Friday, August 14, 2009

Comparing Healthcare Service Advertising Back-to-School Physicals

Its back-to-school time again, so everyone in their brother is touting those specials for school and sports physicals in various ads or direct mail pieces. Same day, next day, comprehensive, call for an appointment or just walk in.

Multi-specialty group practices, hospital ambulatory centers, solo practitioners and retail clinics are all offering the same essential service.

What caught my attention were three ads in the local paper from three different channels for these services in the market. It raised the question is anyone paying attention to their advertising message and how it compares to what can be viewed as competitors?

The multi-specialty ad - same day but you had to call for an appointment and gave no price but mentioned pediatricians implying a doctor will see you. The hospital ad - call first for a next day appointment, take advantage of our discounts, offer ends soon and gave a price. The retail clinic ad - same day, just stop by and gave a lower price. Thankfully, three very different choices for a consumer to make an initial decision to explore a purchase based on need.


The Group Practice:

If I am already a patient of the multi-specially group and have physician, I will probably call them and have insurance pay for it except for my co-pay. If I am uninsured or don’t have a doctor, I won’t go there because I won’t be able to afford the cost of care or they may not be part of my plan. The group practice will get existing patients which could have been reached more economically, personally and less mass marketing focused.

One-half page ad, lots of small copy in a gray scale box in a generally dark black and white ad with imagery of two kids doing cartwheels in yard. The imagery kind of works, but the gray scale, dark ad with too much copy makes it difficult to view. A total of 88 words. Consumers move right on buy.

The Hospital Owned Clinic:

What is convenient about calling for an appointment for the next day, seeing a price and being told there are discounts all in the same body copy? Is that the right price quoted or will it be cheaper because of discounts? Not clear- one or the other, give the lowest price or take the discount statement out, it only confuses people. Teeny tiny small print- payment due at time of service, immunizations not included.

I can see lots of copy in an ad with 124 words, three headlines and some bolded words, 4 column inches across top to bottom on the page, full color. Note to designers bolding words in copy is like shouting at someone. Not a good thing.

And contrary to what the CEO thinks, you are not differentiating yourself from anybody else because you bolded a couple of words.

How’s this for imagery, a nurse examining a kid with gloves on, holding an instrument to examine ears while looking at the camera and not the patient, photo-shopped into an in-ground outdoor pool setting. What is wrong with that picture?

Too confusing, too may messages, too much information for a really simple topic. Neither affordable nor convenient.

The Retail Clinic:
Price first, $30 think us. Smart, affordable choice. Right now and all year long. Just stop by for convenient…. A total of 56 words to get a clean, clear actionable message out. And setting up the opportunity for future service if not now then later we are always here. The ad is three column inches across, in a three color format, top to bottom on the page.

The ad speaks for itself.

Lessons learned……
Keep the doctors and CEOs out of the ad design and development.
Focus your message for a simple service.
Be aware of your target audiences needs and provide a solution.
Understand the price point.
Stop messaging that it is all about us and not about you.
Be a provider of solutions.

Think about the future and what a good customer experience from a simple service can bring to you.

Because when it comes down to a simple service that almost anyone can do, it becomes a commodity and is purchased on convenience and price.