Bridging the Gap Between Advertising on Social Media and Your Ethics Review

Oftentimes, it is only after planning a clinical trial that we consider advertising it online. However, there are a whole host of benefits that online advertising has over traditional print media! Talks regarding what advertising platform and content to use should take place as part of your study’s planning phase. When doing so, you should also consider the specific requirements of both your ethics/HREC review and your advertising platform of choice. Read on to find out about what benefits there are to advertising online, and what can be done to ensure you can quickly initiate a successful and compliant online advertising campaign.

Why advertise your clinical trial online?

Without a doubt, advertising online is the best way to ensure your message reaches your intended audience. Recruiting for a clinical trial is a numbers game: you want your advertisement to reach a large number of people in a relatively short period of time. With this in mind, over 1 billion people use the major social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and even more use at least one of Google’s services. The numbers and reach you gain by advertising online dwarfs the impact that a physical poster or pamphlet campaign may have.

In addition, advertising online is flexible, and can rapidly adapt based on your patient characteristics, recruitment targets, and your (or your sponsor’s) budget. Most advertising platforms provide you with advanced metrics that let you perform geotargeting and leverage demographic characteristics. Ads can also be paused and restarted instantly, often at no cost, giving you flexibility if your site(s) are at capacity or if recruitment targets are under review. Furthermore, most social platforms let you track how well your ads are doing and how much each click is costing you, something that could never be achieved through physical media. The amount of flexibility and measurability you gain is unprecedented, and goes a long way towards properly managing your budget and transparency.

Considerations when advertising on social media

Regardless of how you prefer to advertise, if you’ve ever submitted an advert to ethics for a clinical your trial, you know that it can be a difficult process. Your advertising material must be presented as it will be viewed in the public domain. However, the same material for a single online ad can be presented in various ways in order to maximise its exposure, and as such it is not easy to know what these formats are ahead of time. Coupled with the designs and layouts of each social platform, if you are unfamiliar with image editing software it can be difficult to prototype your ad once, let alone several iterations of it.

Each social media platform also comes with their own restrictions and guidelines about what you can and can’t do with your ads (links to these are provided at the bottom of the blog). There are text limits that are imposed on both the title and description for your ad. You will often require an online landing page for your study (which you can generate and manage for free on with more information and contact details. Furthermore, the platform you are on may reject the image accompanying your text, meaning it is wise to have several versions of your ad with different images. In response to these issues, provides you, at no cost, with a method to easily overcome these issues.

Prototype and present your social media ads quickly and accurately

Anyone can efficiently generate accurate previews of your ads without making them public, and without touching a word processor or image editor! The social media template generator enables you to privately preview both your social media advertisements and your landing page. By filling in the required fields and uploading your own pictures, you can generate material which can then be submitted to ethics as-is, providing an accurate representation of your published ads. Here is a simple 5-step guide to take you from start to finish:

  1. Sign up to here, confirm your account via email (check your junk mail!), and log in here.
  2. You will be redirected to your account page. From here, scroll down to My Advert Templates and click Create an Advert.
  3. Fill in each field in the template builder (name, description, participant characteristics etc.) – each field has the same length restrictions as on social media.
  4. Upload your desired images for each section – multiple alternatives can be included.
  5. Press submit, go back to your account page, and click the title of your ad to view it!

Once you have filled in all fields correctly, you can preview your new Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google AdWords advertisements, and an landing page. If you need to make more changes either now or in the future, you can press edit next to your ad’s title at any time. When you are happy with your designs and are ready to show them to your colleagues or to ethics, capture the page as an image. To do so, simply browse either the Firefox or Chrome add-on stores for a full-page screen capture application (e.g. Awesome Screenshot), which will let you download the entire page as a single image file.

That’s really all there is to it! A task that could take hours (not including future revisions) is now reduced to mere minutes. You can check out the links below for more information about the advertising guidelines of each social platform. If you need any help using the template generator or even getting your ads onto social media to speed recruitment, get in touch with us here!

Facebook and Instagram advertising guidelines

More information about Instagram

Twitter advertising guidelines

Google AdWords advertising guidelines


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *