Should Medical Practices Use TV Advertising?


Used to be, the only advertising a hospital or doctor did was a one-by-two-inch Yellow Pages ad. Then, an Arizona lawyer sued to advertise his services on air.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states could not prohibit advertising by lawyers. With that ruling the floodgates seemed to open for all professionals. Soon, TV advertising by doctors and hospitals became commonplace.
It’s now estimated that U.S. hospitals spend more than $1.5 billion annually on advertising. A good amount of these healthcare marketing dollars fund non-controversial items like direct mailings, brochures and the occasional transit poster. But how much of this expenditure is being served up as TV commercials? Quite a bit.

Healthcare TV Quote

Some physicians continue to question whether television ads are “appropriate” for healthcare professionals such as themselves. Their bottom-line concern is this: do TV commercials grow the practice or undermine it? The unequivocal answer is: it depends. Here are a few things you should weigh before creating TV ads for your healthcare practice:

1. All TV commercials are not created equal.

We’ve all seen the TV ads for ambulance-chasing lawyers with the word “Hammer” for a middle name, promising hefty cash settlements. As schlocky and abrasive as these ads can be, many of the ads for Lasik, cosmetic and bariatric physicians are not far behind. These sorts of noisy, irritating ads create awareness for the medical practice, but not always in a good way.

However, just because some TV advertising for doctors and hospitals can be really awful doesn’t mean that your medical practice can’t develop impactful, tasteful television spots that inform and strike a chord with your prospects. Take this campaign for Kim Bariatric Institute. Real patients poignantly describe how their weight-loss surgeries have changed their lives. These commercials are at once both informative and touching. While some weight-loss centers focus on the cosmetic benefits of bariatric surgery, this one focuses on the health benefits.

2. Are you bragging or informing?

It seems like every time a hospital group gets a shiny new robotic device or finds themselves on some list in U.S. News & World Report, they feel the burning need to announce this fact with TV advertising. While broadcasting these accolades and capital investments may make your board of directors feel all warm inside, that doesn’t mean they connect with your prospective patients.

Contrast this with what the Texas Health Resources TV commercials consistently do. These television spots consistently employ lighthearted humor to communicate new online tools and services that help people stay healthy. This sort of customer-centric advertising makes this medical institution appear community-minded, not self-absorbed.

3. Will your great bedside manner come across on TV?

This is another case of “it all depends.” Physicians are not trained thespians, yet plenty of doctors come across warm and caring when put in front of a TV camera. However, there are just as many doctors that come across like a deer in the headlights. Here is a commercial for a Texas hand surgeon. His considerate bedside manner and commitment to fully educate his patients is something that clearly comes across in this commercial. That guitar player is pretty amazing, too. Bottom line: if your doctor’s surgical skills are great but his acting ability is weak, keep him out of the spotlight.

4. Can you visualize your results?

The great thing about television advertising is this: it’s intrusive and highly visual. So if visualizing your results is something you can do, TV may be your best medium. Sure, a skilled surgeon can’t really merchandise an appendectomy scar in a TV ad, but a cosmetic dentist certainly can leverage TV commercials to show off their final products. This delightful Perfect Smiles for Less ad uses a catchy tune, happy patients and giant blow-ups of their new smiles to display their artistry.

Whether TV commercials make sense for a regional hospital or local doctor’s practice depends on a lot of factors. If you need help weighing whether your marketing dollars would create a better ROI for your practice, give us a call at 972-488-1660.

We are a Dallas advertising agency with extensive expertise in TV advertising.