Google Ads Can Target Health Care Messages

Eleni Linos, MD DrPH, MPH Assistant Professor UCSF School of Interview with:
Eleni Linos, MD DrPH, MPH
Assistant Professor
UCSF School of Medicine

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Linos: Google offers a remarkable service for non-profit organizations-in our case we used AdWords, Google’s keyword-specific advertising service, to disseminate skin cancer prevention messages to people searching for tanning. Our question was simple: can we send a skin cancer prevention message to someone who is searching for information about tanning beds online? From this preliminary data we found that it is possible to use online advertising to reach a large, targeted audience with specific health messages.

Or Online advertising for prevention is a brand new concept. It builds on the knowledge of online advertisers and marketers-and uses this knowledge for good. We hope other social media and technology companies will join this effort to provide precise, tailored health messages to those who need them the most. Marketing is a powerful tool when it comes to getting the message out to a larger audience. As we are thinking of using Google Ads for our services, we were recommended to compare Adwords software and tools, as it would make the decision of finding the right software a lot easier. As technology becomes apparent within businesses, it makes sense for us and other companies to use this to their advantage.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Linos: We hope that our work will inspire public health advocates and researchers working in other fields – such as tobacco cessation or mental health – to build their own public health campaigns. The ultimate goal is to have a novel, far reaching and cost-effective method to reach large audiences for targeted prevention. We want to be able to place relevant health and prevention information in front of the right people at the right time.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Linos: The hardest question is: Do these online health messages actually shift behaviors? Or How effective is online prevention messaging in changing behaviors? Future research should focus on partnering with social media and other technology companies to leverage what is known about targeted marketing –for prevention.


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Eleni Linos, MD DrPH, MPH (2015). Google Ads Can Target Health Care Messages

Last Updated on October 12, 2015 by Marie Benz MD FAAD