Print Marketing: A Viable Option for Patient Recruitment

As many markers know, the sustainability of print advertisements has been thoroughly questioned in today’s digital age. In June of 2012, Forbes Magazine published an article about this very issue—taking a stance that surprised many at the time. Forbes stated, “While many businesses have completely migrated their advertising efforts to the web because of its cost effectiveness, exposure potential and convenience, print still maintains its stance as a powerful and necessary component of an ad campaign.” 

Some of the key points in which Forbes grounded its argument are that print advertising offers credibility, target marketing, engagement, and availability.  If this is the case, how does it apply to using print advertising to recruit clinical trial participants?

One of the primary advantages of print advertising is “credibility.” This benefit is particularly important in the healthcare industry, as people typically put a great deal of thought into their medical decisions.  For a variety of reasons, print advertisements seem to have more legitimacy than their digital counterparts. This is not to say all online ads are illegitimate, but the likelihood of something coming across as a scam is very low in a newspaper. In the context of patient recruitment, this is very important considering the decision-making process involved in joining a clinical trial.

In addition to credibility, print advertising offers the benefit of “target marketing.” Many frequently studied indications target individuals of 40 years and older. Accordingly, a study published in June 2016 by Pew Research Center found that the demographic with the most newspaper readers is age 65 and older. The second highest readership is found in individuals age 55-64. Considering these statistics, you can strategically place advertisements according to your target demographic. You probably wouldn’t want to advertise a birth control study in the newspaper because reaching females ages 18-35 would be difficult, but an osteoarthritis study would likely perform very well.

The next benefit of print advertising that Forbes suggests is “engagement.” The article states, “Consumers are more engaged when reading printed material, unlike websites, which are often skimmed in as little as a 15 second visit.” There truly is something about having a tangible newspaper in hand, and because consumers often read print materials more thoroughly than web-based materials, they are much more likely to acknowledge a study advertisement.

The last benefit to consider is “availability.” Forbes states it best: “With more and more businesses relying solely on the Internet for their advertising needs, the decline of print publication can actually be used as a marketing advantage. The publications are less crowded, allowing more room for your ad to shine, and possibly even cheaper prices for that ad space.” Research sites can use this to their advantage when recruiting patients. Advertising prices in local papers may be very affordable, and in conjunction with a catchy ad design, print may be an advantageous platform for a site to utilize.

All in all, despite the digital age we’ve come to know, print is still a viable media outlet. Like any form of advertising, it takes some initial research and thought. Not every study advertisement is going to do well in the newspaper, but it’s likely that some will. Position your site for success by considering your target demographic, the design of your ads, and how your site is presented.