If you’ve been following our recaps from Digital Pharma East, you know that the Syneos Health Digital & Social Strategy team presented original research on recruiting patients for clinical trials at a plenary session. Here’s a peek behind the scenes at how this research project came to be. 

Facebook advertising is one of our favorite tools for clinical trial recruitment because the platform offers us the ability to precisely target our messages to a precise audience among Facebook’s 2 billion-plus users. Facebook also offers great flexibility in the ads you create. For example, in a standard in-stream Facebook ad, the image, headline and message are all customizable. So when you launch a campaign, you have many choices to make: Who to target? What imagery to use? What messaging to employ? How much detail to include? Because there are so many choices to make, marketers often simplify decisions by resorting to time-honored conventional wisdom about consumer preferences. 

We know, though, that health care decisions are among the most difficult, sensitive and personal choices that people make in their lives, and that attitudes towards clinical trials run the gamut from fear to enthusiasm, from confusion to indifference. If the decision to join a clinical trial is so different from the decision to buy, say, sneakers or potato chips, why should we put stock in typical advertising best practices? 

We set out to discover if there were any ad variables that would consistently lead people to click on clinical trial ads—the essential first step towards enrolling in a clinical trial. We did this by fielding a survey among more than 400 participants, seeking to determine how they respond to a wide range of variables that we can control in an ad campaign: the message, the messenger, the platform where the ad is delivered, the imagery, the length, etc. Our hypothesis was that we’d be able to see distinct differences between survey respondents depending on what condition they have and how severely it impacts their life.

Indeed, our hypothesis proved correct, and our results contradicted several advertising maxims (e.g., “shorter is better,” use positive aspirational imagery). Did we discover new rules of thumb that can be applied across all clinical trial recruitment campaigns? Unfortunately we did not (unfortunate for those who are hoping to make quick and easy decisions about ad creative). Above all, our research showed that every ad campaigns must be rooted in careful listening and a thorough understanding of the target audience. Ultimately it is these custom insights that will drive your strategy and help you connect with potential research participants.

About the Author:

Julian is the clinical solutions lead for the Digital and Social Strategy team at Syneos Health™. He helps serve as a bridge between the clinical and commercial services in the company’s biopharmaceutical acceleration model.