WebMD's $25 mil campaign touts 'intelligent wit'

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WebMD is readying a consumer campaign that touts its online service as the RX for doctors and consumers in need of healthcare information.

The Internet healthcare company is slated to launch a national TV, print and online consumer effort this spring. The advertising is part of a $25 million campaign created by Gotham, New York.

The tone of the new advertising will be "intelligent wit" said Gotham CEO Stone Roberts. That theme falls in line with the humorous trade advertising that broke in December. One trade print ad shows 10 unreadable scribbles on a page. The headline: "We just signed up 10 more doctors [We think]."

Gotham Exec VP-Group Account Director Ted Pulton said consumers will be given the message that doctors who utilize WebMD provide "a better level of care," he said.

WebMD also will allot additional spending for an estimated $15 million buy on six CNN News Group networks during the next three years as part of a joint venture announced last month.


The CNN deal is one of 32 strategic alliances WebMD formed since its inception. Last week, WebMD and Lycos announced a $52 million content, community and commerce alliance that provides WebMD with e-commerce, advertising and promotional opportunities.

WebMD, which markets itself as the premiere Internet healthcare portal, provides free information to consumers and a subscriber service to physicians. Among its services, WebMD offers links to major insurance providers, real-time insurance verification and recent medical news. The company filed Jan. 18 for an initial public offering of stock.

The WebMD campaign comes as more consumers turn online for medical information. In 1998, more than 60 million Americans used the Internet for health and medical information, according to a December poll by Louis Harris & Associates.

In an ironic move, the WebMD campaign is gearing up as Gotham is parting with E*trade, a promotional partner of WebMD. Gotham and WebMD executives met through E*trade officials. As E*trade moves its $50 million to $60 million account to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco, Gotham is trying to nab other online accounts.

"Half of our new business prospects end in a dot-com," said Mr. Roberts.

Copyright March 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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