SEM Services: New AdWords Policy for Pharma PPC Ads
Search Engine Marketing
Services: New AdWords Policy for Pharmaceutical Product Ads
In a major change to it’s AdWords search engine marketing
policy, Google is now requiring that pharmaceutical product advertisers and
affiliates managing SEM programs and PPC services obtain certification from the Verified
Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (VIPPS) or Canadian International Pharmacy
Association (CIPA) before placing PPC ads on AdWords. Previously the AdWords guidelines required only that pharma
retailers and affiliates be verified by PharmacyChecker.com. Google’s new SEM advertising guidelines
also restrict drug ads to the advertiser’s home country.
Providers -- Requirements for Pharmaceutical Products
Search engine marketing firms offering pay-per-click
programs and other SEM services must comply with the guidelines of the Federal
Drug Administration (FDA) which oversees all print, radio, TV and online marketing
of prescription pharmaceuticals.
The FDA divides ads into three categories, and each has separate
requirements for benefits description and risk disclosure
Claim Advertisements: Include the name of the drug (brand and generic)
and one or more FDA-approved uses.
Must also list the most significant risks of the drug, and must provide
a balanced view of benefits vs. risks.
Ads: Give the name of the
drug, but not the benefits or risks.
Can not be used for drugs with serious risks (‘boxed warnings’).
Seeking Ads: Describe a disease or condition, and may name the drug manufacturer
or pharmacy, but cannot name the drug or infer that their product has a
SEM Restrictions and
Mixing Product Claim/Reminder/Help Seeking Ads
Most online drug ads are developed by SEM services firms on
behalf of prescription drug retailers (vs. manufacturers). Search engine marketing services
providers inherently prefer reminder ads, which provide a direct path to a PPC
sale, and avoid the requirement for extensive risk disclosure (hard to do this
in 95 character pay-per-click ad). We’ve all seen TV product claim ads that go on at great length in
gruesome detail about a drug’s potential side effects – enough to make us
wonder if the disease isn’t preferable to the remedy!
A smaller proportion of online ads for pharmaceuticals are
funded by the drug manufacturers to create awareness of the disease (via help
seeking ads) and remedial effects of their drugs (through product claim
ads). These high dollar ad
campaigns have been conducted primarily on TV, radio and print; although
recently we have seen a significant increase in online display advertising and
Conclusions and Recommendations for Online Drug Retailers and SEM Services Agencies
policy change will significantly reduce the number of illegal and misleading pay-per-click
ads for prescription drugs.
new AdWords SEM program guidelines for pharmaceutical products will be a major nuisance
for affiliate advertisers and small retailers (who must go through the process
obtaining certification by VIPPS or CIPA).
definition of a ‘pharmaceutical product’ is so broad that this new PPC program
policy will also have the unintended consequence of making life difficult for
legitimate SEM firms and retailers of non-drug products like medical devices,
diet pills, natural supplements, and herbal remedies. A lot of innocuous pay-per-click ads will be disapproved
initially; and the SEM firm will need to explain that it is not marketing a
Pharmaceutical manufacturers and online retailers should confer with their PPC services company to review the impact on the new AdWords policy on their overall SEM marketing strategy, Product Claim/Reminder/Help Seeking ad mix, and specific pay-per-click ad content and targeting.
Online advertisers of natural remedies, herbal supplements, medical and drug-related services should be alert to the possibility of ad rejection by AdWords, and prepared to defend the ads as 'non-pharmaceutical'.
Semantic Advantage is a search engine marketing firm in
Austin, TX. We help businesses
design and implement effective SEM strategies and high ROI PPC campaigns. For more information about SEM ads and
pay-per-click programs, visit our SEM services page.