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Sponsored Story ROI - Understanding Its Impact on Healthcare Marketing

June 27, 2013

content marketing_sponsored stories_healthcare

Advertising can be a deceptive business. From tweaking real estate images with Photoshop to running ads masked as quality content, to Google’s use of advertising space, there are many tricks to the trade that your patients are probably not aware of. In healthcare marketing, HIPPA requires us to be transparent, genuine, and authentic with advertising and marketing. With that said, it’s interesting to dive into the concepts of deceptive advertising and how your healthcare marketing team can be successful without tarnishing your brand or reputation.

Labeled Advertising as Such

Ms. Engle cited a 2012 study by SEOBook, a search strategies company, which found that “nearly half of searchers did not recognize top ads as distinct from natural search results.” Top ads are advertisements that appear immediately above the list of search results. – The New York Times

In a recent F.T.C ruling, Mary K. Engle, associate director for advertising practices, found that many of the big box search engine companies, including Google, have strayed from 2002 guidelines that require a distinct difference between organic search results and paid search results.

Look at the image below. Can you tell where the paid advertising is and where the organic results appear? If you can, you’re doing better than 50% of Google searchers who do not know that the top, shaded portion of the search results page is paid-for advertising, as is the right-hand-side.

Content Advertising in Healthcare

One of the ways that many healthcare companies are going around the ‘paid-for’ advertising route is through content advertising, a genuinely deceptive form of advertising masked in superb content. Advertising content, content advertising, or sponsored content, whichever you’d prefer to call it, has been around for generations in healthcare marketing, but has never fully taken on it’s complete potential until recently.

Over 90 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing right now, with 54 percent planning to spend even more on it as 2013 progresses, notes a recent report from Content Marketing Institute. – Huffington Post

Content marketing has taken on an entirely new form in 2013. With increasing budgets, healthcare companies are discovering just how effective this form of marketing and advertising can be. At Quaintise, we analyze the numbers, and in the case of content marketing, the numbers just don’t lie (from 

  • Companies that spend more than 50% of their lead generation budget on inbound marketing report a significantly lower cost-per-lead. (Source: Hubspot)
  • B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads per month than those who do not blog. (Source:Social Media B2B)
  • 58% of consumers trust editorial content. (Source: Nielsen)
  • 79% of B2B marketers use content marketing to achieve brand awareness goals. (Source: Content Marketing Institute and Marketing Profs)

The ROI of Content Marketing

  • 20% of users' time is spent surfing the Internet on content-led websites. (Source: The CMA)
  • 80% of business decision-makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
  • 60% of consumers are more likely to be on the lookout for products when looking at content marketing. (Source: The CMA)
  •  68% of consumers are likely to spend time reading content from a brand they are interested in. (Source:The CMA
  • 37% of consumers visit content marketing websites at least once a month.(Source: The CMA
  • 57% of consumers read content marketing titles at least once a month. (Source: The CMA
  • 82% of consumers like reading content from brands when it's relevant. (Source: The CMA
  • 70% of consumers prefer getting to know a company via articles rather than ads. (Source: Content Plus)  
  • 70% of consumers say content marketing makes them feel closer to the sponsoring company. (Source:Content Marketing Institute
  • 60% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content on its site. (Source:Content Plus)  
  • 90% of consumers find custom content useful, and 78% believe that organizations behind the content are interested in building good relationships.

Who’s Getting Into The Game

Because of the stats above, and the effectiveness of content marketing campaigns, many mainstream news media are getting into the game by allowing paid-for sponsored stories to run on their websites, in their newspapers, and on their mobile phone apps. Healthcare marketing agencies will need to keep a close eye on this and consider how to integrate these media outlets and sponsored story strategies into their overall marketing campaigns. 

  • The Associated Press: Just released this week, the AP will put sponsored content “front and center in the latest version of its iOS app,” according to This new formatting of their iPhone app provides greater visibility to their sponsors in an inconspicuous manner.
  • NBC News: According to, Advertising content on, like this Estee Lauder piece about tips for making your skin look young, is labeled as “advertiser content” and includes a “what’s this?” scroll-over.
  • The Huffington Post: This media outlet utilizes an entire sponsored content page. According to the Huffington Post, “The Huffington Post’s Sponsored Content is in the business of connecting advertisers to our audience and beyond.” There’s nothing that explains who creates the content. ThisCisco-sponsored slideshow about women in science, technology, engineering and math is labeled with “sponsored feature” and “in partner with.”
  • The Atlantic: This 156-year old publisher has been running sponsored advertising for quite some time, and has gotten very, very good at it. The sponsored content advertising has yellow tags, as well as different colored font.

How to Effectively Manage Sponsored Stories

Running sponsored stories as a strategy of a healthcare marketing campaign takes some skill, the kind of skill that the professionals at Quaintise happen to have. You must know your target audience, understand their interests, understand where they read their news or get their health information, and develop a content strategy that appeals to your audience, maintains brand consistency, and sells them something all at the same time without being too obvious.

  • Understand Your Audience: If we’ve said this once, we’ve said it a million times. Quaintise takes great pride in our uncanny ability to completely understand your target audience, from simple demographics like age and gender to the bigger data like where they shop, what they read, and more. We know the topics that will draw their attention and invite them to take action.
  • Know Where Your Audience Gets Their Health Information: Does your target audience get their health information via Google search results, the local news, health magazines, mom blogs, or mobile apps?
  • What Type of Ads Does Your Audience Respond To: In understanding your target audience, you need to know what types of ads that demographic responds to. For example, statistics show that 15% of people trust banner ads, while 29% trust TV ads and 58% trust editorial content. How do these numbers stack up against your audience?
  • Quality Content with a Purpose: Sponsored content is delicate, intricate, and takes the skill and expertise of healthcare marketing professionals like those at Quaintise. Sponsored content is still your healthcare voice, so make it authoritative, educational and informative, as well as genuine and authentic. Sponsored content also serves a purpose, so it needs to be interwoven with compelling calls to action. It also needs to be interwoven with compelling information which is shareable, just as if you were writing a piece of content for your own website. At Quaintise, every single piece of content developed is done so with shareability. Sponsored stories should be no different.

Sit down with the healthcare marketing professionals at Quaintise to discuss if sponsored stories need to be integrated into your overall marketing campaigns. Contact us for more information.