Marketers should take note of the importance of using consumer-friendly language in pharmaceutical advertisements. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration made this clear in its latest guidelines on how to create a successful prescription drug ad.
The recent suggestions state that traditional approaches that involve copying the exact warning label for a drug and printing it onto the advertisement are ineffective. Making the language easy to read will enhance communication between the company and its target audience.
Why is consumer-friendly text important?
Numerous studies have shown that a significant portion of the U.S. population isn't familiar with medical references and has a difficult time understanding the language used in pharma advertising. According to The National Assessment of Adult Literacy, almost half of the U.S. population has limited health literacy, and 14 percent has a below-basic health literacy. Therefore, it's likely that the majority of a company's target audience won't know how to interpret their warning labels.
"Many consumers lack the technical background to understand some of the information as described," said the FDA, referring to what's known as the package insert, the detailed risk information that accompanies a prescription. It's often copied by many companies directly into their ads as well. However, a lot of this data, such as clinical pharmacology, is irrelevant to consumers.
Not only is an advertisement that's covered in small text without spacing harder to digest, but consumers are less likely to read them at all and the product will be less memorable. Pharma marketers should break down their drug's instructions and risk information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised separating the information into short segments with the most essential data first, complete with any necessary definitions of medical terms that will be used later in the ad.
How to create readable labels
The FDA recommended balancing the important risk information with the data revealing the effectiveness of the drug. Marketers should be sure that in addition to giving information, they also provide suggestions for their target audiences. This turns text into actionable information, whether it's suggesting users take the drug with certain foods or to avoid it while pregnant.
Businesses can use videos and images in their ads to communicate these recommendations for consumers. James McQuivey, M.D., from Forrester Research performed a study in 2008 that found that a short one-minute video is worth 1.8 million words.
A how-to video would be effective for email and social media campaigns. These make it easier to include a lot of information in a memorable, digestible way and to use a more conversational tone that will engage readers.
The minute consumers run into a series or words or phrases they don't understand, they're likely to stop reading and forget the ad altogether. Headlines and subheadings will make the text more readable. Placement is also important – will people who aren't actively seeking out the information be exposed to it? White space and large font will make it possible for consumers to skim the message while flipping through a magazine or scanning a flyer.