3 Tips for Negotiating Advertising Budgets

Advertising plays an important role when it comes to recruiting patients for clinical trials, but it’s often underutilized by sites or not used at all. Whether this is due to a lack of internal staffing or expertise, there is a lot of potential going untapped when sites bypass study advertising.

Advertising is a versatile and effective resource that can work for studies of any indication or patient population. Print, social media, television, and radio are just a few of the mediums you can use to develop an advertising campaign to help reach your enrollment goal. There will be some studies for which the sponsor provides an advertising budget upfront, but for other studies you must negotiate one. Here are some tips and tricks for successful negotiation:

Tip #1: Just Ask

First things first, ask your sponsor if it’s even possible to get an advertising budget. This may seem simple, but many sites don’t know that they can ask for an advertising budget in the first place. Most of the time you’ll be met with a positive response, but there are also times when the sponsor is not providing a budget for a variety of reasons. For example, it could be that the sponsor hand-picked sites according to their patient database for that specific study so they know that advertising wouldn’t be necessary. Asking the question initially is a good way to avoid the work of putting together a proposal only to find out that they aren’t allotting an advertising budget for any site.

How you communicate with your sponsor can be just as important as asking for funds in the first place. The way you present yourself during communication, whether on the phone or via email, can affect your success in getting an advertising budget.

For example, instead of sending this:

Can we get some advertising funds for our study?

Send this:

We would like to request advertising funds from the sponsor. We’d like to get to our enrollment goal as quickly as possible. Is this a possibility for our site?

Paying attention to these details can set you apart when you are communicating with a sponsor.

Tip #2: Determine What the Sponsor Needs

Once you’ve confirmed the sponsor will provide advertising funds, you should ask what they need from you in order to request those funds. You’ll typically be presented with one of two different scenarios. Either the sponsor will require a general idea of what funds you’ll need, or you’ll have to draft a proposal.

Sometimes the sponsor only requires the site to express interest in advertising before granting funds. This is the best-case scenario, but also a rare occurrence. Usually, you’ll be faced with the latter situation in which you will have to draft a proposal.

A detailed advertising proposal should include a list of vendors you’ll be using, the estimated population reach numbers for any media type you choose, and of course, the estimated cost for the campaign. It will definitely take more effort, but the payoff is worth it. You may need to do some market research beforehand to determine what media types will be the best for your indication. Keep in mind your target demographic and weigh the pros and cons of each media type before committing. The strengths of using digital advertisements are not the same as using print advertising and vice versa.

Make sure you compare multiple different vendors to ensure you’re getting the most for your money. This is where estimated population reach is important. If one vendor is more expensive to use than other, but also has better reach numbers, you should prioritize effective market reach over price.

Another small, but effective, tip for creative proposals is to put them into their own Word document instead of just writing back in an email. Your site will come off as more professional and it shows that you’re taking your enrollment goals seriously. If you take the time and effort to consider the details, the sponsor will take notice.

Tip #3: Try, Try Again

If you received an ad budget from the sponsor but need additional funds, that doesn’t mean that advertising is over. Once an advertising campaign is complete, always go back to the sponsor to request additional funds. Although the funds aren’t granted all the time, in my experience, asking your sponsor for more funding has about a 75% success rate.

As with the initial request, communication is very important. Tell your sponsor that you’ve used up your original funds and that you’re interested in running another advertising campaign to reach your enrollment goal as quickly as possible. If your last campaign went well, it’s probably a good idea to run another similar campaign the second time around to ensure similar success.

If your first campaign wasn’t successful, that doesn’t mean that the sponsor won’t grant more funds. If you had an unsuccessful campaign with one media type, draw up a proposal for a different media type this time around. A lot of sponsors will be open to the idea of trying a different approach if you have the market research to back it up.

I always remind sites – the worst a sponsor can say is no, so you might as well try and ask.


If advertising is new to you or if your site just doesn’t have the time to employ an advertising budget, there are resources available at no cost for you to use. Marketing agencies that specialize in helping with patient recruitment will serve as the middleman for you and the sponsor to help with the entire process – from negotiating the budget to creating and executing the advertising campaign.

If you’d like to begin advertising for your clinical trials or if you’d like to know more about these kinds of services, feel free to give us a call at (608) 664-9908 or email us at info@patientwise.com.