Clever Tactics Track Flu Outbreaks for More Effective Media Buying

Clever Tactics Track Flu Outbreaks for More Effective Media Buying
Media buyers are getting some unusual help in pinpointing consumers in need of cold and flu remedies. The Wall Street Journal reports that many marketers and their advertising agencies are maximizing revenue by targeting consumers from the moment they develop symptoms. That’s when they typically stock up on supplies such as tissues, disinfectants, and cold remedies. By following social media networks and sites like WebMD, marketers can hone their media buying strategies to target victims right down to the ZIP code, and practically from the very first sneeze.

David Kellis, who oversees social media communications for Clorox says, “We’re not out there rooting for more people to get the flu. But when it happens, we want to be there to help prevent the spread of it.”

Like many companies, Clorox mines chatter on Twitter to locate and market to potential flu sufferers. Since many Twitter users reveal the cities in which they live, Clorox media buyers can then place ads that have been pre-produced precisely for this scenario.

In addition, Clorox monitors search trends on Google to track areas of the country showing a high incidence of flu-related searches. The goal is to catch consumers just when they develop symptoms, but before they stock up on a competitor’s products.

Other companies, like Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC, look to popular medical websites for clues. The online symptom checker on WebMD’s site helps the maker of Airborne vitamins and Mucinex cough remedies match queries to a searcher’s ZIP code.

Unlike data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which uses doctors’ reports from patients seeking treatment after the flu strikes, the WebMD data predicts outbreaks at their earliest stages, since that’s when people are most likely to use the site’s symptom checker. This helps marketers time their media buying at precisely the point when a major outbreak hits and sufferers head to the store.

Kimberly-Clark goes even further. Rather than wait until searches show up on Google or WebMD, the maker of Kleenex tissues has developed a flu prediction tool that provides a three-week forecast. Their proprietary system incorporates data from a variety of sources to determine where the next outbreak will happen. It tracks social media discussions, weather forecasts, over-the-counter drug sales, and even major public events that present opportunities for transmission.

So far, results have been promising. Sales of over-the-counter cold, flu, and allergy remedies rose 4% last year. Market researcher Euromonitor International reports a slight increase over the previous year in sales of tissues and personal wipes. And Kimberly Clark claims double-digit sales growth thanks to its proprietary flu prediction method.

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