A new ad format developed by Google for prescription drugs attaches a fixed link to sponsored results. When clicked, the link takes the browser to a page announcing the drug’s side effects, risks, and other important information, much the same way as it is printed on the drug label or inside the product’s packaging. Bayer was the first company to sign up for the new format, which it now uses for its beleaguered birth control pill Yaz.
When customers go to Google’s search engine and perform a search for information on Yaz or “the pill,” they will see this simple new ad format appear in the search results. Some sponsored links will appear at the top of the results in a yellowish box. One of the links will lead to Bayer’s website for Yaz and will contain a gray-text notice: “Click to see full safety and prescribing information, including boxed warning.”
Why is Bayer using this new format for Yaz? Because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned pharmaceutical companies about using the text promos for drug advertising since they do not contain any warnings or disclaimers to customers about possible side effects, health risks, and other drawbacks.
Bayer clashed with the FDA last year over its Yaz advertisements. The company aired a couple of television commercials titled “Not Gonna Take It” and “Balloons” that promoted the drug for unapproved uses, downplayed its risks and side effects, and used competing music and visual to draw the viewer’s attention away from the safety information. The FDA ordered the ads off the air and requested that Bayer spend a minimum of $20 million on a “corrective” ad campaign.
Other drug companies, anxious to promote their drugs through Google’s sponsored links without being called out by the FDA, will no doubt keep a watchful eye on the agency’s reaction to the new Yaz links.