Putting the mobile health ad opportunity in context

By Brian Dolan
10:22 am
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Mobile Health Access November 2011 DataAbout 33 percent of people with smartphones in the US tracked their diet or their exercises with their mobile devices, a comScore representative told The New York Times this week. ComScore said that for tablet users the numbers climb a bit: 35 percent used the devices to track diet and 39 percent used tablets like the iPad to track their exercise. The research firm also stated that about 100 million Americans own a smartphone.

As MobiHealthNews reported in January, comScore found that on average 16.9 million people used their mobile devices to access health information, based on data collected last September, October, and November. That figure marks a 125 percent growth rate over the same three month period from 2010. The research firm found that about 3 in 5 (or about 60 percent) of the mobile health information seekers were under the age of 35.

These are impressive numbers considering that last year Manhattan Research reported that about 26 percent of US adults had used their mobile phones – both smartphones and not-so-smartphones – to access health information in the previous 12 months. The firm reported that only 12 percent of US adults had searched for health information via mobile devices in its 2010 report.

Everyday Health, an online health company with 30 million visitors per month, told the Times that it has noticed mobile users downloading apps for tracking signs of pregnancy, tracking signs of various sexually transmitted diseases, in addition to ones that helped them manage their eating, drinking, and exercise. Everyday Health CEO Benjamin Wolin reported that the number of site visitors coming from mobile devices has spiked fivefold in the past two years.

The New York Times report also noted that three of the top five symptoms search for on Yahoo Mobile in January 2012 were early pregnancy, herpes, and HIV. Healthline, which powers Yahoo's health search engine, released the top 10 mobile health searches of 2011 at the end of last year. The top five did include "herpes" and the top ten included "pregnancy" but HIV was not on the top 10 for 2011.

While the New York Times' headline pointed to a growing mobile advertising opportunity for brands given the rise in mobile health searches, downloads, and visits, it provided little context.

ComScore noted that health ads made up a mere 1 percent of all online display ads according to its count at the end of 2011.

Geoff McCleary, group director for mobile innovation at ad agency Digitas Health, said that pharmaceutical companies "are struggling" with challenges of including safety information into mobile ads as required by regulators.

The report did not mention that some pharma companies are already advertising on mobile health apps through mobile advertising networks like the one launched last year: Tomorrow Networks.

Read the NYTimes report here.

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