Retargeting Policies for Medical Device Products

Do you ever feel like you're being stalked on the Internet? Maybe you've been checking out a cute pair of shoes or a new TV, and then, low and behold, you keep seeing ads for this item popping up as you visit other websites. While it may seem creepy, it has an official name: retargeting. And according to a recent report from, it works really well—like a 400% boost in ad response, which is probably why you feel like more and more products you looked at are following you all over the web.

Many companies use retargeting to draw potential customers deeper into the purchase funnel. This sounds like a helpful tactic for medical device companies, when potential customers often experience long decision cycle times. When a person visits your website, they often aren’t ready to make an appointment with a physician or become a patient. It’s more likely they are just beginning their information search.

If your prospect becomes a lead, by signing up for a newsletter, for example, then lead nurturing is an effective way to build trust, drive preference and move your prospects along the purchase process. But what if they don’t become a lead? Is this website visitor lost forever? Potentially not if retargeting is part of your marketing mix.

If you’ve inserted a snippet of code on a webpage which monitors whether a person completes a certain action – like locating a physician, then when this person leaves your website without completing the action, you can reconnect with them by showing relevant banner ads as they browse other pages on the web, as they use mobile apps, or as they search on Google.

Medical device and diagnostic companies may wonder if the FDA is ok with this type of advertising. As of the date this article was posted, there was no firm regulation from the FDA on whether or not you can retarget users. However, all of the FDA’s typical advertising guidelines apply to any advertisement, retargeted or otherwise.

And reputable ad networks and publishers that run banner or display ads typically don’t have official policies, because their standard procedure is to retarget users completely anonymously thus avoiding HIPAA violations. No personally identifiable information (PII) is shared between the user and the publisher.

Google's Remarketing Policies

Google’s retargeting option, called “remarketing,” takes advantage of the Google Display Network and serves ads to users as they browse websites in the network or as they search terms on Google. Companies who retarget care about this network because it reaches over 83% of unique Internet users around the world. But Google has the strictest policy of all when is comes to remarketing for medical products. According to Google’s policy for advertising based on interests and location, remarketing is allowed as long as the ads “do not imply that the users have a particular medical condition or disease.” For example:

retargeting ad

If you combine Google's strict policy with the FDA's advertising policies, it becomes nearly impossible to use Google's remarketing services effectively for a medical device.

Help-seeking advertisements describe a disease or condition but not a product name or specific treatment. This would not be allowed under Google's remarketing policy because it implies the user may have a specific medical condition.

A product claim advertisement names a drug, says what condition it treats, and talks about both its benefits and its risks. This would not only be disallowed under Google's policy for the same reasons, but would be impossible to accomplish in a digital ad with such strict character limitations.

Reminder advertisements assume the audience already knows about the product, so they mention the name but not the uses. However, if you cannot imply anything about the product's benefits or risks, remarketing with reminders seems very ineffective.

All is Not Lost!

As we mentioned earlier, retargeting can be done through reputable ad networks that retarget users completely anonymously. And traditional PPC advertising even without retargeting, can be very effective at reaching your prospect at the exact moment they are seeking a solution.

In addition, we encourage companies to create their own common sense policies like not overusing the technology; limit the window of time in which the user can see the advertisement, and cap the impressions per person per day. This minimizes the spam or “stalker factor” of your company.

When done well, retargeting can be an effective tactic to increase the effectiveness of digital marketing efforts, increase brand awareness, strengthen brand recall, and drive potential customers down the funnel to ultimate conversion.

And go buy that pair of shoes already!

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