A blog exploring pharmaceutical relationship marketing, emarketing and innovation with a focus on rare disorders.
The convergence of rare disease, digital communications, and pharmaceutical marketing communications

Google Shakes up Adwords – No More Special Treatment for Pharma Ads

Posted by | 11:28am on Thursday, July 9, 2015 | No Comments
Google logo

Google is making some big-ish changes to Adwords specifically affecting the pharmaceutical industry.  The first change will undo the process Google implemented (back on 2010) to accommodate Black Box drug ads which was incredibly manual (from a Google perspective) and not scalable.  The other change affects unbranded pharmaceutical ads which previously allowed advertisers to display an unbranded url which then clicked through to a branded landing page.  Considering how much emphasis Google puts on user experience, it is a bit surprising this was ever permitted.

The first change will go into effect July 20th, 2015.  Previously, Black Box drugs would be whitelisted by Google and company approved ad copy would be sent to a Google representative who would review the ad copy and manually implement the ad.  It’s obvious how this process isn’t very scalable from a Google perspective.  And since a small number of Google Reps were trained on Black Box ads, the process was usually relatively slow.  A Black Box drug ad would contain an extra line of copy with a 2nd link driving directly to the Prescribing Information (often as a PDF).

Current Black Box Adwords example:

Black Box Adwords Example

This example shows the extra line of copy available to Black Box drugs.  Post July 20th, the extra line of copy will not be supported by Google.  Since Black Box drugs are required to provide direct access to the Black Box warning, the new ads will have to look like:

New Adwords Blackbox format

Extensions such as call-outs and sitelinks can be added to make the ad larger and drive visitors to other areas of your website.  Even though there are no guarantees that Google will display the extensions, it makes sense to add them as the ad as shown above is pretty weak and will most likely not generate a great response rate.

Are there any positives from these Google updates?

2 main ones:

  1. Black Box Adwords ads will be able to be implemented more quickly
  2. The old format was not supported on mobile devices, so after July Black Box ads will be able to be displayed on mobile devices.

However, these new ads should be tested as the call to action for non-Black Box warning information is relegated to sitelinks which are not guaranteed to be displayed.  Plus if the drug name plus generic name does not fit in the headline of the ad, using Adwords may not be a viable advertising channel.

The 2nd change won’t go into effect until January 12, 2016.  This change impacts the common practice of using vanity urls to utilize unbranded copy to drive to branded pharmaceutical websites.  Pharma companies (contrary to existing Google policy) are allowed to use a vanity url as the display url which is a different domain than the branded landing page url.  Historically, this has been an exception made just for the pharma industry.   Currently an unbranded ad which makes no mention of a branded drug can promote awareness and information without having to use valuable character space for disclosure or the drug name such as the example below:

Current Unbranded Adwords Example

The vanity url must be “owned” by the pharma company.  However, since the landing page was a branded webpage no content was required on the vanity url.  With this change, Google has agreed to try to accommodate unbranded pharma ads using 3 new formats:

New Unbranded Adwords Formats

All these methods allow for a branded landing page without displaying a vanity url which could have led to a poor user experience.

In summary, we at Siren Interactive feel that the new Black Box ad format is much less powerful than the format Google previously supported.  However, unbranded ads have always been higher performing than branded, so we feel these new branded Black Box ads warrant testing as performance will most likely be brand and target audience specific.

As for the unbranded Adwords update, we strongly support these changes.   In our opinion (and from our experience) these new ads are less deceptive, will cause less confusion and ultimately lead to a stronger (more positive) user experience.



Rare Disease: Where Precision Medicine Was Born

As the mother of a child with a rare disorder, I’ve watched with interest and admiration as this community has…

Tags: , ,


A Year in the Life of a Caregiver of a Child with a Rare Disorder

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) occurs between approximately 1 in every 5,000 to 1 in every 2,000 births.  There is a…

Tags: , , ,


Patient-Powered Collaboration: ALD Connect Launches a Doctor-Patient Webinar Series

As part of our ongoing focus on multi-stakeholder collaboration in the rare disease space, we are highlighting successful and unique…

Tags: , , ,


How Should Pharma Navigate the Landscape of Compassionate Use?

For companies that operate in the rare disease space, compassionate use policies are critical. Rare disease patients and caregivers are…

Tags: , ,


Branding Benefit of the New Twitter Profile Page

Twitter recently announced and is slowly launching a new profile page to all Twitter users. As a personal user, the…

Tags: ,


What the FDA’s New Social Media Guidance Means for Marketers

Little by little, and in no particular order, the FDA is rolling out new recommendations for use of internet and…

Tags: ,


Facebook to Implement Better Targeting Capabilities

Facebook announced earlier this month that there would be more changes affecting the way you can target ads on Facebook. …

Tags: ,


More Facebook Ad Changes

Facebook is doing even more streamlining. In addition to the recent changes to Facebook pages to look more like personal…

Tags: , ,

Google logo

The Softer Side of Google Panda

Having a website with great search rankings is like having a great golf swing. If you want to stay at…

Tags: ,


Is it Time to Consider Advertising on Twitter?

Twitter is still trying to figure out its business model and how to turn a profit.  But they have begun…

Tags: ,


Highlights from the World Orphan Drug Congress 2014

The World Orphan Drug Congress (WODC) brings together patient organizations and industry leaders, researchers and academics, members of the FDA…

Tags: , , ,


What’s in a Name–a Facebook Page Name?

Facebook page names and usernames are often overlooked or not given as much attention as the more obvious profile picture…

Tags: , ,


Rare Diseases and the Promise of Genetics

Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD, is not just an award-winning researcher and physician, the founder of 2 biotech companies, and the…

FacialMetricsPresenting the additiontoRecognyz to the judges_L2RAfrahShafquat-JeremyWilliams-MichaelRogove

How Technology Will Improve the Future for Rare Diseases

Our collaboration with Global Genes and Sharon Moalem, MD, PhD at H@cking Medicine at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)…

Tags: , , ,


On the Frontlines of Healthcare Innovation

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in an event aiming to innovate and disrupt some of healthcare’s…

Tags: , , , ,


From Patient Partner to Patient Leader

Remember when patients were passive receivers of care and the only thing that mattered was what the doctor thought? Neither…

Why Transparency Matters More Than Ever

Relationships are important in rare—and so are reputations. Rare disease communities are often small and closely knit. Patients and caregivers…

Tags: , , , ,


5 Ways to Speed Diagnosis of Our Children

You have probably heard the statistics before. There are 7,000 rare diseases. More than 80% are genetic. Half of those…

Tags: , , , , ,

NJ RARE 2013 Jane Castello Julie Raskin Francois Nader Debbie Hart Mary Cobb

Rare Disease and the Power of Partnership

One of the issues raised by the Affordable Care Act is the importance of decisions made at the state level…

Tags: , ,


What Patient-Centricity Means to Marketers

In 2011, when Lilly and Disney teamed up to create a series of books for kids with type 1 diabetes,…

Tags: , , , , ,

Hacking the Diagnosis of Rare Diseases

Ed Fennell is a problem solver. After spending 35 years running a private consulting business, he’s turned his attention to…

Tags: , , ,


Creating Hope for Undiagnosed Patients

Most rare disease patients spend a good portion of their lives coping with a condition that is either undiagnosed or…

Tags: , , ,

Six Things NOT to Say to a Caregiver

I am a somewhat happy mother of 2 beautiful children, whom I love most days. I am happily married, again…

Tags: , , ,


The Mighty Caregiver: Moving Towards Personalized Care with Healthcare’s Biggest Advocates

When my daughter Casey was born with nail-patella syndrome (NPS), the orthopedic surgeon said she would never climb stairs. What…

Tags: , , , , ,

A Search Engine To Help Diagnose Rare Diseases

If you are trying to diagnose a rare disease, plugging symptoms into Google will probably not be very helpful. In…

Tags: , , , ,


When the Caregiver is a Husband and Dad

When you hear the word caregiver, do you think of a man or woman? Interestingly, the definition of caregiver doesn’t…

Tags: , ,

Why Rare Disease Caregivers Inspire Me

If you want to know the heights of love, compassion, determination, and self-sacrifice that people can rise to, just sit…

Tags: , ,


An Unstoppable Rare Disease Mom

Lisa Moreno-Dickinson may not have made Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful people this year. But that is not…

Tags: , , , ,

A Rare, Genetic Disorder And Comedy: A Natural Pairing?

You’ve heard the saying, “Laughter is the best medicine.” And in fact, laughter does have its emotional and physical health…

Tags: , , ,

Siren Interactive
  • Siren Interactive
  • Rare Disease Relationship Marketing Experts
  • 626 West Jackson Blvd, Suite 100
  • Chicago, IL 60661
  • 312.204.6700
  • 866.502.6714 (Toll Free)
  • www.sireninteractive.com