To compete with Google’s robust advertising options, Yahoo/Bing started offering pharma advertisers the ability to serve black box ad units via their Rich Ads in Search (RAIS) platform as of Q4 2011. This allows advertisers more flexibility in regards to messaging. According to Yahoo, the advantage of leveraging this ad format is that on exact match, [RAIS] average a “40-50% higher CTR when compared to a standard text ad.” This is in contrast to an approximate CTR of about 5-10% for non-black box ads. We have also found that this offers a visually better experience, more in line with the standards set by Google.
RAIS offers better opportunities for pharmaceutical brands in general, because it allows greater control of brand messaging. It offers particular benefits for brand marketing of black box drugs. However, unlike Google, RAIS ads have their limitations. The primary restriction is that only one RAIS ad can appear on a SERP [search engine results page] for a given keyword. When a brand is running distinct consumer and professional campaigns, CMI typically recommends double serving for search queries that can overlap between consumers and health care professionals as a way to maximize qualified
traffic and provide the best possible user experience. This would be impossible with RAIS as only one such ad would be permitted to serve at a time. Another limitation is that in order for an advertiser’s black box ad to serve, the entire top section of paid search results needs to be blocked for competitors on the same keyword. In order to do this, it requires that the advertiser significantly outbid the competition, resulting potentially in higher CPCs.
RAIS is an option that all branded search campaigns should consider. The high CTR and direct targeting are appealing. However, that target comes at a price, often higher than usual CPCs and the lost ability to serve a consumer and professional ad simultaneously. Marketers looking to use RAIS should also ensure collaboration between HCP and consumer search campaigns to prioritize which campaign will ‘own’ the keyword, which may result in reduced site visits coming from branded searches. Ultimately we recommend a “test and learn” approach since no two brands perform the same. This approach entails getting both RAIS and standard search text ads approved, so that an ad copy test can be implemented, providing insight into which type of ad would show the best results for that particular brand.