From Billboards to TV Spots: Marketing With Traditional Media to Engage Varied Life Science Audiences

With digital marketing’s customer reach and targeting capabilities, cost-effectiveness, and measurable results, its channels are increasingly replacing traditional media channels. Driven by a belief that digital channels are superior, some pharmaceutical and biotech companies following this trend are missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with their target audiences.

“Over the years, I’ve seen digital budgets grow substantially – often cutting into the traditional media budget,” says Krista Clark, a media specialist with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. “While digital buys can target very specific audiences, traditional media still carries a lot of weight and power in driving the consumer to the website for more information.”

Combined with your digital marketing efforts, traditional media like TV, radio, print, direct mail, and outdoor advertising can increase your life science marketing campaigns’ visibility and provide valuable opportunities to connect with your target audiences – healthcare professionals, patients and consumers, scientific partners, investors, and more.

“The essence of successful advertising is planning,” Clark says. “Media buying is the executional aspect of the media plan. However, it is more than just the actual purchase of advertising space or time; it is understanding the target audience and the product itself. It is understanding people’s media viewing habits and how the target audience goes about their daily business, how they react to the world around them.”

Need another reason to consider traditional media? Data shows that many people are becoming increasingly frustrated with all the digital noise. A recent HubSpot survey found that 57% of participants disliked ads that played before a video and 43% didn’t even watch them. Turning to more traditional media options gives your brand an opportunity to cut through that noise.

Let’s delve into various traditional media channels and discover how they can be effectively used in life science marketing.


Billboards provide a larger-than-life canvas to showcase your message. In today’s digital age, digital billboards offer vibrant and dynamic displays that can be updated with ease. Consider positioning traditional or digital billboards strategically in high-traffic areas to promote new medications or vaccines or visionary and future-focused messaging tied to your brand.

Sample strategy. Use billboards in busy downtown areas or along high-traffic roadways to promote:

  • New medications for common chronic conditions like diabetes and hypertension
  • Medications making a big impact on serious diseases
  • Vaccine campaigns designed to tackle infectious illness (think COVID-19 and HPV)
  • Messaging tying biotech advances to better healthcare

Cable TV

Cable TV permits highly targeted advertising based on geographic zones and specific demographic audiences. By selecting networks that align with your target audiences’ interests, such as local networks and cable channels broadcasting live sports, cable news channels, and channels focused on home improvement and pop culture or vintage TV shows, you can ensure that your message reaches the right viewers. Remember that cable TV is often purchased in tonnage due to its fragmented viewership, so plan your media buying accordingly.

Sample strategy. Specifically target audiences to promote:

  • Medications for chronic conditions or autoimmune disorders commonly diagnosed in specific demographics
  • Vaccine campaigns designed to tackle infectious illness or prevent long-term consequences
  • General brand messaging

Streaming TV (OTT)

Over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms have gained immense popularity, and they offer precise targeting capabilities. With OTT, you can reach viewers based on ZIP code, county, age groups, and other parameters. Take advantage of analytics to understand viewers’ preferences and behaviors, and tailor your ads accordingly. Platforms like Netflix, Hulu, Paramount+, and YouTube can help you connect with audiences across multiple devices.

Sample strategy. Specifically target an audience to publicize:

  • Disease awareness messaging
  • Your brand’s overall vision and strategy for improving care, quality of life, wellness, etc.


Traditional radio advertising remains a trusted and effective medium for reaching a diverse audience. You should also consider streaming radio, which offers advanced targeting options. By choosing the right radio format, such as talk shows or podcasts focused on health and wellness and news or music stations popular with your target demographic, you can engage listeners during their daily routines. Thirty- and 60-second commercials allow you to convey your message effectively, and leveraging local deejays or podcast hosts as voice-over talent can create personal and trustworthy testimonials.

Sample strategy. Consider sponsoring a talk show or podcast segment to promote:

  • A new medication to treat a chronic condition or autoimmune disease
  • New advancements in personalized treatments, immunotherapies, and genetic medicine
  • Brand messaging that emphasizes a mission to improve people’s health and longevity

Magazine/Print Advertising

Magazine and print advertising provide tangible experiences that captivate readers’ attention. Consider partnering with health or wellness-specific publications, magazines for healthcare providers and scientific professionals, or senior-, young adult-, or parent-focused print media to target your desired audience effectively. Craft visually compelling ads that convey your patient/consumer outcomes, innovative treatment options, national recognitions, and forward-thinking focus to leverage the unique benefits of print media.

Sample strategy. Advertising in health-focused publications can be very effective in promoting your brand through:

  • Disease-awareness messaging
  • Outcomes snapshots
  • Demographic-specific advertising of medications/treatment technologies

Direct Mail

Despite the rise of digital communication, direct mail remains an effective way to reach potential customers. Tailor your mailings to a specific demographic or ZIP code to increase engagement and response rates.

Sample strategy. Consider using direct mail to enhance your brand by sharing:

  • Product information to educate physicians
  • Offers to healthcare professionals for patient education materials
  • Consumer coupons promoting a new product

Transit Advertising

Transit advertising encompasses various mediums, including buses, taxis, bus shelters, train station posters, and digital screens. These channels offer extensive exposure to both pedestrians and drivers, making them hard to miss. By strategically selecting train and bus routes, you can target specific geographic areas and demographics effectively.

Sample strategy. Promote products and services designed to help people:

  • Access medications and technologies for their specific health concerns
  • Increase their chances of long-term wellness
  • Talk to their physicians about treatment options

Remember, marketing media for pharma, biotech, and other life sciences must be in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and HIPAA Privacy Rule, which were designed to ensure that protected health information (PHI) is handled securely. To fulfill these requirements, all patient information from medical history to test results to insurance information, must be concealed.

Abiding by compliance requirements is especially important when it comes to direct mail. For condition-specific communications, you’ll want to use a generic or minimally designed envelope with a white front panel, so the recipient’s PHI is not visible. Save the customized communications for inside.

The Importance of Planning

According to Clark, “While digital buys can target very specific audiences, traditional media still carries a lot of weight and power in driving the consumer to the website for more information.”

At Lightstream, we specialize in managing all aspects of media marketing, including traditional and digital channels. We understand the unique benefits that each medium brings to the table and can help you craft a comprehensive strategy that maximizes your marketing impact. What’s more, we don’t charge mark-ups, ensuring transparent and cost-effective media buying.

Ready to harness the power of traditional media in your life science marketing campaigns? Contact us today to learn more about our services and start reaching your target audience effectively. Together, we can create a winning strategy that combines the best of traditional and digital media to more effectively engage your audiences and achieve your marketing goals.