A marketer’s guide to navigating regulated industries

By Connie Del Bono, Biddable Director



The Drum Network article

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April 16, 2021 | 5 min read

Marketers are no strangers to regulation – from privacy laws to platform regulations, we’re used to navigating and adapting. But things get more complicated when the entire industry your client operates within is also regulated.


Not only do you have to meet the regulation requirements of a standard marketing campaign, regulated industries bring a whole new range of challenges; whether that be abiding by governmental laws or considering more human sensitivities. It’s a balancing act, walking a tightrope to ensure clients see strong results.

Many regulated industries call upon the help of marketing agencies. The CBD market, for example, is one of the fastest-growing – expected to be worth $20bn by 2024 – and older industries like healthcare and finance also operate under strict restrictions. Companies within these industries are tasked with the same goal as any other; reaching their intended audience and engaging consumers – except at times their audiences might be more vulnerable than others.

Considering the human

The audience should be at the center of any good campaign. While considering the individual sounds simple, often audiences are grouped into segments and personal needs are forgotten about. Companies within regulated industries are often privy to really sensitive consumer data and how they use that data for advertising can make or break consumer relationships. For example, healthcare companies know all about the medical needs of their customers, but that doesn’t mean they should use that in their advertising efforts. Someone who suffers from an illness shouldn’t have to be constantly reminded of their condition as they surf the web, yet equally products should reach their intended audience.

Additionally, with family members sharing the same devices, it’s possible that loved ones could be exposed to information that an individual isn’t comfortable sharing yet. Striking the balance of being tactful and retargeting carefully is key to protecting people and their right to privacy.

With the removal of the third-party cookie, marketers need to be thinking about retargeting more creatively, whether it be by look-alike targeting or by modeling using CRMs. Whatever the preferred method, thinking about the person on the receiving end of the advert is paramount.

Creativity with sensitivity

This consideration of the individual also needs to apply to your creative. We repeatedly see culturally insensitive marketing faux pas, but this can be incredibly damaging for regulated industries.

Advertisers need to be creative, while maintaining common sense – something easily lost as we get carried away with the ‘big idea’. Yes, the creative needs to be eye-catching, but it also needs to be applicable to the widest possible audience, all while maintaining a sense of personalization. Sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s something good advertisers achieve regularly, making the individual feel as if we are speaking to them – without feeling overly targeted.

One simple way this can be done is by using inclusive language like ‘you’ and ‘we’ and in empathizing with the user, portraying the message that ‘we are here to help’. On some platforms this is even more crucial as advertisers are limited in the language they are allowed to use, with phrases such as ‘do you have these symptoms’ restricted on Facebook, for example. Careful language choices ensure creative works for a wide range of platforms.

Redefining success

It’s easy to get caught up with hitting targets and superficial performance indicators, but agencies and clients need to come together to redefine the way success is measured. Vanity metrics often set by C-suite execs detached from the day-to-day can stifle good, meaningful results.

We need to align on what success really looks like. This is vital in regulated industries, as clients need to understand how the process works to ensure they are comfortable with it. For example, if clients know exactly what data is needed for retargeting, it might not be something they want to pursue. Equally, agencies must be honest with clients, pushing back on unrealistic requests and saying no to the uncomfortable.

Businesses within regulated industries should have strong privacy policies visible on the site, and marketers need to work with clients to lay foundations in the planning process to set up for the future. The key to all this is open and honest communication – fully trust your agency and bring them into the fold to educate internal teams. Then you’ll be able to work more harmoniously and all see more success.

Navigating regulated industries is a balancing act. Targeting audiences while not being too targeted, being creative without going too far, and using data without crossing a line. Yet, in truth, the ways we navigate regulated industries should be the way we manage all campaigns. Proceeding with caution, but with confidence to test and re-adjust strategies, is how marketing in regulated industries is best managed – and, ultimately, remember that there’s a human in every part of the process.

Connie Del Bono is biddable director at Croud.


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Croud is a global, full-service digital agency that helps businesses drive sustainable growth in the new world of marketing. With a rich heritage in performance,...

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