Healthcare Marketing: Media Consumption has Shifted in Politics too!

For the two political conventions TV viewership was down and social media usage was up.

The recently completed Republican and Democratic political conventions revealed the dramatic changes occurring in media usage.   Television viewership plunged, depending on the night, from 25-40% from 2008.  And according to Nielsen the television audience was decisively older with very low number for viewers 18-34.  There were ten times more viewers 55 or older than 18-34.

But on the other hand, social networks and online saw a dramatic increase from the conventions just four years ago.  Several news organizations offered live streaming feeds online and both parities saw significant traffic on their respective YouTube channels.   The two conventions have also been one of the most talked about events of the year on Facebook.  But even there, the audience trended older.  Twitter was perhaps the biggest winner among social media options.  Where information is shared in increments of 140 words or less, Twitter only registered 365,000 tweets between the two conventions in 2008.  But this year the Republican convention alone drew 5 million tweets.  About 14,300 a minute during Romney’s acceptance speech, according to Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press.

These numbers just confirm what is obvious.  Media consumption is dramatically changing.  Now consumers are not tied to their living rooms and a TV set for news and information.  With laptops, tablets and smartphones, consumers can gather information wherever they are.  On demand.  Media consumption occurs anyplace online access is available.  And the information is often gathered by consumers in small increments of time and bits of information and not necessarily long format like a 3-4 hour convention coverage on television.

For healthcare marketers, it doesn’t tell us that traditional media is no longer effective, but that we must consider and explore other non-traditional mediums to be relevant and reach a broader audience.  And that is especially true if we want to reach the younger audience.  Only a few healthcare organizations have a marketing staff large enough to have a presence everywhere but every organization should be active in one or two.  Choose the one(s) that could be most effective for your brand and for which you can develop a good competency and consistent use and go for it. 

We might not have learned much from watching and listening to the conventions on whatever medium we used to consume them, but one thing we did confirm is that consumer media consumption is indeed shifting.  And we must embrace it.

Hospital Marketing: Broadcast News is Not Dead Yet

Broadcast news has shown a resurgence of viewership within the last two years.   

Some prognosticators have predicted the death of broadcast news.  And in fact, those predictions are based on declining viewership over the past decade.   NBC Nightly news is down 12% over the past ten years, ABC 18% and CBS a staggering 31%.  However that trend has begun to reverse itself.

NBC Nightly News enjoyed its biggest year since 2006 averaging 8.76 viewers in 2011, according to Nielsen.  That is an increase of 3% over 2010 with Adults 25-54 accounting for 29% of the audience.  ABC World News with Diane Sawyer had a 12% increase over 2010 and CBS Evening News had an increase of 6%.

These numbers are contrary to what many people have been predicting.  The thought just a few years ago was that broadcast news would soon be a dinosaur, a thing of the past.  But the current trend indicates otherwise.  True, the nightly news broadcast is still off the enormous numbers from 20 years ago but the trend is changing.

As result, healthcare marketers should not buy all the doomsday talk about television’s evening news.  The nightly time slot still delivers large numbers and is even increasing again.  Against the backdrop of the decline of practically all traditional media, broadcast news is bucking the trend and therefore should not be ignored.  It remains a viable alternative for our media considerations.

Hospital Advertising: Creative and Effective Ads are Not the Same

The ultimate goal of our advertising efforts is to provide information that will ultimately lead to more sells.  

The results are in.  It’s the talk of the advertising community.  The most liked spot in this year’s Super Bowl was a spot featuring a little Darth Vader.   You know the spot.  The five-year-old boy who’s dressed like Darth Vader wanders around the house trying to conjure up The Force to help him.  He has no success until he goes outside and calls on The Force to affect his dad’s car.  And to his surprise The Force is finally with him and the car comes to life.  Of course the viewer sees The Force is actually his dad using the car’s remote ignition button.

It’s a great commercial.  It was ranked as the most liked by Nielsen research.  It has created a tremendous viral following having been viewed on YouTube over 10 million times.   And it has been one of the hottest topics on Twitter and Facebook.  What a success!  But was it?

Do you remember the brand of the car?  The model?  Did it impart any information?  Did it sell anything?  Bob Garfield pointed out in an article in Ad Age that the vast majority of the conversation in social media was about the ad but not about the car.  So was it a great commercial for the brand?

David Ogilvy said, “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.  If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.” And there has to be some truth to that principle.  What did we learn about the car in the adorable spot?  That it has a remote ignition system?  Now that’s old news in the car industry.  That is hardly an advantage.  What else did the spot tell us?

We have to be careful we don’t make the same mistake in hospital advertising.  We need to communicate information.  Useful information.  Information that heightens the brand.   Selling is not a bad thing.  After all it is what all our advertising and marketing must ultimately accomplish. It’s not enough to be adorable.  We must sell.

The spot most liked in the latest Super Bowl could have been for any product.  Insert any brand you like.  Yes it’s well liked.  It has become a viral success.  But is that really what Volkswagen wanted to accomplish for its Passat?  If the American consumer remembers who the spot was for maybe they will rush out and buy one.  But then again probably not.


Healthcare Marketing: Most Popular Ads Not Necessarily Most Effective

A list of most liked commercials that aired in the Super Bowl was very different that the commercials with most recall.    

This year, like every year, there was much anticipation for the spots that would air during the Super Bowl.   A lot of talk and fanfare.  And certainly a lot of money spent by the advertisers who paid over $3 million per spot.   Not only do we look forward to viewing the latest collection of creativity for some of the world’s largest brands, we are also interested in seeing how the spots fared with the viewers.

Nielsen always conducts research immediately after the game to test the commercials.  This year two of the things they tested were likeability and recall.  And that’s where it got interesting.  Because the two lists were very different.  In fact, the top three most liked spots did not even make the top ten list for most recalled.  And even more confusing, only one spot made both lists.

Surprising indeed!  What does this say?  I think it says we can sometimes create advertising that’s clever, cute, funny, creative and well liked but never make a connection to the brand. And when that happens what have we accomplished?   This can also be true about the many creative award shows.  You’ve seen it.  Judges grant top honors to ads that are highly creative but upon further review communicate little or nothing about the product or the brand. They are creative competitions and beauty pageants and it’s so nice to be honored for great work.  But many times these very ads that are highly decorated never progress the brand.

In healthcare advertising we can make the same mistake. We can create cute, warm, emotional ads that never sell anything.  Sometimes we can win awards for such creativity but we haven’t sold anything.  We haven’t increased market share at all.  This is not to be critical of creativity.  I have written many times about the need for creativity in our healthcare advertising.   Without it, we seldom get seen or heard.  But creativity alone is not the answer either.

Effective advertising occurs when our creativity is used to actually sell a product or service or advance the brand.  When it’s used to effectively position the brand, to build a strong relationship to the brand.   When it increases market share.

And that is the challenge for all of us in healthcare marketing.  To create advertising that breaks through the clutter and has high notation.  But what it communicates is not just creativity but the benefits of a service line or brand.  It should be advertising that communicates rationally and emotionally and actually moves the needle.

Yeah it’s nice to be recognized for creativity.  But the real satisfaction comes when that recognition is more than an award, it’s recognition for advertising that actually works!


Healthcare Marketing: Boomers Spending Big on Technology

Baby Boomers are into technology, spending more money on technology than any other age group.

Technology and social media are ways to reach the younger generations.  Right?  Not so fast. Baby boomers might be the real target.  The latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that baby boomers have fully embraced technology.  They are the biggest spenders on technology according to Forrester Research’s annual benchmark tech study.

Think about the boomers you know.  The typical boomer has a desktop computer at work, a laptop at home, are on facebook, have a smartphone, have multiple accounts on the internet, DVRs their favorite television shows and is wishing for an iPad. If they don’t already have one.

“It’s actually a myth that baby boomers aren’t into technology.  They represent 24% of the population, but they consume 40% (in total dollars spent) of it”, stated Patricia McDonough, senior VP-analysis at Nielsen and reported by Beth Snyder Bulik in Ad Age.

Baby boomers are not early adapters but they certainly pile on.   Ten years ago only 25% of boomers went online daily.  Today 70% go surfing everyday.   And examine these stats about baby boomers:

  • 47% use social media
  • One in five use social media every day
  • A full 66% use their cell phone for texting
  • 91% use email
  • 88% use search engines
  • 78% use the internet to research health information
  • 74% get news from the internet

Baby boomers are aging and have become huge users of health services and that will grow tremendously as they age. To healthcare marketers they are a huge and critical target audience and if we think they can only be reached by traditional media we are making a critical mistake. Technology and social media have been embraced by boomers and have become a very common and pervasive part of their lives.  Technology, new media and social networking are effective ways to reach, communicate and even build relationships with those 45-64 ears old.

Boomers are the greatest spending generation.  And they spend their money and their time on technology.  It would be a huge disconnect for healthcare marketers to assume otherwise.


Healthcare Television Marketing: Less Can Be More

Advertisers are finding that :15-second spots can be more effective.

Advertisers are going to the extremes.  Long format video ads are very common. They are being placed on the web and on popular sites like YouTube.  The spots can range from one to five minutes and even longer on occasions.  Longer videos are produced to provide increased entertainment value.

But the opposite is true too.  Many advertisers are moving to :15 -second TV spots.    According to Nielsen, the number of :15- second spots have increased 70% in the past year and now make up 34% of all national spots.  In fact it’s not uncommon to see five spots in a minute and a half.  There are two primary reasons for this shift.

The first is viewers’ attention spans are generally shorter than in the past. Digital video recorders and attention grabbers like laptops and smart phones have shortened viewers’ attentiveness There are too many distractions and too much competition for viewers’ attention that prevent longer periods of concentration.

The second reason for the movement to shorter spots is cost.  A :15-second spot generally costs 50-60% of :30 second spots. Thus for essentially the same amount of money advertisers can increase their exposure by doubling the number of commercials, advertise an additional service line, or decrease the television spending altogether while maintaining adequate reach and frequency.

The message for hospital marketers is that :15-second commercials could be a very viable option.  Of course not all messages can be effectively delivered in :15 seconds but if the message is simple and succinct, a shorter spot can be very effective.  Plus when budgets are tight, a :15-second spot can certainly be effective in stretching the budget without significantly hurting exposure.

One possible negative factor to consider is with many local television stations the placement of a :15-second commercial can be limiting.  Shorter time slots may not be available in some desired programs.  The good news is there is  shorter commercials are usually available in locally originated programming like local news.

Shorter television commercials can effectively fight against attention fatigue of viewers and stretch an already strained marketing budget.  So less can really be more.


Healthcare Marketing: When Creating Mobile Marketing Strategy, It’s Important to Consider the Heavy Users

African-Americans, Hispanics, women, southerners and teens talk and text on their cellphones more than others.

African-Americans average 1300 minutes per month on their cell phones, the most of any demographic.  Hispanics are second averaging 826 minutes per month.  This is compared to Caucasians who average only 647 minutes per month.

Nielsen conducted a yearlong study to determine who used their mobile phones the most.  In their report, Mobile Usage Data, they determined that African- Americans and Hispanics also text the most.  African-Americans average 780 messages a month with Hispanics averaging 767 per month.  Caucasians average 566 texts per month.

The survey analyzed the cellphone bills of 60,000 mobile subscribers each month in the United States.  The analysis indicated women talk more than men with 856 minutes per month and 666 for men. They also text more than men averaging 661 text messages per month compared to 447 for men.

To no one’s surprise, teen’s text the most, averaging 2,779 texts per month.  The average each month for age 18-24 decreases to 1299 texts per month and 25-34 decreases even  more to an average of 592 messages.  Voice usage is more uniform with 18-24 year-olds using 981 minutes per month while 25-34 age group averages 952 minutes per month.

Additionally, southerners use more mobile minutes than those of other regions, averaging over 800 minutes per month.

As mobile marketing becomes more viable and more adopted by marketers, it’s important to identify the heavy users of their mobile devices.  The use by calls or texts varies significantly among different demographics.  Practically everyone is relying on their mobile phones to communicate and the numbers continue to increase. Mobile marketing has indeed become a mass medium. And as health care marketers discover and implement mobile marketing tactics we can know whom we are most likely to effectively reach.


Healthcare Marketing: Consumers Can’t Get Enough Media

Americans are watching more, surfing more, texting more and consuming media more!

Americans continue to consume more and more media. And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.   Due to a slow economy, ubiquitous broadband, widespread Wi-Fi access, increased multi-tasking and the proliferation of new devices and technology, consumers are living a lifestyle of almost continuous media consumption. In the past 18 months we watched two more hours of television per week, sent and received half a trillion more text messages and spent 1.3 more hours on the internet.  “We’re finding a way to do more of it, watch more of it and take more of it with us”, stated Patricia McDonough, VP-analysis, Nielsen Company.

Beth Snyder Bulik reported in Ad Age some  of the latest figures for U.S media consumption.


  • 116 million Americans have at least one television
  • 55% of households have at least 3 televisions
  • There are more televisions than people in the US
  • Americans spend an average of 35 hours and 34 minutes per week watching traditional TV
  • Another two hours is spent each week watching time-shifted TV, such as DVR
  • We spend an average of 20 minutes per week watching videos on the internet
  • TV watching is shared with social networking  (21%), playing video games (16%), purchasing products online (15%), participating by phone or internet with what’s happening on TV (7%) and tweeting (4%).


  • On an average day, 78% of Americans with internet access go online
  • 62% send /receive email
  • 49% use a search engine to find information
  • 43% get news
  • 38% go online for fun
  • 38% use social media
  • 34% check the weather
  • 26% do banking
  • 23% watch video


  • Only 31% of those surveyed read a newspaper on a given day
  • 65 and older – 62%
  • 50-64 – 44%
  • 40-49 – 39%
  • 18-24 – 20%

E-Readers and iPads

  • 3.7 million e-readers sold last year
  • 10.3 million predicted to be sold this year
  • 15.5 million predicted sold next year
  • 30 million predicted sold by 2015
  • 10 million American’s either already own an iPad  (2.5 million) or intend to buy one (7.4 million)

Mobile Phones

  • In 2009 there were 286 million wireless subscribers
  • 72% of consumers now text
  • There are 153 billion texts sent each month
  • Teens send and receive an average of 50 texts per day – adults an average of 10
  • 42% use their cell phones to access the internet
  • 30% do mobile search
  • 27% download apps
  • 26% use it for buying products
  • 15% use their cell phone to purchase products

Social Media

  • Linkedin has 75 million members
  • Twitter has 100 million members
  • Facebook has 500 million members
  • 40% of Americans maintain a social-networking profile
  • 86% of adults 18-24 use social media
  • 47% of boomers use social media
  • 26% of adults over 65 use social media

It is clear that Americans consume an enormous amount of media.  And it continues to increase.  These figures vividly show the power and influence of the media.  They are tools, when used wisely, that can deliver our messages to consumers.


Healthcare Marketing: Social Media Ironically is about Traditional Media

It’s amazing how much of the discussion in social media originates in traditional media. 

Social media is all the rave. Everybody’s doing it. Everybody’s talking about it. But what are people talking about on social networking sites? It’s ironic how much of what’s discussed is traditional media.  In fact, television still rules.  So much of what’s posted on social media sites has to do with what’s happening on television. Interesting isn’t it?

How much social media space is consumed discussing whom the finalists will be on American Idol?   How many posts were there about which girl should be chosen by the Bachelor?  Or what about Betty White being a huge topic on Twitter the week after her appearance on Saturday Night Live?  What about Justin Bieber being number one on Twitter after appearing on Oprah?  Much political conversation on networking sites springs from what Glenn Beck or Chris Mathews espouses the night before.

In discussing this same issue in an article in Ad Age, Simon Dumenco stated that despite the supposed seismic shift away from broadcast to web video, the reality is that just 2% of TV viewing happens online.  In fact, television consumption has actually risen as social media has exploded. Nielsen has tracked an all time high of 151–plus hours of monthly TV watching in the average American household while spending just 27 hours on the internet.

Even though the use of social is on a sharp incline, it has not dented our passion for TV.  Television is the original social medium. We watch TV for enjoyment but also because we want to experience what other people are experiencing and talking about.   We want to be “in the know” and be culturally relevant.  And we watch television to make sure we are.

As Dumenco concluded, “there’s something deeply, beautifully human about people using newfangled social media to share their awe about great moments on good old-fashioned TV.”


Healthcare Marketing: How DVR Use Impacts Your Hospital’s TV Commercials

Consumers are watching DVR playbacks more often and are watching a higher percentage of the ads. 

Nielsen has reported that consumers watch between 40% and 50% of commercials during DVR playback.  This is up from between 30% and 40% from previous reports.   More people are watching their favorite TV shows by using DVR and more are watching the commercials.  It was once feared that as viewers use DVRs they would fast forward through all the commercials and essentially kill television advertising.  But that has not proven to be true.

DVR penetration in America hovers around 40%, which is a 90% increase in the last couple of years.  It is also interesting that Nielsen reports that 42% of playbacks occur within the first hour of the show’s original airing and 61% occur within the same day.  And this is why Nielsen argues that an accurate reporting of the number of viewers watching commercials should include those who watch them on DVRs within the first day of the original airing.  As might be expected, the large majority of DVR playbacks come from younger, higher income viewers.

So it seems apparent that even with the increasing prevalence of DVRs in consumers’ homes, television advertising can still be very effective. There are large numbers of people watching television programming when it airs and even those who DVR their favorite programs, almost half of them are still watching the commercials. Certainly, the TV audience has eroded somewhat.  But what mass media hasn’t seen a decline?   Television still delivers a very large audience.  Although it is more fragmented than ever, the viewers are still there.  Even with its challenges, television advertising can still be very effective.   It remains a very viable and effective medium.   With strong creative and a compelling message, television advertising still delivers.