Facebook's Ban On Ad Targeting May Have Unintended Consequences For Medical Recruitment

Facebook’s upcoming ad ban may have unintended consequences on the medical industry’s recruitment of patients for medical research. 

Back in early November, Meta announced that it planned to remove detailed targeting options for advertisers on Facebook that users may find sensitive, including references to “specific causes, organizations, public figures relating to health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion, or sexual orientation.” 

“We’ve heard concerns from experts that targeting options like these could be used in ways that lead to negative experiences for people in underrepresented groups,” said Graham Mudd, vice president of marketing, ads at Meta. 

Now, with the change only weeks away from taking effect on January 19, there may be unintended consequences.  

While criticism of Facebook’s previous policies states that pharmaceutical companies have been able to inappropriately target ads to users and patients, a recent article appearing in Politico describes the medical industry’s growing concerns with the ad ban’s influence on medical recruitment and drug development as a whole.

Around three million participants in the U.S. are recruited for clinical trials per year -- and half of these, according to Matt Walz, CEO of recruitment firm Trialbee, rely on Facebook recruitment. “The exposure is pretty high,” he told Politico. 

Even with these privacy changes, recruiters will still be able target individuals, but they will have to be more creative, utilizing alternative tactics.

Back in November, Meta suggested that brands and businesses connect with customers via Location Targeting, Lookalike audiences or Engagement Custom Audiences. 

However, some of these strategies will mostly engage people who have already shown direct interest in the advertiser’s cause or brand, which will not apply as successfully to medical recruiters who may want to use a wide variety of test subjects. 

Adapting new ad strategies may also prove more costly, while simultaneously making it harder to attract a diverse population to studies.

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