OnHealth adds dose of humor to promote site

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OnHealth Network Co. takes a broad view of health in a new $25 million campaign starting today for its Web site.

The company bills itself as the place to go for information not just on coughs and colds, but also on alternative treatments and ways to achieve a better lifestyle. Last week, the site offered a chat with an expert on how to optimize exercise as well as breaking health news.

"It's no longer this wacky, thing," said Tricia Viscardi, VP-marketing. Alternative medicine "is all considered within the normal realm of health maintenance."

Using humor, the site hopes to differentiate itself from the growing number of health-oriented Web sites--even though that approach has become a staple of Internet ad campaigns.


OnHealth's campaign targets women ages 25 to 54, who often provide marketers with a two- or three-for-one option because many serve as so-called gatekeepers making decisions for themselves and their families.

One TV spot highlights the Chinese concept of feng shui and features a sick woman who gets better and worse as furniture is moved around her bed.

Another, which deals with the issue of whether magnets invigorate, has a man taking several off his refrigerator and placing them on his head.


The ad campaign marks the first work for OnHealth from TBWA/Chiat/Day, San Francisco, which won the account in February, and coincides with a recent redesign of the site to include more live events, such as broadcasts of operations.

The buy includes national broadcast and cable TV; the spots break today.

Radio ads begin next month, and an outdoor effort will start in September.

Carisa Bianchi, president-CEO of the TBWA office, said research indicated some fundamental changes in the consumer perspective of healthcare, with it no longer centered on physical issues and cures but rather on well-being and prevention.

"There is a lot of competition for share of mind," she said. "We are trying to get first-mover advantage."


A combination of factors contributes to the proliferation of health Web sites, said OnHealth President-CEO Robert Goodman. They include an increase in people's desire to become proactive about their health and the rise of HMOs, which force patients to become more cost conscious and thus more information-hungry.

Also, people with serious diseases or chronic problems have found comfort in Internet chat rooms and use the Web as a way to keep up on new treatments.

"People afflicted with serious diseases have an insatiable need to get information," said Mr. Goodman. "We view ourselves as a good starting point."

The company sells banner ads for its site; receives a fee for traffic it refers to e-commerce sites, such as Drugstore.com; and sells its original content to other sites.

Mr. Goodman said OnHealth is exploring charging a fee for online chats with physicians and other services it provides.

Contributing: Alice Z. Cuneo

Copyright July 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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