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Should Hospitals Advertise During The Holidays? Four Factors To Consider

November 20, 2017
Brand, Health System, Marketing, Media Strategy, TV

Many hospitals choose to cut back or eliminate advertising altogether during the holiday season that stretches from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. Two of the most common reasons for that decision are the increased number of advertisers, especially in the retail space, and the increase in rates networks charge that time of the year. Although both are valid considerations, consider the following scenarios before making your final decision. 

It’s an Opportunity to Reinforce an Emotional Connection with Your Brand

The holiday season is often exemplified by happy celebrations, family traditions and gift-giving. It is a season of hope, joy and love and generally puts us in a nostalgic state of mind. This wistful feeling reminds us of people and places that hold a special place in our lives. 

Yet it stirs up to more than visions of food, family and gifts—it prompts us to reflect on who we are and what’s important to us. We think about our relationships—the strong, positive connections we have with other people. Everything about the holidays is centered around relationships and bringing people together—emotionally, if not physically.

That feeling of togetherness, of putting others first and a sense of unity is a powerful feeling every hospital or health system brand should want to evoke. This may be a unique opportunity to advertise during the holidays with a message of how your organization builds, strengthens and cherishes relationships. This message will help your brand cut through the retail clutter on the airwaves and resonate deeply with consumers. 

Plan appropriately so your budget and media plan allow for not just the media placement but the development of a specific ad campaign that aligns your brand with the upbeat and positive emotions that the holidays are synonymous with. 

More Eyes are Watching During the Holidays 

The numbers speak for themselves – you want to be where the people are. A special Nielsen 2016 study found that last year’s holiday season saw primetime holiday-themed programming reach more than 217 million viewers. Over 85% of all U.S. TV households watched at least a minute of this type of content between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve. In fact, holiday programming reached nearly 60% of all age groups and up to 85% in some demographics.1

Holiday programming is designed to offer a little of something for everyone and it is evident from the research that people are gravitating to the programming in record numbers. Networks like the Hallmark Channel are dedicating an entire month to 24-hour holiday programming. This year, networks will host a record number of televised college football bowl games. Consequently, savvy marketers deploy media schedules that reflect the diversity of their audience by purchasing a wide range of holiday programming that spans the entire holiday season. 

There are More Appointment Viewing Options & Less Commercial Skipping

“Advertising plays the same role in your media diet that vegetables play in your regular diet; most of us would prefer to skip that course and go straight to dessert,” writes Adam Thierer in a Forbes article discussing consumer’s perspective on the growing trend of ad-skipping.2

The urge to skip commercials when a television show is recorded is at an all-time high. In a 2016 survey of 1,015 adults by ORC International, in conjunction with ad-tech firm Mirriad, 76% of respondents reported blocking ads online and skipping traditional TV ads. In fact, 53% percent of Baby Boomers don’t want to see any ads at all, compared to 30% of millennials who felt the same way.3

One approach to combat TV ad-skipping is to purchase appointment-viewing programming. And, fortunately, the holidays are chock full of these type of programs—from parades to holiday specials to bowl games. Make sure your media plan has as many of these premium live programs as possible to maximize your expenditures during the holiday season through early January. 

Marketing in December Leads to Patients in January

Every hospital marketer knows—a strong start in January makes meeting full-year volume goals a lot easier. A slow start, on the other hand, can have a ripple effect and negatively impact your marketing budgets dramatically throughout the year. Neutralize the potential for playing volume catch-up by leading into the new year with a strong media buy to assure your brand is top-of-mind.

The Takeaway

The networks are providing you and your target audience a gift this holiday season. Capitalize on their extensive holiday programming to not only increase your overall reach and create momentum heading into Q1, but also to seize the opportunity for your hospital’s brand to be affiliated with “the most wonderful time of the year.”

1 “Just How Many Viewers Does Seasonal Programming Reach Over the Holidays?” December 15, 2016
2 “We All Hate Advertising, But We Can’t Live Without It.”, Adam Thierer.  May 13, 2012.
3 “Survey Finds 90% Of People Skip Pre-Roll Video Ads”, Toby Elkin.  June 8, 2016.

Jason Brown

Jason is CEO & Chief Strategy Officer of Brown Parker & DeMarinis (BPD), an internationally-recognized advertising agency that is on a mission to make health systems and hospitals the most beloved brands in the world. A pioneer in hospital marketing, BPD works with clients to unlock the power of their Purpose inside and outside their organizations, resulting in highly engaged employees and physicians and dramatically higher brand preference and service-line volumes.

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