The purpose of advertising


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The purpose of advertising

  1. 1. TODAY’S PRACTICE The Purpose of Advertising Many practitioners mistake advertising for marketing, and miss the mark on both. BY SHAREEF MAHDAVI Historically, many refractive surgery providers have mistakenly equated adver- “Too often, I see practices that lack tising with marketing, as if the two efforts were one and the same. Providers believe the internal structure necessary to that advertising their services will serve as handle the calls their advertising gen- sufficient marketing for building their erates, and they lose the leads.” practice. In truth, advertising is just onecomponent of marketing and brand building. (Pepsi is one example). Other companies try to buildFIR ST THING’S FIR ST awareness of their product by highlighting a problem along I am generally biased against ophthalmic surgeons’ con- with an offer for consumers to learn more about their solu-ducting any external advertising—not because I believe tion. Direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising fallspromoting their services is inherently ineffective or unethi- into this category. And then there is the biggest form ofcal, but because providers often use advertising for eye care advertising, which seeks a response from the consumer. Forservices as a substitute for the marketing fundamentals LASIK, advertising’s primary goal is to make the phone ring.that they first need to develop within their practices. Too Every dollar spent by a laser vision correction provideroften, I see practices that lack the internal structure neces- should aim to generate phone calls to the practice—noth-sary to handle the calls their advertising generates, and they ing more, nothing less.lose the leads. In my view, such practices have not earnedthe right to advertise. When they do advertise, the number LESS IS MOREof new patients generated fails to meet expectations. For LASIK advertising, less is more. The best ads are the The other type of practice that should delay advertising ones that inspire the target audience member to take theis one that hasn’t fully tapped into existing groups of next step. Many ads fail in this regard because they attemptpatients who can be reached much more cost effectively to communicate too much information. Advertising isvia direct mail, community fairs, and event sponsorship. expensive real estate that the provider owns for mere sec-This form of outreach hits a target audience much more onds. A single ad can’t tell the target audience about everyselectively than can broadcast media such as TV, radio, and detail of the procedure or the surgeon.print. MAKING THE PHONE RINGCUSTOMIZED ADVERTISING Ironically, the search for refractive advertising campaigns Of those surgeons who deem their practices ready for that “make the phone ring” has produced a lot of ads thatadvertising, I ask a simple question: what is the purpose of have had the opposite effect. Consumers are increasinglyyour advertising efforts? The question is important, tuning out and turning off the messages they hear aboutbecause the answer should drive the process of developing laser vision correction. Following are three symptoms thatand placing the advertising message. There are different may help clarify the problem.types of advertising: For instance, large companies withmultimillion-dollar budgets can afford to conduct image 1. Too Much Information (TMI)advertising. They want consumers to relate to the product Detailed data about the procedure, technology, or sur-through the ad but do not direct them to make a purchase geon send the targeted consumer into overload status. If OCTOBER 2003 I CATARACT & REFRACTIVE SURGERY TODAY I 63
  2. 2. TODAY’S PRACTICE people can’t quickly process what your advertising message REFRACTIVE ADWATCH is trying to say, they will ignore it. Virtually all current adver- tising in the LASIK category suffers from some form of TMI. Dewey & Dewey of Memphis, Tennessee, is an ad The antidote to TMI is to resist the urge to overcommu- agency that has been publishing a review and commen- nicate in advertising. Instead, ads should use only the most vital words and images needed to give the viewer or listener tary of refractive surgery advertising over the past 4 years. what he needs to know to take that next step. The company critiques actual ads they receive from clip- ping services nationwide. Their service can be helpful to 2. Hyping Claims providers who want to improve their advertising or who Laser vision correction, when performed properly on the right candidates, typically offers incredible functional and are contemplating major ad spending. It allows surgeons emotional benefits. The procedure can be so effective that to learn from the successes and mistakes of other adver- its outcomes have generated a large amount of disbelief tisers in the category, and it is the only service of its kind and skepticism in the general population. This skepticism, of which I am aware. Those interested should contact however, begins to dissipate in consumers who know peo- ple who have undergone successful refractive surgery. Dewey & Dewey at (901) 751-3275; Refractive surgery is such a good product that it doesn’t require hype, and advertising infused with hype, especially concerning technology and/or price, devalues the provider A good agency or local marketing professional can help in the mind of the consumer. guide providers around these questions. As surgeons for- To combat hype in their advertising, providers must be mulate their advertising, they should take care that both careful in the selection and presentation of their claims. the ad and where they place it reflect their desired brand Making claims in advertising is fine, but they must be true image. In other words, a surgeon promoting a premium and supported by data. This basic fact has been lost in product with a premium price tag should not advertise in some of the advertising I’ve seen recently. the Pennysaver. 3. Trying to Address Fear SUMMARY All the claims an ad makes won’t go very far toward No one said advertising would be easy. Good advertising addressing a consumer’s fear. Fear needs to be handled one- is only one component of good marketing, which must on-one in an environment where the surgeon can answer first focus on all the internal issues (staff training, patient questions and help the patient overcome his unique con- education, etc.). Even once these components are estab- cerns. An ad is an impersonal venue that is meant to excite lished, efforts such as community outreach, public rela- the prospect, not calm him. Again, I’ve seen many ads tions, and direct mail are vastly more affordable than paid whose key message is, “You shouldn’t be afraid, because...” external advertising. This is a big mistake. The role of advertising is to make practices’ phones ring The antidote here is to avoid language that tries to with calls from patients who are attracted to the message address fear within the ad. Advertising that tries to make a and the advertiser’s brand of refractive surgery. prospective patient less afraid of refractive surgery will not Practitioners should not try to write the ads themselves motivate him to call your practice. but should instead seek the input of experienced profes- sionals. Also, with the approvals for customized laser treat- GOOD ADVERTISING IS HARD TO DO ments, providers should take advantage of the marketing Admittedly, effective advertising is much easier said than tools that laser manufacturers have developed. In most done. Professional agencies have formal processes they use instances, the messages, product positioning, and scripting to help clients develop more effective campaigns. Many of the companies offer has survived the rigors of research and the questions these agencies ask provider clients involve testing and helps translate all the techno-speak into lan- topics covered in earlier Marketing Mishaps columns, guage that resonates with the consumer. ■ including How well known are you in your market area? (awareness); What is your position in the market? (posi- Industry veteran Shareef Mahdavi offers marketing counsel tioning); Why would someone choose you over other to refractive surgery providers and medical device manufac- providers? (differentiation); Why would someone choose turers. He is based in Pleasanton, California. Mr. Mahdavi refractive surgery over other discretionary spending? (com- may be reached at (925) 425-9963; petition); and, Who is your key audience? (targeting). I CATARACT & REFRACTIVE SURGERY TODAY I OCTOBER 2003