Sept 17 Chat – Healthcare Advertising

Post by Colin Hung

Last week we explored the topic of healthcare + media with the folks involved with the Escape Fire documentary. Through cosmic serendipity, something happened this week in my home province of Ontario that highlighted a different aspect of healthcare and media – advertising.

On September 12th, an ad from an Ontario hospital – Lakeridge Health,  went viral. The sensation around Lakeridge’s ad got me thinking about healthcare and advertising. Ads are not cheap and should healthcare organizations spend precious resources on something so temporary? On the other hand, without advertising, would organizations be able to attract talented staff, donations or patients?

Before you read the ad, you’ll need a bit of context to understand why it had such an impact.

In the last few weeks one of Canada’s provinces – Quebec – has been causing a lot of controversy with a new proposed “Charter of Quebec Values”. You can read more about this proposed Charter here.  One of the potential outcomes of this Charter is a ban on the display of religious symbols by public employees. This would include religious headwear, Star of David, Crucifixes and other such symbols. In Canada, because healthcare is paid for by the provinces, everyone who works in a hospital is considered to be a public employee. Thus in Quebec hospital staff would be subject to the ban.

Lakeridge, very smartly capitalized on the wave of political storm that surrounds the Quebec Charter of Values with an ad aimed at medical students in Quebec:

Lakeridge Ad

You can also see the accompanying tweet from Lakeridge’s Twitter account here.

As a person who has spent the last 10 years in HealthIT Marketing, I applaud this ad’s genius. It leverages a hot topic, taps into people’s emotional center and is well executed. Social media agrees – this ad got national attention and has been Retweeted, Pinned and Liked numerous times in the last few days. You can read some of the comments and tweets of support here.

What caught my attention wasn’t the controversy over religious symbols – but rather the fact that the ad was from a hospital. I’m not accustomed to advertising from healthcare organizations so this one caught my eye. For the first time I found myself considering whether or not this form of self-promotion is something that a healthcare organization should be doing with its precious funds.

Some lawmakers have had the same thought. In March of 2010 there was talk in the Connecticut legislature about a movement to ban advertising by healthcare organizations. The feeling, by some, was that healthcare organizations should stick to Public Safety Announcements and forms of media that do not cost money. Dan Dunlop, a regular #HCLDR contributor and stalwart member of this community, wrote an excellent response to this potential ban. You can read it on his blog hereMarianne Aiello of HealthLeaders Media also wrote a great response.

After reading both Dan and Marianne’s excellent points, I agree that advertising can be a key component of a healthcare organization’s marketing strategy. I believe as they do that advertising is and can be an effective way for organizations to bring attention to themselves or to educate the public about something they are doing. Done right, ads can have an enormous impact. Having said that, I do believe that some healthcare messages work well as advertisements whereas others can be a bit of a turn-off. Speaking personally, I’m not a fan of ads that talk about how many awards an organization has won or those ads that tout the prowess of a particular team of specialists. Seems like too much chest thumping. I do think that ads to attract talented staff, ads that talk about how an organization cares for the community it serves and ads that educate on a particular healthcare issue are fantastic.

For a great sampling of healthcare ads, I encourage you to read another of Dan Dunlop’s blog posts here. I am particularly fond of the MD Anderson ads.

This week on #HCLDR we’re going to explore the topic of healthcare + advertising. Here are the 3 topics for the chat:

  • T1: What healthcare ads do you find effective? (radio, tv, print) Which turn you off? Share links if possible!
  • T2: Should healthcare organizations be banned from running certain types of ads? (ex: recruitment vs attracting patients)
  • T3: Should there be restrictions placed on healthcare advertising? (ex: in UK you can’t bash another hospital)

Please join us Tuesday September 17, 2013 at 8:30pm Eastern Time (North America) for our #HCLDR chat. See you there!


DTC advertising is annoying but should it be banned? KevinMD

Healthcare Marketing: In Defence of Hospital Ad Spending

Lessons from a Horrible Social Media Strategy

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