HealthiNation Puts Big Pharma on Demand

New Health and Wellness VOD Network Launches

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The pharmaceutical industry over the past couple of years has faced backlash for its direct-to-consumer drug ads -- think of those over-heated Viagra or Levitra spots that have recently drawn the ire of consumer groups and Capital Hill. So perhaps no single advertiser category is better fit for the opt-in, one-to-one nature of video-on-demand advertising. At least that's what the founders of HealthiNation are banking on.
Even though the health industry is the fifth-largest ad spending category, DTC ads don't always reach the right consumer -- and have come under fire, especially prime-time ED spots.
Even though the health industry is the fifth-largest ad spending category, DTC ads don't always reach the right consumer -- and have come under fire, especially prime-time ED spots.

HealthiNation is an ad-supported health- and wellness-themed VOD network, has launched in 15 markets covered by cable operator Insight and will be begin syndicating its video online later in the summer, said founder Raj Amin. The network will cover a variety of topics, said Mr. Amin, whose experience includes years logged at N2 Broadband, ReplayTV and Scientific-America. Users will be able to read about specific conditions such as diabetes, cancer, the common cold and flu, as well as how to manage health care, health insurance and health finance and to deal with Medicare.

Information-oriented service
"When we put together the network, we wanted to leverage VOD capabilities for an information-oriented service," he said, explaining that health was the natural topic choice. "This is a fantastic opportunity to deliver information to people in a way that they'll really understand and it addresses specific needs -- a broadcast environment isn't the way to deliver specific health info to a consumer when they want it."

The health industry is the fifth-largest ad spending category, according to Advertising Age analysis, but is finding it hard to connect with the right consumers. The $4.1 billion direct-to-consumer ad market has been challenged by possible governmental regulation -- and there is congressional push to allow the Food and Drug Administration to yank drugs from the market, years after they were introduced, for further testing. Even the National Football League is off limits for some pharma advertising, after dropping Levitra as an $18 million corporate sponsor earlier this year.

HealthiNation has five hours of content, mostly eight- to 12-minute segments. Short-form advertising will run inside the segments as a single-spot pod while longer-form ads will run at the end of the program. Tune-in messages promote the viewer to stay tuned in for the longer form ad. An ad that's a few minutes long might be the right way to talk about complex procedures, Mr. Amin said. HealthiNation has attracted one advertiser, Pfizer, with several more in the works and expects health and wellness advertisers as well as pharmaceutical companies to sign on.

Building interactivity into content
The network is tailoring content to fit the VOD environment, building interactivity in a way linear TV can't. For example, a segment on skin care asks viewers to pause the program and check their skin.

"You can't run from the fast forward button -- you have to embrace it," Mr. Amin said. "And if you explain the process and interaction style to producers and they're creative and good at what they do they'll build right features and functions into what they do. But you need to educate the creative community about it and they'll create a better product. Not just true for VOD but also broadband and mobile."
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