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Make the most of your subject recruiting dollars
The medium is still the message
Buying media advertisements to recruit subjects often is the easiest way to make a study's enrollment deadlines, but it is an expensive method if not used carefully.
With a typical study budget of about $5,000 for subject recruitment, ad buying is even trickier, says Kevin Ketels, MS, chief executive officer of KMED Research in St. Clair Shores, MI. KMED is a clinical research site and consulting firm that manages phase II through phase IV trials.
The first step in getting the most recruitment bang for your budget bucks is to narrowly target the study population.
"Identify who it is that you're trying to recruit," Ketels suggests. "It could be you will be recruiting diabetics who are ages 18 to 85, but you have to ask yourself who actually will come into your clinic."
There likely won't be many 20 year olds interested in the trial, so an advertising campaign might target the most likely age segment of people between 40 and 60 years, Ketels adds.
"Then you need to look at the types of media channels you would need to reach that audience," he says.
A clinical trial site might want to buy television advertising, along with some radio spots, but cost is an issue, as well.
"TV is good, but it's more expensive because of production costs in creating a TV ad, and also TV is a lot more fragmented," Ketels explains. "I personally use a lot more radio because it's cost effective."
Here are Ketels suggestions on purchasing ads in different venues:
Buy radio ads that target desired demographic:
If a CR site is targeting a younger audience, then it might be a good idea to buy a spot on a top hits radio station. If the target population is middle-aged, then talk radio might be the way to go, for example.
"You should ask whoever you're buying the media from what percentage are their listeners' age range or gender," Ketels suggests.
"A radio station might say their listeners are 80% male, so if you buy an ad on that station, you'll have to find some way to balance this out with the female population," he adds. "I look at media and what they're delivering as far as their audience, and I see if there's a good match."
CR sites also should obtain competitive bids from different radio stations, Ketels says.
"You can ask them to give you an Arbitron [radio marketing] schedule of what exactly it will cost, the time of day the ads will run, and the cost per rating point, which is an objective measure to compare to different radio schedules," he adds.
This measure helps an ad buyer determine if the higher cost of radio station A is because A has a bigger audience and therefore can reach more people with fewer advertising spots.
"So the cost to run the ad with them is more expensive, but with each ad you reach more people than you do with the other radio station where the ad cost is less but with each ad you reach fewer people," Ketels says.
The same quality factor should be considered when one advertising price could purchase more ads at one station than at another.
"For example, one station can give you a schedule with 45 ads, and another can give you 15 ads, so you might think the 45 ads would be better," Ketels explains. "But when you look more closely and see the times that the 45 ads are playing, you might find that the one giving 45 ads is giving you 35 time slots when no one is listening to the radio."
And the station with the 15 ads might be including ads that all play between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. when people are driving to or from work, he adds.
"Day-time listeners might be appropriate for a clinical trial because they're listening and are home during the day when the trial is held," Ketels says. "But if you have an ad running at 9 p.m., the people listening to it might not be as interested, or if they do call the study site and get a recorded message, they might just decide they don't want to do this after all, and they'll hang up."
Look at cost per 1,000 subscribers for print ads:
With newspaper and magazine advertising, the key is to break down the advertising cost per 1,000 subscribers, Ketels says.
"You can put an ad in this particular paper, and it's really cheap," he says. "But I might find out that it's cheap because the paper's
circulation is not that big."
CR sites should buy their print advertising, like they do with radio ads, based on a paper's demographics.
If the CR site needs to reach younger people for a study then the weekly metro or entertainment papers might be the best bet because these tend to attract younger people who are into the club or music scene, Ketels suggests.
Daily newspapers mainly have subscribers who are middle-aged, so if that's the target demographic, then CR sites should buy ads in these larger and often more-expensive papers.
"Depending on the age of the audience I'm trying to target, I'll go to the Detroit News or Detroit Free Press or the Metro Times for advertising," Ketels says.
Internet advertising is the cheapest, but the reach is limited:
When CR sites look to Internet advertising for recruiting subjects, they should first start with Google Ad Words, Ketels advises.
"I bid on these different words, and I'll say that I'll pay up to a dollar for every time someone clicks on my ad," he says.
"It's a fabulous tool," Ketels says. "When people do an Internet search on Google, say for a clinical trial in the Detroit area, then an ad will pop up on the right side of your search results."
The Internet ad might say something like this: "Local doctor is seeking volunteers for a clinical trial in Detroit, Michigan."