Clinical Trial Marketing and Advertising

Why content is king in clinical trial marketing and advertising

30/06/2019 8:37 am

You’ll have likely heard that content is king in advertising many times over. But it’s because it’s true.  And it’s just as true for clinical trial marketing and advertising. With research showing that to recruit successfully for clinical trials, sponsors need to discard the usual advertising playbook, focusing on creating quality content could be exactly what your advertising strategy needs. Let us tell you why…

Content is advertising in disguise

One of the most important advantages of creating content is that it can function as advertising in disguise. In the way that traditional advertising can, content doesn’t represent an interruption of the user’s thought processes, but instead enhances it. And while design is an important factor in creating materials that capture people’s attention, it’s the information which can really create those important connections.

All advertising relies on content

Every type of media in existence relies on having quality content to succeed and achieve its goals. While it doesn’t necessarily have to be written content, text still remains top of the consumption list.

You could argue that all social media platforms are actually content platforms. Whether it’s video footage, audio content, animation and imagery or written content – can you even picture networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn without any of these?

Paid advertising also requires content in conjunction with the creative aspects, and as the combination of paid, owned and earned media creates new formats like native advertising, it has never been as important as it is now for companies running clinical trials to develop a comprehensive content strategy.

People react differently to clinical trial marketing and advertising

A 2018 study showed that people respond differently to clinical trial content compared to other types of marketing. For example:

  • Viewers felt trust towards images of doctors and other healthcare providers instead of the suffering patients to whom they were expected to relate.
  • In contrast to the current shift away from what are seen as “stock” images, content that included images of medical practitioners outperformed non-clinical images by almost 10%.
  • While shorter content is generally preferred by consumers, especially on social media, longer content performed more strongly, with 81% of patients whose medical conditions impacted their lives negatively wanting advertisements with longer, more detailed copy.

All this goes to show that while content needs to address your audience of prospective clinical trial participants and speak to the challenges they face daily, it also needs to strike a balance between being patient-friendly and authoritative.

Striking a balance

Getting this balance right takes careful fine-tuning for any company doing a clinical trial marketing and advertising campaign. These marketing efforts usually target people who don’t have a medical background, so it’s important to remember that they experience their illness personally, not academically. Your copy needs to be easy to understand for your audience, which in the U.K. and the U.S. often includes low-literacy reading levels, meaning you need to cull scientific jargon. At the same time, however, medical information must be accurate scientifically and meet all the rules for clinical trial marketing and advertising. Some ways you can ensure your content complies with these requirements are:

  • Use active voice rather than passive in written content, e.g. “You’ll receive weekly counselling during the trial,” rather than “Weekly counselling will be provided to participants during the trial.”
  • Contain positive, friendly language and words we use every day, targeted at a reading age of around 14 years.
  • Provide an explanation or glossary of any difficult or medical terms.
  • Format the information for easy reading, such as with the use of sections, subheadings, and suitable font sizes.

Include photos and images that resemble the people you’re speaking to, and use a simple, uncluttered design throughout, with colour contrasts to highlight key messages.

The importance of storytelling

Storytelling is a major trend in content marketing, and in the context of clinical trials it can be a game-changer. Recruiting participants who suffer from a particular condition with a 50/50 chance they might get a placebo is challenging at best, but by telling stories in your content you can inspire them to stand up and be counted, and to make a difference in the world. The allure of helping others is part of the psychology used in clinical trial recruitment strategies.

The value of content

In the digital world, content is the “logical next step” of employing information that appeals to a particular audience and making it a marketing tool in itself, rather than a “bait” to get the audience to view the marketing.

This effectively makes content a major part of your clinical trial advertising, instead of an “assistant” to the advertising, which not only reduces cost and cuts out duplication, but also improves the chances of success. Content has become a vital tool for recruiting trial participants in 2019, with useful, informative and entertainment value.

For more information about the use of content in clinical trial marketing and advertising, please download our white paper at


Clinical Trial Advertising and Marketing

About the author

COUCH is a new breed of health communications agency that, due to a very personal experience, has at its core a mission to improve the lives of everyone. And so we are motivated by the profound understanding that, collectively, we need to do better. We are human to work with because we focus on using our skills and expertise for the common good.

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