Internet advertising as a source of income for the NHS
In 2002 advertisers spent in the region of £200 million on UK Internet advertising. Compare that figure to 2013, when advertisers spent approximately £14 billion. The growth in internet advertising has been astronomical and reflects how consumers are accessing information in the digital era.
In previous years a hospital patient may have phoned the hospital directly, called a friend or consulted the yellow pages to find directions to a hospital clinic -- now they perform a Google search and bingo, (if the trust has a successful SEO strategy) they are onto the Trust’s website. And where there are eyeballs, companies are queuing up and willing to pay to get their product in front of them.
Should NHS Trusts’ websites show ads?
An NHS site isn’t different from any other digital presence. We have seen a trend in the last year of advertising starting to appear on both public facing websites and intranets of various NHS Trusts. The cynics amongst us might question: why should a publicly funded NHS trust capitalise on the visitors to its sites and push advertising? I know for one that I can find it frustrating how some websites have become overwhelmed with pushing advertising - not sure what that says about the sites that I’m browsing!
However, with some thought and consideration it is possible to deliver non-intrusive ads that can generate a revenue stream for your organisation. And what are these Trusts doing with these hard to come by revenue streams? Putting it back into public services and using the revenue to help fund new or existing digital initiatives that benefit patients, staff and their local communities, including patient information videos, communication campaigns and improving their websites.
So how do you go about managing advertising on your own site? There are two approaches that we would recommend. The first is to fully manage these yourselves, letting companies know through your website that they can advertise their product or service on your site for a monthly or annual fee. On the plus side this gives you total control: you’re able to pick and choose the companies you wish to include on your site and the amount you would like to charge. However, it does mean that you need to provide these commercial messages and possibly even a rate card on your site, which some Trusts may feel uncomfortable about. Additionally you are either reliant on potential advertisers stumbling across this advertising opportunity by speculatively browsing your site or you need to invest time and money in a recruitment campaign to fill your advertising space: an investment which in all likelihood will negate any income generated.
The second option is to employ the services of a third party agency to recruit and manage the adverts on your behalf. This approach has the benefit of reducing the recruitment workload for advertising, opening up access to a wider range of potential advertisers and the revenue streams these bring. However, if you do take this route then we strongly recommend you choose an agency and platform that allows you complete control over the adverts that are placed. While this may restrict the income you generate, it’s vital that the adverts that are placed are non-intrusive and relevant to your site visitors.
Can we help?
To manage advertisement campaigns on our clients’ websites, we have chosen to work with Fendix Media. Fendix focuses on advertising for the healthcare sector. Their platform gives people control over which ads are included on a website and these can be fully integrated into Sitekit CMS for automatic deployment once approved. If you are interested in placing advertisements on your site, please get in touch with your account manager.
A new revenue stream
In conclusion: 99% of the content available on the web today is there to sell or advertise a product - directly or indirectly. Google generates 96% of its revenues from advertising, Facebook similarly generated 89% of their revenue from advertising in 2013. Digital advertising is part of all of our lives and if budgets within the NHS continue to be squeezed, then it would be no surprise to see revenue from digital advertising contributing to the budgets of departments or services in the years to come.