelines describe the methodology that must be used when using demographic data to create health audience segments.

An audience based only on demographic attributes such as age, gender, education level, and the residential setting is considered non-sensitive by the NAI.

Many marketers have questions about building and activating segments safely as part of their audience targeting strategy. Here are four common questions and answers to guide you.

1. Can I use demographic elements other than those listed in the guidelines?
Yes, the demographic elements listed are just examples. Essentially, you can use offline data that is not actual healthcare data. Other examples include income, wealth, leisure activities/affinity, etc.

2. Can I create a segment using data that is more precise than zip-level?
According to the NAI, using data this precise is considered sensitive information. As they state in their guidance, “the use of user-level non-demographic attributes such as residence more precise than ZIP-level” would require opt-in consent from users.

3. Can I use actual healthcare data to create a segment?
Healthcare data is considered sensitive information. The use of “user-level medical records or pharmaceutical prescriptions, or similar health or medical sources that provide actual knowledge of that user’s condition or treatment” would require opt-in consent from users. Marketers cannot use healthcare data to create a targeting segment, filter a list of people, or as an input alongside demographic variables. A segment should use only demographic elements to be allowed in the market without requiring permission from consumers.

4. Why do I have to target such a large audience?
NAI guidelines require advertisers to target at least 10% of the total targetable population in their ad campaigns. Perception is important for health targeting. By serving messaging to at least 10% of the population, the targeted audience is sufficiently large that consumers do not feel targeted based on sensitive health data.

Lead with privacy

When choosing media and data partners, marketers need to lead with privacy. Ask your partners: How many consumers will be targeted by my campaign? What data is used to build the segments? Does this solution comply with regulations and industry guidelines?

At Veeva Crossix, we are proud to help health marketers optimize their campaigns by striking an appropriate balance between a reasonable expectation of privacy and the value of distributing helpful information to a relevant audience.

Learn best practices for using health audience segments to scale campaigns in A Guide to Audience Targeting for Health Brands.

Interested in learning more about how Veeva can help?