According to James Unland, editor of the Journal of Health Care Finance, hospital marketing campaigns were unheard until the 1980s when pioneering ad agencies began approaching hospital executives with the idea of TV commercials. Since then, it’s become commonplace and set what Unland suggests is a bad precedent.
“I am not opposed to hospitals marketing appropriately to their own service areas,” Unland told WBEZ in Chicago. “My issue comes with the huge expenditures on TV and broad-based media advertising that is very, very expensive.”
Instead, Unland said hospitals should focus on media-driven commercials such as public service announcements about free services and Internet advertising. “The great thing about the Internet is that the unit cost of telling the story of the hospital and what services it has is minute. And you can tell a long story. You can interview your doctors. You can give people a virtual tour.”
Unland has a good point, though any marketing team will tell you a campaign that relies on inexpensive mediums such as the Internet, direct mail, and print ads would have a limited impact. According to a 2010 study from Conde Nast and McPheters & Company, an Internet banner ad had 16% of the value of a 30-second TV spot in terms of consumer recall.
For the most part, that study vindicates the multi-media approach used by most hospital marketing campaigns and draws on the old axiom that – in any business - you have to spend money to make money.