Banner Ads May Not Be the Best Choice for Your Medical Marketing Dollars


When it comes to medical marketing, not all digital ad types are created equal.

Traditionally, the goal of medical marketing campaigns was to reach as many people as possible, maximizing “impressions” in order to drive awareness and top-of-funnel leads. Today, banner ads have emerged as one of the most popular (and inexpensive) digital marketing tactics for garnering as many impressions as possible.

Here’s the basic idea: you can track a specific user’s browsing history and use that data to serve them targeted ads, typically embedded within the margins of web pages they visit later on. Indeed, this tactic can yield millions of impressions, all at relatively low cost to the sponsoring party; however, there are actually a number of reasons why banner ads are probably not the best choice for you medical marketing dollars.

It’s All About the Clicks

The major drawback of banner and other display ads is that they usually disrupt whatever activity the consumer was already engaging in (e.g. reading an article, shopping for an unrelated product, etc.), creating an unexpected and often invasive distraction.

But the real killer is that the consumer reading the ad may not have any organic interest whatsoever in purchasing your product. This is true of any “push” style campaign, such as TV ads or radio spots, whose strategy hinges upon the hope that casting a sufficiently large net will reel in at least a few catches.

For banner ads, those catches are exceptionally rare. In fact, today’s consumer is approximately 475x more likely to survive in the event of a plane crash than they are to click on a banner ad while browsing the web, Business Insider reports — the disparity between total impressions and clicks is that wide. eMarketer calculates that, though banner ads “reach” a significant number of consumers, their average click-through rate (CTR) is a measly 0.12%.

Still, simply reaching millions of patients must have a significant effect, right? Not necessarily: AdAge reports that impression figures are often deceptive, and that as many as 56% of display ads are never seen at all. Our own research has found that, even on massive, carefully-crafted campaigns, banner ads yield conversion rates as low as 0.02%. For medical marketers looking to extend their reach and campaign effectiveness, the answer may lie in alternative methods.

Targeting “Active” Patients

Only about 2.8% of all consumers feel that banner ads are helpful or relevant, according to Hubspot. Instead of indiscriminately reaching out to anyone and everyone, medical marketers should use ad types that target “active” patients; that is, patients or caretakers who are actively researching treatment options, and taking control of their own health decisions. Banner ads largely fail to capitalize on this demographic, usually reaching non-transactional, “passive” patients who aren’t necessarily looking for treatment at that particular moment.

In contrast, search engine ads use keyword targeting to reach prospective patients the moment they become transactional. The queries that people type into Google are a strong indicator of interest — by carefully crafting a keyword-led campaign, marketers can target those patients who are most likely to convert. You might gain fewer impressions overall than with banner ads, but your CTR and conversion rates will be much higher. And because you’re only charged when patients actually click your ads (what’s known as pay per click advertising), you won’t be wasting your marketing dollars on impressions from uninterested consumers.

Targeted Medical Marketing, Digital Marketing