Picture this very common scenario – A person has some worrying symptoms that they decide to research on the internet. Later, every time they go on online, they see display ads that offer treatments for those very same symptoms – that’s retargeting. Some medical practices use retargeting as a strategy to get more patients into their practice.
This is a Retargeting Advertising campaign, and it is not appropriate or ethical for healthcare marketing.
What are retargeting ads?
Retargeting ads are a form of online advertising that displays your ads to visitors after they leave your website. The idea is to keep your brand name in the minds of potential patients. This increases the likelihood of them choosing your practice at a more appropriate time.
How do retargeting ads work?
You place a small piece of code (sometimes called a pixel because it’s literally a 1x1 transparent image) on your website that doesn’t affect the website performance and is unnoticeable by visitors. When a new visitor comes to the website, the code assigns a “cookie” to their browser. What’s a cookie?
A “cookie” is kind of like a tracking device in the digital world that can record online user behavior such as websites visited, things they click on, as well as device type and location. This information is used to display ads when the user visits other websites.
There are also hundreds of apps containing sophisticated programs capable of activating a computer or smartphone’s camera and microphone to better analyze user behavior for more precisely retargeting ads. Although somewhat disturbing, this data-mining feature is above-board because it requires your permission in a dialog box (that most people don’t bother to read) which notes that the information collected will be used for advertising purposes.
But this type of advertising in the health sector could result in violation of HIPAA laws which is the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act designed to protect sensitive patient information. How? – The scenario mentioned above could be interpreted as breach of sensitive patient health information. The last thing any patient would want is to have the family computer flooded with ads that pertain to their disease condition!
Clearly, retargeting ads are not appropriate or ethical in healthcare advertising. A comprehensive practice marketing strategy should be ethical and include patient resources with educational videos and information about anatomy, conditions and procedures. A practice can augment their marketing strategy with a legitimate ad campaign targeting specific audiences, search engine optimization, and a top-notch mobile device advertising strategy.
Your Practice Online has helped doctors with online marketing for over 18 years, offering personalized and ethical marketing strategies to accommodate the needs of healthcare professionals.