Hospital ads

Philadelphia-area hospital ads all come from same manual, study finds

A screenshot from the Health section of the Philadelphia Inquirer from April 15, 2018.

Philadelphia-area hospitals may all be using the same playbook when it comes to advertising themselves, a new study from Drexel University suggests.

Looking at how hospitals in the city and surrounding counties advertised each Sunday in the Philadelphia plaintiffIn the Health section of , it was found that most used patient stories first and foremost, followed closely by their healthcare professionals.

“We concluded that hospitals are true to the marketing goal of ‘winning the hearts’ of healthcare consumers by using patients in the primary model of advertisements,” said Caichen Zhongone of the study’s lead authors and a researcher at Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions.

The study, co-authored by Stephen Gambescia, PhD, clinical professor at the College of Nursing and Health Professions, will be published in Quarterly Health Marketing this autumn.

With over 200 hospitals, the Philadelphia area has one of the highest concentrations of medical services in the United States. So, to see how the hospitals stood out from such a tight group, the Drexel researchers decided to examine all the hospital advertisements available in the Health section of the Philadelphia plaintiffsince its creation in 2013 until April 2016.

For the three-year period analyzed, very few advertisements were found to feature medical technologies or specialized procedures that could have helped hospitals differentiate themselves. Branding was also not the main feature of many advertisements. It went against what was assumed.

“We believe hospital advertising creative teams may be using the same ‘playbook’ and sticking to traditional and safe attributes, using patients and healthcare professionals the most,” Gambescia said. . “There’s nothing wrong with using ‘high touch’ advertising attributes and focusing on patients. But this goes against an essential marketing principle: differentiating yourself from your competitors.

By analyzing 168 advertisements, the researchers sought to see which attributes were emphasized in each, dividing them into primary impressions and secondary impressions. Basically, this means that they understood first what jumped out at a reader, and then, whether it was words or images.

For example, in an advertisement for a cardiac care unit, a large main image of a middle-aged man would be the first impression, categorized as “patient”. If the hospital logo was the next thing someone noticed, the “brand” would be the secondary impression.

Overall, the most used primary attribute was ‘patients’, appearing in 35% of ads. Next was “health professionals,” at 27%.

At the other end of the spectrum, ‘technology’ and ‘procedures’ were primary attributes only 4 and 3% of the time, respectively.

However, ‘brand image’ was the most frequent secondary attribute, coming 33% of the time as such.

“Branding is a way to get frequency exposure, telling readers, ‘We’re the best’ or, at least, ‘We’re here to serve you,’” Zhong explained. “Hospitals use branding as a generic differentiator. Advertising is a long term process and consistency is important. We expected to see greater use of brand as a primary attribute in this study. »

In the past, Gambescia has carried out similar studies analyzing higher education impression and in line The advertisement. He thinks he may have encountered the same thing in every field: marketing people can sometimes get in the way.

“Hospital – and superior – ads are the result of a fusion of internal marketers, an external creative team and, ideally, someone with expertise who knows the product or service,” Gambescia said. “That last person is often left out.”

It may not be a panacea, but Gambescia feels the consistency of the ads could be broken a bit with a voice outside of the usual marketing team.

“They may know just enough to spot something that may be more aligned with the reality of the product or resonate with the audience,” he explained.

Something completely missing from the ads were references to “population health” or “public health.”

“Hospitals have undoubtedly tried to be — and be seen — as a service to the community, not just to the sick within their own four walls,” Gambescia said. “But most say hospitals only pay lip service to people’s health.”

Going forward, Gambescia believes it is important to determine whether this lack of attention in advertisements is simply due to the hospitals’ marketing strategy or another sign that they are ignoring an important part of their mission.

“We need to know why they are totally opposed to saying anything about population health, or if they just don’t realize they’re not communicating that way,” Gambescia concluded.