Hospitals add real patients to ad campaigns

Andrew Adam Newman reports in The New York Times on the state of hospital advertising, citing some specific cases to show that hospitals are moving away from traditional images like “caring” nurses, “skilled” doctors and cutting-edge equipment to real patients in ads.

Newman focused on the Akron Children’s Hospital, which is using actual patients facing raw medical uncertainty in a current campaign, and the unorthodox, catchy advertisements of New York’s Mt. Sinai Hospital.

Even hospitals, long considered recession-resistant, are feeling the economic pinch. But they are still placing ads. Total advertising spending by United States hospitals in 2008 was $1.23 billion, a slight increase over the previous year of $1.20 billion and more than twice as much as 2001, when hospitals spent $493 million, according to TNS Media Intelligence, a research unit of WPP.

The article even features the president of an advertising firm saying that advertising ratings, such as those from U.S. News & World Reports, can backfire:  “unless you’re the Mayo Clinic you have to hedge it – you say you’re the fifth for a certain category, but only in the last three years.”

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