VOL. 118 | NO. 75 | Friday, April 30, 2004
Ad Agencies Find Niche in Health Care
Specialized services help meet needs of evolving industry
The Daily News
Competition and a well-informed audience are among the
factors redefining the medical marketing playing field for advertisers, many of
whom are tweaking their general approach to marketing to specially target
health care businesses.
And with an audience that includes experts such as surgeons
and hospital administrators demanding effective marketing solutions, health
care organizations are more frequently relying on ad agencies with top-notch
medical marketing teams to get their message out.
On the flip side, advertisers are also beginning to
capitalize on employees who have experience in medical marketing.
Agency assistance. While some health care
organizations handle their own marketing without the help of outside agencies,
major campaigns often require temporary assistance, and thats where
knowledgeable ad agencies come in, said Kimmie McNeil Vaulx, marketing and
community relations manager for Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp.
Vaulx said while her department handles most of Baptists
advertising work in-house, it always helps to be able to turn to advertising
agencies that are well-versed in medical marketing. Though her department
functions like an internal ad agency, Vaulx said she regularly works with
Memphis companies such as Red Deluxe Advertising, especially when her
department is creating important, specialized campaigns.
What weve found lately is that theres such an increase in
marketing of health care information that theres been a rapid evolvement in
how that information is put out there, Vaulx said. Thats where agencies come
in great for us. They help us make sure were getting our message to the right
The information age. Stinson Liles, a brand
strategist with Red Deluxe, said his company is constantly organizing and
prioritizing to make sure its work is simple and compelling. Red Deluxe has
local and national clients, but Baptist is the companys sole health care
client, he said.
People are more informed than ever, Liles said of current
trends in health care marketing. On the positive side, that means they are by
and large more active in their own health care.
Health care organizations such as the Semmes-Murphy Clinic,
on the other hand, often rely on traditional marketing avenues, such as the
Yellow Pages or local news media.
Debbie Kendrick, Semmes-Murphy human resources manager, said
those marketing efforts are usually overseen in-house.
Improving resources. Vaulx, who said she is unsure to
what extent other health care organizations handle their own marketing, added
that her department has all the resources to do most everything in-house, but
we certainly always keep in mind outside resources.
Those resources could include specialized firms such as the
recently launched SigMD, a medical marketing division of Memphis-based
Signature Advertising. The new division is the brainchild of Signature
Advertising owners Mark Henry and Charles Marshall.
Over the last two years, the pair of executives assembled a
five-person team to launch SigMD with the intent of meeting the increasing
advertising needs of health care organizations like Vaulxs.
SigMD team leader Tom Lannan said the team also will serve a
segment of the medical marketplace that includes medical device manufacturers,
pharmaceutical firms and medical care providers.
Targeted experience. Lannan said there is a
perception that the medical field is underserved by qualified communications
professionals, a perception that led to the development of SigMD. He said the
new divisions team includes marketing professionals with a wide range of
SigMD is staffed by marketing professionals with extensive
backgrounds in working with regional and national health care clients, said
Les Dewey, SigMD senior medical writer. Our experience includes product
launches, meeting planning, advertising, public relations, consumer research
and consumer marketing.
Lannan said SigMD team members will work closely with one
another on marketing initiatives, and with Signature Advertisings information
technology, production and account services departments for implementation of
An evolving niche. Lannan said the bottom line is
that companies must come to the understanding that the changing nature of
medical marketing demands that experienced professionals be in place to provide
For Liles, though, the changing marketplace comes in
response to a trend in medical marketing he dubbed a health care information
overload. What he referred to as the cluttered health care climate has made
medical marketing even more important in the realm of health care
The recent explosion of health information available to
individuals through the Internet, through pharmaceutical advertising has
contributed to a general feeling of confusion, Liles said.
To combat that confusion, he said, medical advertising
should both catch the viewers attention and make an important and simple
point, whether health care groups do the work themselves or depend on others to
get the message out.