On TV: Local, national providers duke it out

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SPOKANE, Wash. - Sick and tired of watching its market share eaten away by national companies that spend "lots of money" on TV ads, Inland Medical and Rehab has hit the airwaves, too.
The provider has budgeted $6,000 per month for TV, radio and newspaper ads. The ads present Inland Medical as a "local face" with attentive service, including in-home visits.
"We've been in business for 18 years, and we've never had to advertise," said Don Whitney, operations manager. "But the tide has changed. Before, sales were physician and PT directed. Now, through the TV and the Internet, the public is directing themselves to medical care. Public awareness is everything."
The first TV ad hit the airwaves in October; two other ads were added to the rotation in February. The ads, produced locally by Marjoni Marketing, air three to five times a day.
Inland Medical's not the first to duke it out with the nationals through TV ads. Late last year, more than a dozen providers signed on to air TV ads through a new service provided by VGM's U.S. Rehab.
Another provider, WestMed Rehab in Rapid City, S.D., is working on an ad campaign to promote its rehab services. It already runs TV and newspaper ads for its respiratory, orthotic and prosthetic services. WestMed's motto: "Home Town, Home Owned, World Class."
"(TV advertising) is a growing trend," said Tim Pedersen, owner of WestMed and co-chairman of AAHomecare's rehab council. "I wouldn't say everyone's doing it, but everyone's thinking of doing it. We're all trying to think of the best way to give local providers the competitive advantage over the national, 1-800 number provider types."
It's still early, but for Inland Medical, the ads have already begun to tip the scales in its favor: The provider receives three to five calls a day from the ads, Whitney said.
But even with successful ad campaigns under their belts, providers must stay on their toes, Pedersen said.
"In an ironic twist, the national providers are becoming adept at disguising themselves as local providers," he said. "It's a game, and we've learned how to play it. We've uncovered our fair share of nationals masquerading as locals."