"What AdComplyRx is building is a pharma-safe version of Google's Search Network and Microsoft/Bing's Syndicated Search Partner Network. This means pharma-grade quality, control, and transparency."Ian Orekondy, Founder
I recently had the pleasure of connecting with Ian Orekondy. Ian is the founder of AdComplyRx, a new pharma-focused ad tech startup in New York City. They’ve already built a buy-side ad operation platform and are now looking to flesh out their sell-side capabilities.
The below interview highlights Ian’s vision for the ad product, how he plans to get there, and why it’s important to his business. Hope you enjoy!
Why did you decide to build an in-house ad server?
We started on the path to building our own pharma-focused ad tech stack based on 13 years of working in the pharma marketing space and seeing over $15 billion in FDA enforcement actions/settlements and 200+ FDA warning letters from the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) handed out to pharma companies for often inadvertent, non-compliant marketing practices. AdComplyRx's core technology automates FDA compliance monitoring for pharmaceutical companies' advertising/marketing campaigns to reduce the regulatory risk of their promotions by 98%.
Closely related to FDA compliance are the concepts of brand safety and ad fraud, and we see a giant opportunity to deliver on the unique needs of pharmaceutical marketers in these areas by building the industry's only pharma-focused ad tech stack.
Is your ad server buy- or sell-side?
While we are currently focused on streamlining buy-side ad operations for pharmaceutical companies and their agencies, we will also be working to bridge both the buy-side and sell-side to offer a complete solution that pharma marketers can trust to deliver the patient- and healthcare professional targeting that they want, combined with the FDA compliance and brand safety they need, at scale.
How will you build on your buy-side success to fulfill your sell-side vision?
We envision our platform delivering the following benefits to publishers of high-quality healthcare content:
- More direct sales with easy campaign set-up and streamlined targeting options customized for the unique needs of pharma companies looking to reach various types of physicians, healthcare professionals, patient types, and stage of the patient pathway
- A self-serve interface to enable sales directly to pharma agencies, as well as direct to the many smaller brands (eg high margin Rare Disease brands)
- The ability to maximize revenue and monetization of every impression by connecting to any other ad exchange or network with a unified auction, as well as cross-device ad serving
- Customized legal, regulatory, and compliance frameworks built out for the unique need of CMLR (Commercial-Medical-Legal-Regulatory), PRC (Promotional Review Committee), PRT (Promotion Review Team) and CRC (Compliance Review Committee) team feedback to win more buys while maintaining the volume of available inventory
- Integration with Google Search Ads 360 to accept the most popular SEM ad types
Who are your target users and advertisers?
Prescription pharmaceutical manufacturers and brands in the U.S.
How does your pharma-focused stack compare to standard, third-party servers?
What AdComplyRx is building is a pharma-safe version of Google's Search Network and Microsoft/Bing's Syndicated Search Partner Network. This means pharma-grade quality, control, and transparency.
With Google's Search Network, advertisers cannot control which websites their search ads appear on. Nor can they get reporting on which sites their search ads ran on or how they performed. Everything is rolled up into the overall "Search Network" line item. This lack of control and transparency creates risk that a brand's ads will appear in unsafe places. Just look at how GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) and Johnson & Johnson - and even Walmart, Pepsi, Starbucks and many others - pulled their ads from YouTube in 2017 citing brand safety concerns. While Google has certainly made strides in these areas, there remains a lot of work to be done with their Partner Network.
To Microsoft's credit, they provide full transparency on where their Syndicated Search Partner network ads run, and provide the ability to block certain sites. However, this transparency and control come only after the ads run. Brands are still at risk of running tens of thousands of dollars a month on either irrelevant or suspicious websites before they can identify and then individually block those websites from serving the brand's ads going forward. This risk can create stress and tension for the agency, the brand marketing team, and other stakeholders.
"AdComplyRx's pharma-focused ad tech stack aims to provide the same benefit of premium advertiser scale that these networks offer, while focusing on quality, vetted websites that deliver on the higher standards that big and small pharmaceutical brands demand."Ian Orekondy
How would you describe your building process?
We've been building out the core AdComplyRx technology since 2016, and we are still building. We will always be building.
As we've scaled, ensuring platform stability was one of the biggest early challenges. Beyond that, integrating new features into the core platform in an intuitive UX is one of our biggest opportunities. We aim to create a more fulfilling ad operations experience. Solving the business problem is important, but we want to do it in a way that improves the overall work experience for pharma marketers and their agencies.
Have you had any difficulty in finding advertisers and/or users?
We estimate there are 400+ Rx pharma brands running DTC (direct-to-consumer) advertising in the U.S. currently, and we're based in NYC, so there's no challenge finding the advertisers and their agencies. The challenge is that the sales cycle can take some time. Even with an automated solution ready to go, educating the agency, the brand leads, the regulatory folks, the lawyers, procurement, etc. takes time.
What sort of feedback have you heard/received from your users?
The feedback from agencies has been great. We ran alpha and beta programs in 2019, and every participating agency and brand has either signed on for their 2020 campaigns or those contracts are in process.
Did you have to change your business operations to make this work?
Yes, we are currently hiring across multiple positions including another Customer Success Manager, Business Development Director, and another full-stack developer/technical program manager
Did you build a self-serve interface for advertisers? Why or why not?
Yes, we built a self-serve interface for advertisers. We are building the platform to scale efficiently, so the self-serve platform is integral to that strategy.
Ian Orekondy is the founder of AdComplyRx.
Thanks to Ian for sharing his story. I look forward to seeing how AdComplyRx develops in the months to come!