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Philips Wins ‘Advertising As Service’ Award

For the past two weeks, Advertising Age has been sharing case studies that have come out of the annual Festival of Media Awards. Last week I hammered award-winner Gatorade, which was praised by the awards jury but managed to offend gamers. But this week I’m happy to praise Philips, which found a way to add value to China’s crowded hospitals.

For more than three years, Philips has stuck with a campaign that has meaningful marketing written all over it. Dubbed “Sense and Simplicity,” Philips is investing its marketing dollars across the board to save time for and sanity of its consumers, thus earning brand respect and product interest. The campaign first got recognition when Philips paid magazines $2 million to remove the annoying subscription cards from magazines for a month and allow readers to flip straight from the cover to the table of contents. The company also has paid for free access to paid areas of ESPN.com and WSJ.com, and it bought up blocks of commercials on shows such as 60 Minutes and gave the time back to programmers.

The company later created a service called Philips Simplicity Concierge that answers texted questions from travelers in major cities. According to a 2007 article in The New York Times, Philips committed about 25% of its advertising budget to such value-added efforts.

Now Philips has applied the campaign to its medical-products business in China with a very compelling solution to the country’s notoriously crowded hospitals, where people can wait three hours to see a physician. Philips created and installed terminals in 10 major hospitals where patients can enter their phone number to reserve their place in line and get a text message when they are near the front of the line. This simple but effective tool is used by 125 people per day. In a second effort, Philips teamed up with the Public Health Bureau to drive awareness of the country’s system of smaller, newer health clinics as an alternative to hospitals. According to research from Philips, these efforts are saving the equivalent of 156 years in total waiting time per year.

What I love most about this campaign as a Marketing with Meaning case study is that it shows a killer B2B campaign. Yep, although all benefits go to consumers, the company’s efforts are actually completely targeted at the hospitals and clinics that purchase Philips MRI, ultrasound, and other products. The brand’s waiting-room texting kiosks and campaign to drive patients to community clinics are both clearly benefits to the hospitals they sell devices to. And at a time when healthcare costs are under extreme pressure around the world, these added-value services help Philips drive loyalty with hospital administrators.

Meanwhile, of course, Philips is able to deliver a valuable service to its consumer-products target market at a very meaningful time. The brand is seen as a hero when people are under stress and worried about their health. And when the time comes to look at big-screen TVs or DVD players, that positive brand experience can have a big impact on the bottom line.

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