US Insights

The booming business of cancer

Elizabeth Wilner

US Editor

Health 01.26.2016 / 19:00


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As cancer rates drop, cancer center ad spend is spiking

Noticed an ad for a cancer treatment center lately? Feel as if you might be seeing more of them? Dedicated and hospital-owned cancer treatment centers are pouring money into marketing. Kantar Media data for 2014 and 2015 show cancer both driving more spend and claiming greater share of total spend by medical facility advertisers.

And yet the rate of cancer cases per 100,000 US adults is shrinking - from 487 at the start of the century to 443 in 2012, according to Kantar Health.

One reason for the ad surge is demography. While the rate of cancer cases has dropped, the number of newly diagnosed cases is at a high for the century: 1,724,154 as of 2012, up from 1,441,295 in 2000. This is due to changing population demographics. "Most cancer is among the elderly and the US elderly population is growing," says David Robinson, vice president at Kantar Health.

Cancer rates and cases

Key Numbers

  • 2.1% growth in overall ad spend by medical facilities Jan-Oct 2014 to 2015
  • 33.1% growth in spend on cancer-related ads by medical facilities, same timeframe

Another reason: healthcare reform and industry dynamics have made cancer treatment good business. "We've seen a lot of consolidation in the US healthcare delivery system in general, and cancer is a particularly hot growth and opportunity area," says Meadow Green, a Kantar Health oncology market specialist. The Affordable Care Act "puts emphasis on overall healthcare coordination. Since hospitals receive facilities charges along with the traditional reimbursement rates, buying or building a cancer care center is a particularly attractive means of expansion for them."

Healthcare reform also made more hospitals eligible for greater profits off cancer treatment, she adds, making building or acquiring a cancer program even more attractive.

Slow growth in total spending by medical facility advertisers makes the cancer-driven surge easy to spot. Comparing January through October of 2014 to the same 10-month period of 2015, Kantar Media shows that hospitals, clinics and medical centers overall spent just 2.1% more on measured-media advertising from 2014 to 2015, from just under $1.9 billion to just over $1.9 billion. Spending by these facilities on cancer-specific advertising, however, spiked by 33.1%, from $138 million to $183.7 million. And in terms of its share of overall medical facility ad spend, cancer-specific ad spend grew from 7.4% to 9.6%.

While Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) did not increase its ad spend by much year-over-year, from $84.2 million for January through October 2014 to $86 million for the same stretch in 2015 for an increase of just 2.1%, the chain is by far the biggest advertiser in the medical facility category, accounting for about 5% of the more than $1.9 billion spent by the category from January through October 2015.

The second-biggest advertiser, the University of Texas system, spent $28.4 million during the same timeframe. Home to the MD Anderson Cancer Center, that $28.4 million represents a 67.8% increase over the same timeframe in 2014, with much of the increase driven by greater spending to promote Anderson.

The University of Utah, as another example, upped its ad spend by almost 433% across the two timeframes in question, with most of that driven by additional promotion of its Huntsman Cancer Institute. Lancaster General Health increased its spend by 1096% overall, from $1.6 million in 2014 to $19.6 million in 2015, including $5.2 million in brand-new ad spending to promote its cancer center.

Beyond CTCA, the following cancer centers upped their ad spend significantly from 2014 to 2015: Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (an increase of 65.8%), Dana Farber Cancer Institute (234.5%), Northside Hospital Cancer Institute (315.1%), Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (45.6%), and Roswell Park Cancer Institute (46%).

The nation's swelling elderly population provides a second motivation for cancer-focused facilities to spend big on television advertising in particular, as the TV viewing population also is aging. The next time you notice a cancer center ad, remind yourself that you're not as young as you used to be.

Kantar Media's Siu-Ching Chan contributed to this article.

Source: Kantar Health, Kantar Media

Editor's Notes

Cancer rates and number of cases from CancerMPact Patient Metrics, the Kantar Health oncology epidemiology database. Journalists, for inquiries or to speak with the experts, contact us. Follow @Kantar and sign up for our insight alerts.

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