Advertising clinical trials on Facebook can be an effective recruitment strategy. On platforms like Facebook, ads always have a sponsor. This sponsor is the brand, or person, who has paid for the ad. For clinical trials this sponsor is most often either your own institution, or an advertising agency like Wayturn.
Many researchers opt to use advertising agencies specialized on the clinical trial industry to lower their costs, ensure their recruitment timelines are met, save time, and maximize the quality of their enrollments.
There are however several reasons why you should avoid hiring advertising agencies that require you to use your institution’s Facebook account to promote products or services.
Incompetence: Clinical trials can be difficult to advertise. Facebook has many advertising policies that can be broken, which will results in the offending ad account being temporarily or permanently banned.
An agency that has a history of being banned is often incompetent, or inexperienced in the clinical trial industry. Therefore, running ads in your account is the only way that they can operate safely. When your account gets banned, they leave you in the dust.
Seasoned accounts: Professional advertising agencies have years worth of data in their own account, from hundreds of clinical trials. This data is not easily moved over to your institution’s account.
Using this data can drastically lower the cost per referral that you pay, and increase the available pool of potential enrollments.
The reason these agencies often do not care about this missed efficiency, leads us to the next point below –
Misaligned interests: Agencies that advertise in your institution’s account often charge a percentage of the budget assigned to them and so their interest is in keeping their budget high, not in high performance ads. This leads to less optimized ads, less work done by the agency, and less pressure to perform.
Wayturn prefers to charge a fixed amount per referral we send. This increases the pressure on us to provide you with an accurate analysis up front, and to keep ourselves efficient.
Less liability: By using your institution’s Facebook account, a marketing agency is less worried about being banned from Facebook and thus often run riskier ads.
Facebook has many advertising rules that can be broken by mistake or because it’s efficient to do so.
To illustrate this point – campaigns that are political are not allowed on Facebook (unless the agency is registered as a political advertiser), but many clinical trials can be turned into political issues. Sexual abuse, women’s rights, vaccine mandates, veteran issues, etc.
Turning these political has the advantage of making them highly engaging, which increases the number of comments and shares and subsequently lowering costs and increasing sign ups in the short term.
So the incentive on part of the agency is that by breaking these rules, they can send you more referrals. However, your account is likely to be banned and your institution could be left to suffer the consequences.
When an advertiser uses their own account, they are guaranteed to be more careful. Also, make sure to always use pre-approved promotional materials with advertising agencies.
They have a bad reputation: Agencies with a bad reputation can skirt around this by advertising using your institution’s Facebook account, which can in turn also damage your institution’s reputation.
Clinical trial ads often get negative comments about certain phrases, imagery, or the whole purpose of the study is questioned. An experienced agency is used to handling these issues by avoiding controversial promotional materials, and also by managing comments on a daily basis. When ads are in your name, it’s your reputation on the line when comments go unanswered.
In summary, it is generally best to avoid advertising agencies that require you to use your institution’s Facebook account to promote products or services. Using an institutional account for commercial purposes exposes your institution to potential liability, carries risks to your institution’s reputation, and can damage your professional image. It is generally safer and more professional to use a dedicated advertising agency to promote your clinical trial.
If you are looking to get started, Wayturn provides a free study analysis, with cost estimates and recommended recruitment strategies for free. Get started by sending us your study details here.