Why your clinical trial advertising might be missing the mark

Are you spending time and money on clinical trial advertising that’s not delivering? It can be frustrating to put resources into spreading the word about your study, only to find that the patients who make it to your sites are not right for your trial. According to a survey Antidote conducted of 4,000+ patients, 52% of patients found out about clinical trial opportunities through an advertisement. Advertising is a critical channel to reach potential trial participants. 

If you’re having trouble with your clinical trial advertising, here’s where you might be missing the mark — and how to get back on track. 

You’re not where the patients are

If the patients you’re reaching through advertising are not the patients you’re looking for in your trial, you need to revisit your platform selection and your targeting approach. Think about the age, ethnicity, sex, and other demographic factors that may impact how your trial’s ideal patient population uses the internet, or where they get their information offline. This information is critical to selecting your advertising platform, to start; you need to be advertising where your target patients are. For example, if your trial is targeting elderly people and you’ve decided to advertise on TikTok, you might have a difficult time finding the patients you’re looking for. 

Once you’ve selected the platform or platforms you’ll be advertising on, don’t be shy. Poke around to find out about the patient population on your chosen platform. Are they in particular groups? Do they like certain pages? This can give you a sense of exactly how they’re using the platform, and therefore how best you can reach them. 

Your messaging isn’t resonating

If your ineligible numbers are high, it might be because your messages are resonating with the wrong patients. Part of mastering clinical trial advertising is developing a true understanding of the patient population. You need to understand not just what platforms they are on and how they are using those platforms — but also to deep dive into what it’s like to live with the condition your trial is studying. How will the drug, intervention, health tech app, or medical device you’re evaluating improve the way patients live with their condition? What issues are most important to these patients, and how does your potential treatment address them? If your messaging is focusing on things that aren’t important to your target population, they’ll keep scrolling right past your advertisement.

The best way to really get to know the patients is, of course, to talk to them. At Antidote, we work with our network of more than 250 patient advocacy groups to ensure that our advertising messaging is getting to the heart of the patient experience of their particular condition. 

Your images aren’t reflecting the patient population

It’s possible that if your ad is not performing, it’s because your imagery was not reflective of the population you are targeting, is off-putting in some way, or is simply not attention-grabbing. Selecting clinical trial ad imagery can be tricky. You want to reflect the lived experience of the condition, but you also want to be broad enough to appeal to people beyond the images you’ve included in your ad. For example, we have found that for asthma trials, it’s often most effective to include an inhaler in the advertisement, presumably because inhalers are a fairly universal element of living with asthma.

Your audience needs to see themselves reflected in your ad. If you’re using photography, that means that the subject and setting should look familiar to patients seeing your ad. Illustration can also be a useful tool to span demographics. Whatever you choose, strongly linking your copy to your imagery will tell a more engaging story — and lead to a more effective ad. 

Reaching the right patients for clinical trials is challenging, but with the right platforms, targeting, messaging, and imagery, it’s far from impossible.