According to a Wikipedia entry, “Out-of-home advertising (also referred to as OOH) is essentially any type of advertising that reaches the consumer while he or she is outside the home. This is in contrast to broadcast, print, or internet advertising…” The most familiar form of OOH advertising in the U.S. is billboards.

According to AdvertisingAge, the Top 200 U.S. non-pharmaceutical company advertisers allocated 1.9% of their measured ad dollars to OOH ads, whereas the Top 13 pharma advertisers allocated only 0.1% of their ad budgets to OOH.

OOH is another channel aside from the Internet that pharma marketers are ignoring!

Why is that?

Well, OOH is even worse than the Internet in terms of reaching masses of people with the same ad and proving that the return is worth the effort. Billboards, for example, only blight small neighborhoods and not the entire atmosphere! Other forms of OOH are not that scalable, meaning it costs too much to reach a broad audience.

But this isn’t stopping some entrepreneurs from launching pharma ad-supported OOH digital networks. The idea is to focus on the targeted benefits of “narrowcasting” rather than shotgun approach of broadcasting.

InnerCityMedicine Networks (ICMN), an African American owned & operated digital healthcare media company announced this week at the 2008 National Medical Association Convention in Atlanta, GA, that it is launching its out-of-home (OOH) digital signage medical television network. ICMNTV — the name of this project — will be locally-branded for urban healthcare channel partners such as National Medical Association affiliates, HBCU-affiliated medical schools, several renowned urban teaching hospitals, and community-based clinics.

“We blew a hole in the stratosphere at the NMA convention,” said Darin Gilstrap, President & CEO, in an e-mail communication to me today. “We received some 1000+ inquiries and exuberant praise for our business model from the likes of NIH, FDA, CDC, and other major hospitals, medical groups, and physicians. Our role will be reaching the end-user with our digital screens and health programming.”

“In 2001 and 2007, key-opinion leaders from the NMA released a study recognizing that direct-to-consumer advertising was beneficial to ethnic communities,” says the ICMN press release. See the study results here. “ICMNTV provides a technologically-sophisticated distribution platform to reach these at-risk consumers at a time when key healthcare questions and decisions are being considered.”

This OOH network will be delivered via wide LCD screens right inside the waiting rooms of physicians, hospitals, and clinics.

According to the press release: “ICMNTV will narrowcast to an estimated 10,000 medical practices across the top-25 urban DMAs (e.g. Atlanta, Washington-DC, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Detroit, Nashville, etc.). Programming is designed in a compelling and entertaining manner to create awareness about key diseases and therapeutic solutions required to preserve life and the quality of life. Content
will be comprised of fast-paced, quick-moving segments two to three-minutes in length interspersed with sponsors messaging on therapeutic and health management solutions. ICMNTV is absolutely free to the individual practitioner and content and advertising is updated continuously via digital download to the LCD-TV each night.

I assume that ICMN will be looking to pharmaceutical companies to “intersperse” messages into these programs. I have asked Mr. Gilstrap to be a guest on an upcoming Pharma Marketing Talk podcast to explain his business plans in more detail. Stay tuned…