Native Health Advertising 101

Andrew Stark

June 20, 2018

A Practical “How-To” for Health Marketers

Native ads are more powerful forms of brand marketing than display ads, according to a study conducted by IPG Lab and Sharethrough. Consumers look at native ads 52% more frequently than banner ads. Native ads drive higher brand lift than banner ads. And people are more likely to share the content they viewed in a native ad vs. that they saw in a banner ad.

For health marketers with pre-developed content, native advertising is an easy and highly effective way to distribute your content to your target audiences across the Web. Here’s a few practical “how to” guidelines to get started:

What is a Native Ad? Native ads are intermixed with published content on a web page, so they look much like a printed editorial. However, these posts are labeled “Sponsored,” so they do not trick viewers into thinking that they are articles rather than ads. And even though they look like editorial or content, native ads needs to follow FTC and FDA guidelines for ads.

Interested in what consumers think about personalized healthcare advertising? Download our Healthcare Advertising Perception Survey Report.

How to Place Native Ads: Native advertising is most effective and efficient when bought and distributed programmatically. This means that a content distribution platform sources the best placements to deliver against your targeting requirements at the best price in an automated way. Content distribution platforms can adjust the creatives automatically, making setting up and managing campaigns relatively easy.

Components of a Native Ad: Native ads include an image, a headline, a description and a link to a landing page. The creative specs may vary for each native channel in image size, as well as character limit for the headline and description. As mentioned above, these can be adjusted easily via an automated platform.

How to Write Native Ad Headlines: Like all ads, native ads need to be written to attract the right target persona, ignite their interest, and intrigue them enough to want to click, all within regulatory guidelines. Here are some do’s and don’ts to ensure regulatory compliance without hurting performance.

  • Don’t claim specific results such as percentages
  • NO - “See how to reduce heartburn by 20% in a few weeks”
  • YES - “Here’s how heartburn can be tackled”

  • Don’t address specific individuals (race, sex, religion) or use the second person to imply someone has a specific condition
  • NO - “If you have migraines here’s what you should do”
  • YES - “New treatment approaches help reduce the symptoms of migraines”

  • Address general audience with a condition, but don’t include the word “others”
  • NO -  “See stories about OTHER patients with anxiety disorder”
  • YES - “See stories about patients with anxiety disorder”

  • Do not use “too good to be true to be true” headlines
  • NO - “This drug cures acne in days, rather than in months!”
  • YES -  “A drug that helps patients conquer acne and have healthier skin”

How to Select Images for Native Ads: Use lifestyle images versus medical images or illustrations for higher engagement. Don’t use images that show the illness. Stay away from “before & after” images because they imply claims. And to ensure brevity and improve appeal, and also make the click worthwhile, don’t use more than 20% of the text in the images, especially on social.

Ideas for Landing Pages: Content that seems to work to drive up engagement (time on page, scroll depth, velocity) includes:

  • Patient stories (videos or editorial content)
  • Interactive tests to evaluate symptoms
  • Videos of how to use the medicine or device, but only if not disturbing
  • Supplementary treatment options (e.g., over-the-counter for relief)

Social Media Guidelines: While hugely productive, social media is its own animal and needs to be managed with specific attention.


  • Facebook can be very particular regarding images so pay close attention
  • You can’t promote the direct sale of medicine, just the marketing
  • You can’t imply in the headline that someone has a specific condition
  • Avoid data about results in the headline
  • Use more user-friendly landing pages


  • Can advertise only in the US
  • Content need to be pre-approved by Twitter first

It’s time to start creating your own campaigns and distributing content over a variety of platforms. If you need more information on content distribution, email us at

Andrew Stark is EVP of Revenue for PulsePoint’s Healthcare Marketing Technology group, helping brands and agencies leverage the power of programmatic and content marketing to reach and engage physicians and consumers. Previously, Andrew was  SVP, Content Solutions at PulsePoint, where he rant the company's content solutions business, which unites unique content programs, high-impact native ad solutions, and powerful audience insights for brands.

Prior to PulsePoint, Andrew was VP, Sales and Marketing for Examiner Media Group, and held executive positions at Metro Boston and Boston Now, 365 Media USA. Early in his career, Andrew served as CEO & Publisher at The SUNPOST, where he provided strategic leadership and shifted the publication's readership profile and perception, growing a small community weekly paper into a large regional player.

Andrew holds an MBA from the University of Miami.