Dr. C. Everett Koop doesn't smoke and apparently is in fine health, but at age 83 won't be around forever. So the question persists whether the Web site bearing his name, drkoop.com, will outlive him.
But for Dennis Upah, chief operating officer of the health information site, the answer can be found in a leading entertainment company.
"Walt Disney is not in the best of health," he says wryly. "But Michael Eisner is doing a fine job stewarding his mission and brand. Dr. Koop's mission will live on for decades."
Dr. Koop is a co-founder of the Web site that launched in July 1998. He had been seeking a way to empower consumers to take charge of their health.
Since joining the company in January, Mr. Upah has been a driving force behind its marketing efforts, helping the company in a successful initial public stock offering last June. In the process, Mr. Upah has helped the Koop name return to the prominence it had when Dr. Koop was crusading against smoking and for AIDS awareness as U.S. surgeon general in the 1980s.
So what's in a name? In the case of drkoop.com, it's the company's trump card. On the Internet, the race among health sites is to become known among consumers as the source for credible information.
`HE'S AN ICON'
"It's an incredible asset," Mr. Upah says. "He's the most trusted man in healthcare. He's an icon. With that comes a tremendous responsibility and scrutiny."
"I think it's mostly the name," says David Restrepo, an analyst with Jupiter Communications, about what separates the site from the mass of others. "I think there are a lot of sites out there of equal quality."
Drkoop.com has had its share of controversy. Medical professionals have questioned whether the site has blurred the line between its advertising and content, while several large stockholders have come under investigation for selling shares too quickly after the IPO.
But those issues haven't slowed the company's marketers. Mr. Upah has led efforts to sign deals with Walt Disney Co.'s Go Network and America Online to serve as their exclusive health content providers. The deals cost the site handsomely ($57.9 million for three years in the Disney deal), but serve as a way to expose people to the site and drum up interest.
Mr. Upah is well-versed in portal dealmaking. Before joining drkoop, Mr. Upah served as president and general manager of Austin, Texas, local station KEYE-TV, where he cut the first joint content deal between a local station and Yahoo!
Drkoop.com has also aggressively signed deals with hospitals, where for $50,000 to $100,000 a year, the site provides them with content to support their own Web sites. Drkoop.com also has deals with local TV stations, in which it gives them content for their Web sites in exchange for a plug at the end of a news story on a health issue.
$10 MILLION CAMPAIGN
The site's biggest push, however, will come this fall when it launches an estimated $10 million to $15 million campaign. Mr. Upah led the review that named Lowe & Partners/SMS, New York, its agency.
The site's income statement is as red as blood (it lost $62.7 million on revenue of $4.3 million in the nine months ended Sept. 30). But promotional efforts appear to be working. Figures from PC Data show the site led the health category in unique users in September with 5.5 million.
"The traffic is very important at this early stage in the game," Mr. Restrepo says. "But it's important to remember the online health marketplace is only as old as 1999."
That's 82 years younger than Dr. Koop.
Copyright November 1999, Crain Communications Inc.