A little more than a decade ago, most health care advertising was confined to mass-market drugs, and hospitals and doctors generally considered the practice tacky or ethically dubious. More often than not, the ads appeared in unassuming places like cheaper women's magazines or the New York subway — for decades New Yorkers sat beneath ubiquitous rainbow posters for Dr. Jonathan Zizmor that promised to conquer blemishes: 212-594-SKIN!
But today, health care advertising is skyrocketing and likely to turn up in business-class lounges in airport terminals or the Jitney to the Hamptons. It occupies the center spreads and back covers of elite magazines alongside plugs for luxury watches, jewelry and resorts. On television it has found its way into prime-time slots: presidential debates, primary campaign coverage and even the Super Bowl.
The ads are targeting a far more rarefied market than in the past: patients with good insurance or those who can pay out of pocket for the priciest drugs. Hospitals and clinics have also jumped into the fray: What hospital or clinic these days doesn't trumpet its services to its customer base (people formerly known as patients)?