AHPRA & Facebook Compliant Advertising for Dental & Medical Clinics
Your quick ‘n dirty guide to dental (& cosmetic surgery) marketing online
Play by the rules
And no one gets hurt…
Writing good copy is hard enough.
But when you're writing copy to comply with not one, but two governing bodies: AHPRA & Facebook, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with a lot of rules. These rules can affect your content creation quite severely, which although is a giant pain, is not impossible. So roll up your sleeves and let's do this.
Dental and medical can be tricky stuff for copywriters (or practice managers) as you can’t always rely on traditional copywriting techniques. You can’t focus on all the gorgeous benefits and tell your readers how fabulous and confident they’ll become. (Don’t even think about saying ‘confident’ with AHPRA) And you must be careful about agitating pain and focusing on any physical or emotional vulnerabilities (particularly with Facebook).
If you’re a pro copywriter, you may already feel a little sweaty.
REMEMBER:The more your clients succeed, the more they’re under the spotlight. By competitors. And AHPRA. So you may start out without a care in the world, but as your clients rise to the top, the likelihood of them being reported increases.
But don’t give up - it’s not all negatives. (Besides, who wants to do the easy stuff?) You just need to learn to play by the rules.
Too busy to learn the rules? Let me write AHPRA-compliant conversion copy for you!
AHPRA guidelines: medical & dental advertising
Remember now, this is important. No messing up, alright?
Again, this is just a quick ’n dirty list that I feel your average dental or cosmetic surgery practice should know. For the comprehensive list of rules, visit AHPRA here >
1. Advertising must not be false, misleading or deceptive, or likely to be misleading or deceptive.
Misleading ads include:
• Ads that make therapeutic claims are not supported by acceptable evidence.
• Ads that list health conditions a practitioner can ‘assist with’ or ‘treat’ but does not clearly specify what aspect of the health condition or associated symptoms the treatment will focus on or help (unqualified claims).
• Misleading use of titles – in particular when specialist titles are used to words that imply a practitioner is registered specialist when they are not.*
2. Be VERY careful of the term ‘specialises in’ or ‘specialist’.
In addition to avoiding misleading titles, never say that someone “specialises in” when they don’t hold specialist registration.
3. Advertising a gift, discount or other inducements:
When doing so, accompany this with terms and conditions of the offer. Then, all is sweet! (I usually provide an abridged T&C version in the Facebook ad with clear instructions to see full terms and conditions on the website landing page)
4. Advertising must not include testimonials about a service or business. None. Nada. We clear? **
But, you say, I’ve seen plenty of medical/dental websites and Facebook pages testimonials. They get away with it. Yes, they do. For now. Because no one has reported them. It’s just a matter of time. So don’t build your business model around counting on this non-compliant feature.
5. Advertising must not create an unreasonable expectation of beneficial treatment.
Put simply, you can’t state or imply a treatment can help consumers in a way that may not be realistic or possible. You must be careful about using words such as ‘cure’, ‘safe’, ‘effective’, and ‘treats’ when you don’t clearly specify which aspect of the health condition or associated symptoms the treatment will focus on or help. (These are unqualified claims)
TIP: if you are keen to use one of these words, be specific. And use disclaimers where appropriate.
6. When advertising a surgical or invasive procedure directly to the public, your advertisement must include a visible warning.
(For any surgical or invasive procedures I use: All surgical or invasive procedures carry risk. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.)
7. Your ads must never encourage consumers to seek treatment they don’t need.
I.e., Don’t say or imply that you will need regular appointments just to stay healthy.***
*My understanding of this is that the most common offender is ‘expert’ versus ‘specialist’. However, I believe that AHPRA’s lawyers are against the use of titles created through offshore terminologies, such as ‘Implantologists’. This appears to be an American dental term and not an Australian one. Consequently, they don’t like you using it.
**Just because other dental companies show testimonials both on their Facebook page and their website, doesn’t make it correct. Trust me. You will be caught out eventually.
***I think that will is more directed to types like chiropractors that imply that your life will fall apart unless you see them three times a week. It is my understanding/opinion that advertising a regular scale and clean is appropriate, providing we use the words like ‘can help prevent oral and overall health problems’ and not ‘will prevent’. I’ve never seen a problem with this.
Now that you’ve got that down, let’s move onto Facebook.
Facebook advertising tips for medical & dental
Fasten your seatbelts…
This is where the real fun happens. Again, below are the rules I find most pertinent to dental. But I suggest you read more about Facebook advertising guidelines here >
First, a word of warning on Facebook Advertising accounts…
Mess with your ads and see them removed, and you’ll be harming two accounts, not just your own. You’ll be harming the business account. And you’ll be harming the business manager account. Further, you could have your entire account shut down.
Here’s how it goes:
You won’t find much info online, but Facebook staff will tell you that you get marked down every time they reject your ad. It’s like a black mark against your name. Get too many marks down, and they will flag your account, and you’ll be subject to countless manual reviews. It can be a freaking nightmare. Continue down this road, and you could even get your account suspended or shut down.
Facebook won’t just flag the client/business account. They will also flag the Business Manager account. So if Betty’s Business (name of Business Manager account) is managing Danny’s Dental Clinic (the client) account, both Betty’s Business Manager and Danny’s Dental Clinic advertising account will be tarnished.
Make sure you understand the above fully, and:
1. If you’re a consultant or an agency, don’t be pushed around by a client that insists you bend the rules and push through (what you know is) a non-compliant ad. Because it won’t just be your client that suffers, your Business Manager account will suffer, too.
2. Likewise, business owners, don’t let some young jock run your professional account and ‘push the edges’ with risky material just to make them look flash. It’s your ad account that will be tarnished.
About Facebook reviews...
The Facebook review process can be no picnic.
First, there is an automatic review performed by artificial intelligence. That’s not so bad, but it can be tough. Rules can be overly rigid or unfair (Cancer Council had a life-saving bowel cancer campaign that was rejected because words were contraband. Effectively, due to them banding the use of words that people understand like ‘pee’ and ‘poo’ they risked letting hundreds of cases of bowel cancer go undetected. They had a very frustrating time.)
Facebook has refused to post the ads because they contain "specific personal attributes of physical/medical/mental condition" including "blood in your poo?", "Bloody poo?", "Do you have cancer?", "Noticed blood in your poo?".
— Cancer Council website, 2018
Next up: manual reviews. These can be a nightmare, and can vastly depend on the personality that’s reviewing you. If they’re having a bad day, all bets are on that you’ll be having one, too. Because: human beings. Essentially, they are more stringent than the algorithm reviews. (However, if the algorithms have made a mistake, a manual review will put it right)
Don’t call out any health problem, disability, gender, age group, sexual preference, etc. Focus on what you do/your product does instead.
Memorise these Facebook advertising rules
1. NO Before & After shots
FB: “Ads must not contain "before-and-after" images or images that contain unexpected or unlikely results. Ad content must not imply or attempt to generate negative self-perception to promote diet, weight loss, or other health-related products.”
2. NO Personal attributes
Facebook: “Ads must not contain content that asserts or implies personal attributes. This includes direct or indirect assertions or implications about a person’s race, ethnic origin, religion, beliefs, age, sexual orientation or practices, gender identity, disability, medical condition (including physical or mental health), financial status, membership in a trade union, criminal record, or name.”
3. NO close-ups of body parts
NO close-ups of smiles, teeth, crowns, implants, dentures. Not even half-close-up. Just don’t.
4. Avoid using “you” or “other” – generally speaking (there are exceptions)
People will feel like they have been singled out and spied on. Instead, refer to the subject or the solution.
TIP: occasionally it is okay to say ‘you’, providing it is not in a headline and is in the body copy, and is not associated with a negative health condition.
The background: in case you’ve been living under a rock, Facebook collects an awful lot of data on their users. And they are a tad sensitive about this (Hello, Cambridge Analytica). They want to appear wonderful to advertisers, impressing them with all this useful information, yet they don’t want readers to know this.
So if you target 40-year-old, target them with ads appropriate for 40-year-olds but don’t say “Are you 40?” People get offended at that – and suspicious.
5. (Especially) Do not mention any negative health problems with “you”
Avoid “Are you missing most of your teeth?” or “Do you have herpes?” These are both perceived as negative health conditions and people with those conditions can feel offended if they are singled out. Instead, target your ad on “A permanent solution for those missing teeth” or “Scientifically proven medication for herpes”.
6. Leverage euphemisms If your business relies on a contraband word, like “weight-loss” or similar, get creative. Instead of “lose weight fast” think of “trim down” or “weight woes?”
7. Tell stories about an individual (without it being a testimonial)
TIP: To avoid it being a testimonial, don’t have the customer say or imply that the treatment improves their life or was positive in any way.
This is still dicey for some health services – like dental, sadly. Play with ideas: “Frank felt self-conscious about his missing teeth. He didn’t want to go out into public and his diet was dull and restricted. He dreamt about a permanent solution to his problem, so he booked an appointment at Dandenong Dental. After chatting through the options with his dental surgeon, he chose dental implants so he could bite into food again, eating so much more of the foods he enjoyed. His health and nutrition improved...”
See what we did there? We didn’t say “you must do this” or “if you do this, your life will be wonderful”, we mentioned that Frank did it and it was good for him. We didn’t promise anything to the rest of you.