Maximising the Effectiveness of Visual Elements in Clinical Trial Newspaper Advertisements

This is part two of the article How to write a more effective clinical trial newspaper advertisement. In the first part of the article we took a look at Benefits and Headlines. As mentioned in part 1 of the series, it is beyond the scope of this article to detail everything important in creating an effective advertisement. Instead we’re focusing on common mistakes made when writing clinical trial newspaper advertisements. Today we’re going to have a closer look at the visual elements of the advertisement.

The visual elements of a clinical trial newspaper advertisement include more than just the images used. They also include the use of colour generally, including any background and text colours, the elements of the text used and the flow or order of the advertisement elements.

As we mentioned in the first part of the article, your advertisement is competing against the other ads and articles on the same page and throughout the entire newspaper. Particularly in local newspapers with smaller distributions there are a lot of advertisements competing for attention. On top of this, people see thousands of ads every day, and we’ve all become conditioned to ignoring them. So how do you grab the reader’s attention? In addition to an effective headline, it is done through visual elements and use of colour.

Contrast is the simplest way to stand out. If you’re advertising in a newspaper that is purely black and white, then a predominantly black background stands out over the advertisements and articles which are predominantly white. If the newspaper uses a third colour, for example red, it will likely be used as a highlighting colour by many advertisements. In this case using red as the background colour will result in your ad standing out. If the newspaper is full colour then a blue background would be even better, contrasting the red used by the majority of advertisements. Remember, the purpose of an advertisement is to be effective and generate quality referrals, not to look “pretty”.

Does this mean your advertisement can look unprofessional? Absolutely not. With an unprofessional advertisement your organisation will be perceived in the same way. In clinical research perhaps more than any other industry it is crucial to project professionalism and trustworthiness. To do so avoid these three common mistakes:

  • Using all capitals. Instead use bold, underline or italics for emphasis, but only for single words or short phrases.
  • Using a sans-serif font. A serif font (a font with the “feet” at the bottom of each letter) should be used for any non-heading text, as it is easier to read.
  • Having someone put together the advertisement that lacks good image editing skills. Nothing shouts unprofessionalism more than a poorly put together advertisement. Hire a graphic designer if you must.

Images also play an important role in grabbing the reader’s attention in clinical trial newspaper advertisements. Most people are highly visual, and so are attracted to images. As we are social animals, we’re particularly drawn to images of people, especially faces. Using images of people and faces is very effective and attention grabbing, but avoid stock imagery wherever possible, especially from American sources. Readers can usually spot stock imagery, which detracts from the relationship of trustworthiness and professionalism you’re building with the reader. For the same reasons, always use photos over line drawings or “clip art”.

The visual flow of your advertisement also plays an important role in grabbing the reader’s attention, piquing their interest, convincing them to read on, and conveying the sense of professionalism and trustworthiness required for them to pick up the phone and call. A contrasting background, effective headline and imagery of people or faces will grab the reader’s attention. Images should be placed just below the headline to maximise the attention grabbing value of the advertisement. To keep the reader’s attention, you want to make the advertisement easy to read, and the best way to do this is to use bullet points or lists, and avoid large blocks of text. A good hierarchy to follow is:

  • Headline
  • Photo
  • Caption
  • Bullet points (Benefits)
  • Emphasised text
  • Normal text

Still to come in this series is the importance of qualifying, the call to action and testing and measuring results. If you’d like to receive the rest of this series please join our newsletter. If you have any questions or feedback please let us know in the comments.

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