The Impact of Advertisement Messaging on Enrollment of Young Men Who Have Sex With Men for Web-Based Research: Observational Study

Holly B. Fontenot, Nadia N. Abuelezam, Joshua G. Rosenberger, David Novak, Kenneth H. Mayer, Gregory Zimet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: Recruiting young men who have sex with men (YMSM) in community settings is difficult. The use of Web-based social networks and dating apps for recruitment can be successful approaches, although little work has been done on the impact of study advertisement content on recruitment. OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of advertisement message content on the recruitment of YMSM (aged 18-26 years) for a Web-based focus group study, examining perspectives and preferences for a mobile app that was designed to support sexual health among YMSM. METHODS: Between March and April 2017, a recruitment campaign to promote human papillomavirus vaccination was launched on a popular social networking and dating app for YMSM, with 3 different text-based advertisement themes (technology, cancer prevention, and sexual innuendo). The campaign recruited YMSM across 3 states (Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania). We examined the click-through rates, conversion rates, and enrollment rates of each of the advertisements and examined differences in views and clicks by age, state, and time of day. RESULTS: The sexual innuendo advertisement had the highest click rates when compared with both the technology (click rate ratio [CRR] 2.06, 95% CI 1.74-2.45) and cancer prevention (CRR 1.62, 95% CI 1.38-1.90) advertisements. The sexual innuendo advertisement also had higher study enrollment rates compared with the technology (CRR 1.90, 95% CI 1.23-2.83) and cancer prevention (CRR 2.06, 95% CI 1.37-3.13) advertisements. No differences were observed in clicks or enrollment by age, state, or time of day. CONCLUSIONS: Our marketing campaign, targeting YMSM, was effective in recruiting participants for a qualitative study, using Web-based focus groups. The sexual innuendo advertisement was the most effective and cost-efficient advertisement of the 3 approaches trialed. Different populations need different targeted strategies for study recruitment. Researchers should work with key representatives to develop and test culturally relevant messaging and approaches that utilize current and popular technologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e16027
JournalJournal of medical Internet research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 13 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Informatics


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