If you live in a major media market you’re likely to hear radio ads for veterinary hospitals, see TV commercials for specialty practices, slog through reams of vet-themed, color photo-adorned ads in the Yellow Pages, and come across benches or billboards graced with images of puppies pointing, "This way for all your pet health needs."

Maybe it’s just Miami, but I see it everywhere: coupons in my junk mail, banners on buildings, balloons atop strip malls, and ads in my local papers. Vets, vets, vets...

So you know, we vets often hire those in business consulting positions to help us handle our "practice building" issues. It is these learned consultants who counsel us to advertise, assigning a certain percentage to our revenues and instructing us to dedicate this portion to our marketing budget. We’re told to spend that amount on advertising or public relations to ensure that new clients will be forever gracing our front doors.

I happen to work in a practice that shuns all of this hoo-ha. We carry no Yellow Pages ad, we take up no radio spots and we accept no coupons (God forbid!). I’m not in charge, so none of this reflects my personal business ethics –– I’m just along for the ride on this conservative train. But I don’t blame the powers that be. Advertising seems kind of weird to me, too –– for a vet hospital, that is.

Still, I see how it can be a near-necessity given the state of veterinary competition in some areas. What’s more...it really does work. Sad to say, but big tacky banners haul in the clients hand over fist.

You don’t have to tell me that you’re immune to such tactics. I know that you're an educated consumer who is more likely to interview a new vet based on personal referrals and experience. Nevertheless, it takes all kinds of clients to run a business, and it’s darn near impossible to build a hospital on a referral-only basis –– unless you’re a specialist, of course.

My opinion? Would that advertising were not a necessity, but vet medicine has gone so retail it seems impossible to go without it when starting up a practice. Still, it seems so tacky for any doc to hang out his shingle on a billboard. My, how times have changed...

But enough of my opinions...what do YOU think?

Dr. Patty Khuly