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Mission Control / Healthcare

The Delicate Art of Digital Healthcare Advertising

Before launching your next campaign, familiarize yourself with these rules from Google Ads’ medical policy and Meta’s ad standards.

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By Jordan Thomas

There’s nothing worse than putting the finishing touches on a chef’s-kiss-worthy digital healthcare marketing campaign only for it be blocked by Google Ads’ medical policy (or Meta’s advertising standards, for that matter). Not only are edits costly and time-consuming, but egregious violations can get your organization blocked or its account suspended.

That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the policies of whatever platform you’ll be advertising on. In general, there are four main concepts to be aware of.

  • Prohibited content – items and services that you cannot advertise on the platform under any circumstance
  • Prohibited practices – activities and tactics that are not allowed while advertising, regardless of the content
  • Restricted content – items and services you can advertise but with strict limitations and conditions
  • Editorial and technical restrictions – standards that help ensure ads are not misleading

Here are three areas where we see the most confusion and how to avoid them.

1. Diagnoses

Working in healthcare marketing, you know to take caution against telling people they have a medical condition. That’s why your legal team insists on you using lots of phrases like, “Talk to your doctor if you have …” and “X symptoms may indicate …”

Google isn’t super specific in this area, but you’ll still need to be cautious with your word choice. Meta’s personal health and appearance policy, on the other hand, is pretty strict in this space. Its policy states you can’t imply a diagnosis or even ask specific questions like “Do you have diabetes?”

What to do instead: Keep your wording general, condition-focused and in the third person. For instance, instead of “Do you have diabetes?” try “For people with diabetes.” Another option is to promote a piece of content, such as “The Ultimate Guide to Diabetes.”

2. Touting Research

Promoting research findings can be a powerful tool in healthcare marketing, but Google Ads medical policy has iron-clad guidelines in place designed to prevent misleading information. Claims based on research must be presented accurately and cannot be exaggerated. For example, stating “Clinical studies show Treatment X cures high blood pressure” without solid and universally accepted evidence will get your ad blocked.

What to do instead: Use carefully worded phrases that reflect the true findings of the research. Instead of making broad, absolute claims like, “Treatment X reverses diabetes,” try something along the lines of, “Recent study suggests a significant improvement in symptoms for many patients.” And be sure to provide links to reputable sources where the full study can be reviewed.

3. Clinical Trial Recruitment

Recruiting participants for clinical trials is another area where healthcare marketing ads often stumble. Google Ads allows advertising for clinical trial recruitment, but only in select countries and under very specific conditions. Ads must not mislead about the potential benefits or risks of participation and must clearly state that the trial is for research purposes.

What to do instead: Clearly indicate that the opportunity is a clinical trial and provide all necessary information regarding the nature of the study, eligibility criteria and any potential risks or benefits. For example, for an ad C/A created for NYU Langone Health to recruit patients for a diabetic peripheral neuropathy clinical trial, C/A used plain language to keep our intentions apparent: “Does diabetes cause pain in your hands and feet? Join a clinical trial to test a potential new treatment and advance research on pain relief.”

Stay Up to Date

Healthcare marketing on Meta and Google Ads is no doubt effective, but requires strict compliance with advertising policies. By adhering to each platform’s guidelines on prohibited content, practices, editorial standards and restricted content, you can create compelling ads that will reach your audience without the risk of being blocked. But just as with all things digital, you’ll want to check in on each platform’s policies frequently, as they do change periodically.

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Jordan Thomas Red
Jordan Thomas Digital Marketing Strategist

Jordan is responsible for digital marketing strategy and campaign execution for Casual Astronaut. She has executed digital marketing campaigns for clients in the tourism, nonprofit, financial services, healthcare and education industries. Her experience includes SEO, SEM, programmatic advertising, social media marketing, email marketing and content strategy. As a digital marketer with a psychology research background, she is passionate about using data-backed insights to develop tactics that intersect human behavior and user behavior.

Outside of work, you can find Jordan attending a live music event, haunting a local thrift store or taking advantage of a weekend travel deal.