by Roger Pynn
With apologies to those who think of billboards as a blight along our highways, I have to admit that I’ve always loved the potential of outdoor advertising … mostly for its power to provoke thought, but also because it is the single best directional advertising tool available (as in “Great Ice Cream … next exit, turn right.”)
As hospitals have waged patient wars in recent years, it has been interesting to see them take advantage of billboards for both purposes, battling for share of market in everything from cancer care to women’s and pediatric medicine with high-impact, thought-provoking messages. And, like most other markets, we have our share of what my ad professors used to call “super boards” – most with large digital clocks telling me how short a wait there is at nearby emergency rooms.
Makes perfect sense because the vast majority of hospital admissions come in through the ER, so making a hospital’s ER synonymous with short waiting times probably increases the likelihood patients will head there in an emergency situation.
However, as I take I-4 southwest toward Orlando every day from Seminole County, I pass two exits that lead to hospitals with emergency rooms just blocks away … and yet Seminole Regional Hospital many miles to the northeast has a billboard telling westbound traffic how short a wait there is at this Sanford hospital.
Now what do you think the chance is that a patient driving west will exit and make a U-turn in an emergency? The trip is about 14 miles, according to Google Maps, and would take 15 minutes by the shortest of three routes recommended. But, at least if you do make the U-turn you’ll find another billboard that will update you on the wait time just before the recommended exit … hopefully the trip will have been worth it.