Last week I drove through Salt Lake City on my way to visit my parents. There is a billboard near Draper, UT that I have passed dozens of times, and it never fails to strike me as one of the worst marketing strategies ever implemented. (I didn’t manage to snap a photo in time on my way past this last week, but I discovered another billboard by the same company only a few blocks from Brigham Young University. This is the one you see pictured above).
I am positive that some will disagree with me (and I encourage you to post your disagreements in the comments), but I really believe that this campaign has to be one of the dumbest marketing campaigns ever.
There are a lot of reasons I think this is terrible, but let me just highlight 3:
1) Advertising ER wait times on a billboard on the freeway is impractical.
When someone needs to visit an emergency room, it’s not like a hungry man looking for a restaurant – you don’t call around to see who has the shortest wait times. When you’re dying, you either call 911, or burn rubber to the closest emergency room.
2) The text sends a secondary message: “Slower is Worse.”
Any time over 2 minutes sends exactly the opposite message of what they are trying to convey to potential patients. Unless the time is consistently less than 5 minutes (and I think that’s probably too generous), patients will be getting the wrong message. This picture shows an average wait of 24 minutes – I have seen times over 90 minutes on at least one occasion during the last few times I have driven past the Draper sign. Let’s just say I know which hospital I’m going to avoid if I ever need emergency care in the Draper area.
3) There is almost ZERO real upside to this idea.
I admit that this tactic may potentially have one redeeming quality – it may be an effective way to keep the ER staff accountable (very publicly, might I add) for wait times. However, I think there are way too many downsides for that to even remotely compensate for the insanity I find in this idea. If the times are low, potential patients will see the sign, and think, “Good. They should have low times. They are doing their job.” However, any time the wait time posted goes over 5-10 minutes, it drives home an even stronger message – the message that they are slow, and you shouldn’t visit them.
I see this as the equivalent of McDonald’s putting this on a billboard:
The Fewer. The Better
# of Food Poisoning Cases Today:
Anything number over zero will have catastrophic consequences, and even suggesting the idea of food poisoning to customers will have a negative impact on the bottom line.
I think posting the ER wait times on a billboard is counterproductive, damages the brand, and is an absolutely insane marketing strategy. What do you think?