The Bracken Blog

5 Common Clinical Trial Advertising Mistakes to Avoid

A Hand-Curated Bundle of Goodness


Clinical trial patient recruitment is one of the most costly parts of conducting research. Of the $2.6 billion it costs on average to bring a new drug to market, up to one third may be spent on recruitment alone.

Any campaign involves some trial and error – it’s just part of the process. But there are also common clinical trial advertising mistakes you can avoid, too, starting in the planning stage. When you put in the time and planning to get clinical trial advertising right, you can connect with interested patients more efficiently and help your project move forward faster.

Before you launch your next recruitment campaign, consider these common mistakes – and how to course correct and start connecting with the right patients.

Mistake 1: Misunderstanding the motivations of your patient population.

It can be easy to jump immediately into choosing targeting options and drafting copy for your Institutional Review Board (IRB) submission. But before you start, it’s important to take the time to thoroughly research your patient population and understand why they may be interested in your trial. Use patient blogs, health nonprofit websites, social media, and message boards to build an understanding of what it’s like to live with the condition. What are the most challenging symptoms? Where do existing treatments fall short? What might prevent patients from taking part in your trial? Use this information to understand the specific value your trial has for patients, and use it to drive your messaging when you begin to create outreach materials.

Mistake 2: Using confusing language.

As a clinical research professional, you well know what the words “inclusion and exclusion criteria” and “interventional medication” mean – but the average patient may not. Only 12% of Americans have proficient health literacy, according to the  National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Many people have trouble following directions from doctors or understanding the directions on a pill bottle. Simplify your language, and talk about the condition using the same language as patients do, based on your research or interviews with patients themselves.

Mistake 3: Choosing imagery that doesn’t connect with your audience.

Another common mistake is choosing imagery that doesn’t reflect your patient population. When choosing images, follow your findings from your patient research to make sure your selections capture patient demographics, to start. For example, lupus primarily affects young women of color, so if all of your images are of older men, your audience may be more likely to skim past your ads. Another option is to try to find images that relate to life with the condition. For example, if you’re running a clinical trial for asthma, you may choose to find images of patients using inhalers – unless your particular trial isn’t using an inhaled medication. Put just as much thought into your image choices as you do into your written ad copy.

Mistake 4: Wasting spend on the wrong Google keywords.

Paid search can be a powerful way to reach patients who may be interested in taking part in your clinical trial. By bidding on keywords directly related to clinical trials, you can connect with patients who are actively looking for opportunities. For many conditions, though, the search volume may be low for terms related specifically to trials. It’s common to also target related keywords, but be careful about casting too wide of a net. Regularly track conversions per keyword, and keep a close eye on the search terms that lead visitors to your ads. Update your “negative keywords” list with errant search terms that don’t result in conversions to avoid wasting spend.

Mistake 5: Optimizing for the wrong part of your patient recruitment funnel.

Running tests to find the best ad copy and targeting is critical throughout your campaign. But it’s equally important to ensure that you’re measuring the right factors when choosing a winner from your A/B tests. For example, you may at first determine that a particular ad is performing the best because it’s receiving the most clicks or prescreener completions. As your campaign continues, though, pay attention to whether patients who came in through a different ad are more likely to attend an in-person screening or ultimately consent into the trial. As your campaign moves forward, you may need to adjust your testing accordingly as you learn more about how patient leads act through your entire recruitment funnel.

Challenges are bound to come up in any patient recruitment project, but putting in thorough research at the beginning and updating your strategy throughout can help your team avoid common, and costly, mistakes. You’ll also create a more accessible experience for patients who are interested in taking part in research – and ultimately bring better treatments to market faster, too.

About Nancy Ryerson:

Nancy+RyersonNancy Ryerson is a digital communicator with experience in content, marketing, and social media in the healthcare space. She currently writes for clinical researchers and patients at Antidote, a digital health startup that connects patients to research through an innovative clinical trial search tool. Prior to joining Antidote, she spent three years at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where she communicated research updates and clinical trial opportunities to the Foundation’s social media community of 750,000+ followers.




It’s all about you. Let’s dive in.

Enough about us. We want to hear about the specifics of your business. Use this form to schedule a consultation, and one of our revenue growth experts will research your website and join the call ready with personalized recommendations and ideas. We’ll take the time to learn about your specific goals, strengths, and challenges, and discuss how else to grow your revenue.

This is a $200 consultation we’re providing for free. What’s there to lose? Schedule your consultation now.