Rx Marketers To Fill Scripts For TV News Content, Branded Content
The new pharmaceutical marketing tactic, which was developed from an alliance between health information publisher MediZine and syndicated news programmer Daily Health Feed (DHF), is the latest in a progression of branded content deals that are transparent to consumers and have consumer advocates up in arms, but are becoming an increasingly popular tactic for aggressive marketers seeking to break through the clutter of conventional commercial media. Unlike high-profile product placements such as Coors Light plugs on "Survivor" or Coca-Cola's infiltration of "American Idol," the impact of drug marketing messages in "Headline Health" will rely on consumer perceptions that the segments are genuine news, not a marketing pitch.
"Health continues to be a major driver of ratings," says Traver Hutchins, president and CEO of MediZine Inc., who struck the deal as part of an investment MediZine made in DHF. "TV news stations have suffered major cutbacks nationwide. We are providing a solution--one that is better than they can provide."
In fact, MediZine has lined up some well-respected medical talent to produce the segments, pilfering the Emmy-Award-winning medical reporting staff from Viacom's New York flagship station WCBS-TV in New York, including on-air physician Dr. Mike Rosen.
"We have been putting out great stuff every day, and the stations love it," Rosen says of DHF's current news feeds, which are carried by stations in 39 TV markets.
The proposed, marketer-supported "Headline Health" segments will feature specific pharmaceutical products, new medical procedures, medical organizations, and even specific clinical trials. DHF says that the content will all have legitimate medical bearing rather than straight commercialism, and that they will favor nonprofit groups such as the American Cancer Society.
To make these stories more effective, "Headline Health" will emulate the format of the DHF content. The market-exclusive network of stations will have proprietary access to this product at no charge.
This new marketing option will serve as an alternative to video press releases (VNR), with initial cost estimates running in the $35,000 range, according to Hutchins. The audience for these paid segments will reach between three and ten million viewers, depending on the number of participating stations.
When receiving "Headline Health" pieces, "stations will review it and determine whether they want to run it," Hutchins says. "If it gets too commercial, they won't run it."
The fact that former TV new producers will be involved makes for a more news-ready product. "They know where the boundaries are," Hutchins says. The use of public relations in TV news is nothing new. Marketers regularly utilize VNRs to embed their public relations content into the news programming of TV stations, but the station's news producers make the call on whether to use the content all, in part, or not at all.
"We have all seen sponsored news for years," Hutchins says. "This is very different in that it is automatically being driven into TV newsrooms." DHF stories are fed to stations seven days a week via satellite uplink, rather than being available for "pick-up." Down the road, DHF will focus on expanding its services to include reports for radio and Internet.
In a testament to how valued such medical news is to local news providers, MediZine quotes research from the Profile of the American News Consumer, a project of the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation, which claims that medical news ranks ahead of consumer, politics, sports, entertainment, business, and technology news.
DHF's Web site even features the headline: "Monday through Friday, Medical News that will Raise Your Ratings!"
How station news executives will react to the "Headline Health" branded news segments isn't clear, acknowledges Dr. Rosen: "Right now, we haven't even started our initial push with 'Headline Health.' This is something that we have yet to roll out. We just had our first client meeting this morning."