Only a few hospitals such as Cleveland Clinic advertise from coast to coast. But now academic medical centers are trying out national marketing, including for the first time Vanderbilt.
For full disclosure, Vanderbilt is a longtime underwriter for WPLN. But over the last year, the medical center has been buying ad time on national NPR broadcasts and on CNN and Fox News. The spots focus on personalized medicine and the “promise of discovery” – specifically for heart disease and cancer.
Chief marketing officer Jill Austin says the messages are meant to do more than lure patients.
“Ultimately it helps us attract students to Vanderbilt, faculty and staff. We ourselves are proud of the work that we do, so it’s really focused in that direction.”
Austin declined to say how much Vanderbilt is spending on the national ad campaign, but she says it appears to be having the intended effect. Market research indicates what Austin calls a “statistically significant change” in the positive views of Vanderbilt around the country.
Despite what the institution claims, Joel English of the Milwaukee-based marketing firm BVK says the ads are almost certainly intended to get more sick people traveling to Vanderbilt.
“There are ancillary benefits to an effective national or regional campaign. That said, during a time in health care where dollars are precious, I don’t believe those would be the key reasons for a national campaign. I think the key reason is to attract more patients.”
Vanderbilt isn’t the only academic medical center that has tried to broaden its horizons through national ads. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center launched a multi-million dollar campaign in 2005.
According to Kantar Media, advertising by hospitals, clinics and medical centers rose more than 20 percent in the first half of 2011. The New York Times reports more than $700 million was spent over the six month period.