Picture these hospital image television ads: An elderly couple walks down the beach together. A group of children play together at a park. A young woman plants a couple of flowers. Are these scenes unique to your market? Unless they were filmed in obvious community settings, probably not. Hospitals across the country are saving much of the cost of television advertising campaigns by "recycling" commercials that have already been created by other hospitals. Using such ads is a bargain, consider-ing that high-quality original commercials cost $150,000 and upwards to produce, while recycled ones cost about $5,000. In addition, many hospitals are stretching their ad dollars further by buying more media time and therefore giving their hospital more exposure. "While hospitals are saving money, they are getting a spot with high quality and a proven track record in another market," said Marc Grabis, regional director for AdExchange, a healthcare ad recycling company in San Francisco. "It's really a unique service." The system has a lot of advantages: The hospital that creates the ads defrays part or even all of its production costs by receiving an owner's fee, while smaller hospitals in other regions can take a crack at using innovative ad campaigns. Many times ground-breaking ads are underutilized because the campaign's budget was eroded by production costs. "Sometimes, great commercials do not get to be seen because the hospitals who made them didn't have enough money left to run them," said Grabis. "We say do the opposite, give yourself more exposure with less production." AdExchange is one company that has cornered the market in hospital and healthcare ad recycling. The company was formed more than 10 years ago by advertising veterans "who never met a client who didn't like the idea of saving money." Another company, however, New York-based AdvantEdge, is entering the market. According to president Randy Hecht, the company now represents 250 companies in banking and retail but will now broaden its selection to healthcare. "We believe healthcare is a big enough market to enter and succeed in," said Hecht. Hecht said the firm has about 6 healthcare campaigns and will expand to 10 within the next couple of months. The firm charges $3,000 to $6,000 an ad. According to AdExchange, more than 100 healthcare organizations across the country use them for their TV commercials - while saving a bundle on costs. In addition to the savings, ads also save on manpower and time. There are few scripts to edit, photos to choose or actors to train. Ads that take months to create and shoot can be available in just a few days. The Campaign Trail Both companies offer complete campaigns that include print, television and radio ads. If a customer wants a full campaign but one has not been created, agency staff will assist you in creating tailored ads by giving you access to voice-over material and music as well as allowing for freeze-framing television ads for print. One hospital did just that. Kings Daughters Medical Center in Ashland, Ky., recently bought a "platinum" membership AdExchange, which means it has unlimited access to all of the ads in the library. The hospital chose a set of four black-and-white commercials that were created by United Health Systems in New Hampshire. The hospital plans to create an entire campaign with freeze-framed print ads and a radio voice-over. The commercials interview "real people" sitting in their homes talking about healthcare issues such as maternity and elder care. "It has been worth the money to go this route," said Teresa Bainer, assistant vice president of marketing for the hospital. "We were able to double our presence because we placed more dollars in ad placement." The hospital was able to spend more on media placement this year - $220,000 - compared to $100,000 it was able to spend last year because it created its own ad. The Nitty Gritty of the Program The two-way program works like this: As a licensor, you can lease spots you've created to other advertisers outside your market area in return for royalty income. Like a consignment shop, you do not make any money until the ad is leased and then you receive a percentage of the fee. Companies usually market your spots both in the U.S. and internationally, and handle all legal, talent and production details. Commercials are not sold but leased for a one-year term. Single-market license fees typically range from $3,500 to $8,500. If you are looking for ads, as a licensee, you can choose from hundreds of never-before-seen spots in your television market. Platinum members ($25,000 a year), can choose as many ads the want within one year but organizations can purchase ads individually. Another cost is customization. AdExchange will record a new voice-over using your script and replace identification footage with your logo. For the first commercial it is $1,500 and $600 for each one thereafter. (AdExchange,800/243-2339; AdvantEdge, 212/679-7700) Where to spend your ad dollars Spending the bulk of your ad dollars on local news shows may not be the best place to reach upscale consumers, says Michael Alzear, executive director of media services for the Atlanta-based Charter Medical, one of the nation's largest behavioral care companies, with hospitals in 100 markets. "While it's true that the majority of spot TV dollars for products like banks, healthcare and automobiles are spent on local news, the real scoop is that relying heavily on this programming to reach upscale consumers can be a phenomenal waste of your TV budget," he said. Alzear said there is plenty of research proving you don't have to buy local news to reach upscale consumers. He said marketers should look at MRI national surveys, Simmons regional data or Scarborough local research. These companies survey viewers regionally and nationally on their television preferences. They all show the same thing in different ways: Upscale viewers are not trapped in local news time slots, he said. You can find these viewers in other non-news day-time slots. Alzear contends there are two basic myths associated with local news ads: Myth 1 - Local news provides a serious environment and lends credibility to your product. Top stories are chosen by an "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality, he said. The "legitimacy" of news, the upscale image it evokes in clients is a national news phenomenon, not a local one. This is probably the biggest disconnect clients have about news in general. When clients think "news," they think about upscale topics: science, religion, environment, children, the arts and humanities. But these are the least reported topics on a local level, according to Rocky Mountain Media Watch, a nonprofit group that recently monitored local newscasts in 100 markets to create a "Mayhem Index." The index counts the number of stories on crime, disaster and other sufferings on a typical newscast. The nationwide "Mayhem Index" averaged 42 percent; some local newscasts averaged an 88 percent index. "Imagine your product, the one with the sophisticated, delicate sensibility, pinned to a newscast where 88 percent of the stories were about murders, rapes, fires and robberies," he said. Myth 2 - Upscale consumers only watch "expensive programs" like local news, primetime shows or sports events. Most spot TV advertisers think their only real alternatives to using local news are even more expensive slots like primetime and sports. According to Alzear, the data is absolutely conclusive: Spot TV buyers do not have to use local news, primetime or sports to reach upscale consumers. So what should you use? "Everything else," he said. "If you buy heavy into day-time, early fringe, late fringe, and weekend (non-sports), you will reach virtually as many upscale homes as with the typical 'mostly news' spot buy." (Charter, 404/853-3539)

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