If you live in a major media market you’re likely to hear radio ads for vet 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 puppies signaling, "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 are often counseled to advertise by those in business consulting positions whom we often hire to help us handle our "practice building" issues. They assign a certain percentage to our revenues and instruct us to dedicate this portion to our marketing budget. We’re told to spend that amount on advertising or public relations so that new clients will forever be 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 (God forbid!) we accept no coupons. 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 not among those accessible through such tactics. I have to assume that most of you are pet owners more likely to interview vets based on personal referrals. 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.

I’d like to know how you feel on this issue (a point of contention among the old guard and the new guard in vet medicine). My opinion? Would that advertising were not a necessity, but vet medicine’s gone so retail it seems impossible to go without when starting up a practice. It seems tacky for any doc to hang out his shingle on a billboard. My, how times have changed…