A search for pharma digital ads is quick to turn up conflicted chatter from pharma marketers.

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While many pharma marketers choose banners ads and interactive websites because of their cross-screen, cross-device capabilities, pharma marketing comes with unique challenges that don’t impact other industries.

Pharma banners are required by federal mandates to display important safety information (ISI) and indications of the drugs’ benefits, efficacy and potentially risky side effects.  This information must be included directly in the advertisements themselves, which leads to 33 and 50 percent of pharma banners being taken up by ISI text.

How To Develop HTML Emails For The Pharmaceutical Market - FREE EBOOK

How To Develop HTML Emails For The Pharmaceutical Market – FREE EBOOK

Many designers view these requirements as limiting the storytelling and creative capabilities of pharma banners. However, there are a variety of ways you can capture users’ attention and communicate your message in a compelling, compliant manner.

The following 6 tips can help make your Healthcare Banner ads more creative.

Healthcare Banners

Healthcare Banners

Rich media ads have exploded over the past few years thanks to the rise of HTML5. A wide array of advanced formats is available that allow advertisers to be more creative than ever before. Most digital ads and banner ads are interactive, even on mobile devices, making them more applicable to a broader array of markets than any other method of advertising.

Today’s Healthcare Banner ads can expand, peel, float or include video, audio and games. But, rich media capabilities don’t just make digital pharma ads more interesting and clickable than the static pharma banner ad campaigns of the past. They also yield reams of invaluable data. Rich media banner ads can track and collect user data, yield important insights for analysis and target the right viewer with the right offer at the right time. Pharma banner ads may have complex federal guidelines to navigate, but the results are worth it.

  • Capture attention with animation

Pharma Banner

Pharma Banner

Consumes browsing online are drawn to movement. But you only have 1-3 seconds to capture their attention. That’s why good animation can mean the difference between connecting with your audience and being passed over for a post on the wrinkle cure you just have to see. People connect with story-based messaging, so we recommend constructing a story that shows how your product or service improves lives. Keep building out the story once the viewer clicks through to the landing page or interactive website.  

Just don’t go overboard. While animation does increase overall user engagement with your pharma banner ads, too much can cause page-loading problems, visual overwhelm and a bad brand association. Your pharma banner ads should be visually relevant to the sites they appear on, but stand out enough to be noticeable on those same pages. A good digital production partner can help find the right balance. (More on that in a minute.)

  • Make every second count on your pharma banner ads

HTML5 digital display ads. Credit: Daily Pharma

HTML5 digital display ads.
Credit: Once Daily Pharma

Consumers have notoriously short attention spans and you only have a few seconds to capture their attention. To be effective, each frame in your ad should be able to stand on its own, especially those crucial first seconds.

But then what? Most publisher specs call for 15-20 second animations. Once you have viewers’ attention, keep it. Use creative, story-centered messaging and animation to keep them engaged. If you’re running a branded campaign, make sure viewers can see, read and understand the ISI section of the banner. But, be sure to use the rest of the frame to communicate your message and highlight the benefits of your offering.  End with a recap of the messaging and a strong call to action.   

The pictured Invega Trinza ad does a great job of capturing attention with its unique selling proposition and keeping attention thanks to clear messaging and a sleek design.

  • Include design elements in the ISI

Pharma Banner. Credit: once daily pharma

Pharma Banner.
Credit: once daily pharma

Ask any pharma marketer: the ISI is one of the toughest parts of building out a branded pharma digital ad campaign. It’s text-heavy, competes with other elements in the small space and is required by the FDA, not exactly a winning formula to inspire creativity.

But don’t ignore this segment of your ad! Including design elements in this part of the banner can help you keep viewers’ interest.

Make the most of limited space by adding an auto-scroll function in the ISI frame, like the pictured Orencia ad. Not a fan of auto-scroll? Add color to the scroll arrows or other elements that tell users scrolling is an option and there’s more important information that needs to be read.

Pro tip: make sure to include a replay button if your banner ad has multiple frames or animations. Viewers may want to go back and re-watch or reread your ad.

  • Make your call to action unmissable

HTML5 Banner Ads

HTML5 Banner Ads. Credit: Once Daily Pharma

It’s not enough to build digital pharma ads that capture attention. You need your audience to (1) understand the ad is complete and (2) take some sort of action. But to do that, they need to be shown what to do, as clearly and concisely as possible. And that’s where many pharma banner ads fall short.

Case in point: the pictured Tecfidera ad. It starts out strong, with story-centered messaging. But the call to action on the final frame blends in with the creative. A contrasting color button for the Learn More call to action would have made it clearer to viewers what they needed to do next.

Why is this such a stumbling block for pharma? Since the final frame of pharma banner ads typically contains the mandatory ISI text (unless it’s an unbranded ad that leads to an interactive website), many creative teams don’t know how to include all the necessary elements without visual crowding or blending in.

Make sure your call to action stands out. Keep the copy short and catchy. Offer something valuable to your viewers in exchange for their click. For the design, use a button color that stands out against the banner ad’s background.

  • Partner with the right digital production team

Banner Production

Banner Production

A pharma marketer’s secret weapon is a top-notch digital production partner.  The right partner knows how to build digital ads with impressive animations that don’t sap bandwidth. They know the ins and out of AdTech platforms and publisher specs. And most importantly, they have hands-on experience with the complex regulatory frameworks of digital pharma advertising. They’re pharma specialists that can help you launch compliant, high-impact pharma digital ad campaigns fast. Need an interactive website to go with your campaign? They’ve got it covered. (Check out our tips on how to hire the right digital production partner.)


Remember: pharma ads don’t have to be boring to be compliant. They can be informative, creative, engaging, interactive AND effective.


Ready to incorporate these tips into your next pharma banner ad campaign?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2016 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.