Is Your Healthcare Creative Generating The Response You Want?

A trend in pharma is to create unbranded campaigns with a measurable call to action, most often a phone call or click to a website. These campaigns focus on providing disease awareness, education and resources with the goal of starting a dialogue with patients that can grow over time.

Ensuring these campaigns are successful requires a different approach to creative from typical branded initiatives. Ads must straddle the worlds of brand and direct response, combining the best of both to assert credibility as well as elicit a specific, timely response. 

The world of patient recruitment for clinical trials has been an expert in this arena over the past two decades. Patient recruitment campaigns connect with people solely based on their disease state, rather than on a particular product. Their goal is to engage patients who fit a certain profile (based on the clinical trial protocol), and, ultimately, have them enroll in the study.



Below are some patient recruitment best practices that can be easily translated to other healthcare initiatives that are looking to generate a specific response.

Ground creative in research and insights

Primary and secondary research should be done as it is with any marketing campaign. Understanding the target and validating creative are just as important for these campaigns.

Feature a prominent call to action

Here are some creative-specific guidelines:


  • Repeat the call to action at least three times on the home page
  • Every call to action (e.g., “See if you qualify”) should look like a button, so the patient knows it’s something they can click


  • In a 30-second ad, make sure both the phone number and URL are on screen for at least 25 seconds
  • Have the phone number and URL fill most of the screen for the last 3-to-5 seconds


  • Mention the phone number twice, and the URL either once or twice
  • Use a vanity phone number whenever possible


  • Make the calls to action bold and clear
  • It’s recommended to use large font at the bottom when listing the phone number and URL

Production value

Direct response often connotes lower production value and late night ad buys. This is not always true with patient recruitment. Ads should be consistent in production value as other ads running alongside it. For example, TV ads during prime time should have higher production value than those running in overnight.

Provide an uplifting approach

People aspire to solutions, not problems. Data suggests that while individuals may connect to dark or negative healthcare ads, they are not motivated by them to respond. A positive image almost always generates a greater response. 

In one past project, we increased website conversions threefold, from 17% to 52%, by replacing an image of a woman looking sick and distressed with that of a woman feeling positive and uplifted.  

Consistency across all channels

Over 80% of TV ad inquiries respond via a website versus calling a toll-free number. Creative must have a consistent look across all platforms, including traditional and digital formats, to ensure the patient recognizes the communication piece and completes the online inquiry.

Use of video 

When driving traffic to a website, we have learned that user interaction is longer when videos are present. Our patient recruitment websites frequently feature videos of patient interviews that document a glimpse into their everyday lives. 

Running a healthcare campaign with a specific and measurable call to action is an effective tool to initiate patient relationships without pushing a product. However, you may need to re-think how creative is traditionally done for direct response. Using the suggestions above, refined through many years of recruiting patients for clinical trials, you should be well on your way to developing assets that will maximize response and strengthen engagement. 

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