XM Satellite Radio station ReachMD is a 24-hour network comprised entirely of content targeted specifically at the medical community, with a unique ad model attached. The station launched this spring, and big pharma and major medical associations are already tapping into the site to sponsor their own programming blocks, often directly attached to their own marketing or awareness initiatives.
Ad man at helm
The radio channel also has a veteran ad man at the helm. Gary Epstein joined the company in July as CEO; he is a former chief of Euro RSCG, Chicago, and most recently served as chief marketing officer for the American Medical Association. It was through his work at the AMA, making the rounds of the many medical trade shows and conferences, that Mr. Epstein learned what an underserved demographic doctors can be in terms of their media-consumption habits.
"If you think about how often doctors are actually in their offices with a radio turned on, there's a huge opportunity to be providing them with content in a very specific category," he said.
He also believes there's substantial reach potential at stake, too. Of the 4 million medical professionals in the U.S., Mr. Epstein said nearly 500,000 subscribe to XM. "And that's not even those people who can access the website," he added, referring to the station's online streaming radio network.
Because of the ability to finely target doctors and the people who work for them, some brands within big pharma have already begun to set aside part of their media plans for satellite radio, a medium normally untouched by the category. Drug maker Eli Lilly, for instance, spoke with the network about aligning itself with a program that tied into its women's health initiatives, particularly around breast-cancer awareness and its Evista product.
After Dave Murray, marketing manager for Evista, met with the team at ReachMD, the program "Advances in Women's Health" was created for Eli Lilly to attach its ad messages in the form of a two-minute commercial. Mr. Murray said that while the brands don't directly influence the content of the show, the opportunity to essentially have an entire program crafted around its brands' messages was a rare one.
"We thought it would be a natural fit," he said. "I do know from years of working with physicians that they're looking for more than what they're receiving, often paying for information time after time at a premium."
GlaxoSmithKline has also just rolled out an eight-week series of programs with Elsevier research to inform the medical community about headache treatments. "Headway on Headaches" is the "Special Medical Industry Feature of the Week," a feature Mr. Epstein said is selected on the basis of continuing medical education studies the company performs internally.
Return on investment is a term rarely used in association with headaches, but that's just what Mr. Epstein wants to bring to any advertiser that wants to try out a different approach to brand integration. ReachMD has the ability to measure the effects of continuing medical education on its listeners by tracking the number of potential listeners who've completed course work related to any program's subject matter, combined with the subscriber base that's regularly exposed to the messaging on the program.
"Our clients are interested in more than just a brand message, but the notion of being the company on the forefront of being innovative," Mr. Epstein said.