*AMA Debuts Campaign To Drive MDs to Its Health Site

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The American Medical Association will kick off an advertising and direct marketing campaign next month to convince its 300,000 physician and medical-student members to shop online at its site, AMA-Assn.org.

Created by Chicago agency Norcom Communications, the $200,000 campaign will highlight the discounts and name-brand products offered at the AMA's members-only store developed in conjunction with affinity marketer Batnet1. Budgetary constraints forced a muted launch of the store late last month.

"The challenge is just creating awareness that [the store] exists," said Fern Lentini, the AMA's vice president of marketing and sales. "And to create awareness is pretty costly - we have limited funds and we try to maximize those marketing dollars because we're trying to provide benefits to members. We're cost-conscious."

The Chicago-based AMA recently surveyed its members on Web-site usage, familiarity with computers and age and focused on physicians that showed a propensity to buy online. "We try to target those that we think would be more likely to use the site," Lentini said.

Based on collected data, the AMA will inaugurate its push in late March with 100,000 mailers to potential site users. Four such drops are planned throughout the year. In April, ads will break in AMNews, an AMA newspaper that's mailed to 400,000 physician members and individuals on the comp list weekly. Such ads will run until year's end in the tabloid-sized house organ.

News of the online store has already been disseminated on the AMA-Assn.org site through blurbs and via e-mails sent regularly to different member segments such as students, residents and full-fledged doctors.

Meanwhile, the new store will be plugged at eight to 10 healthcare trade shows throughout the year. AMA sells products online already through associated sites like amapracticelink.com, amapersonallink.com and amasolutions.com. But the deal with Batnet1, Iselin, NJ, offers products not being sold on those sites. All of the sites will have links to the store, however.

Through this arrangement, Batnet1 offers the nation's largest medical association a portfolio of retailers such as barnesandnoble.com, The Sharper Image, eToys.com, Garden.com and HardwareStreet.com, among others. These retailers, who share a contractual relationship with Batnet1 and not the AMA, will offer physicians customized promotions and offers.

The four-year-old affinity marketer, which pays AMA a cut on every sale executed via the medical body's site, will handle store-related issues, such as service development, live customer support, usage tracking and reporting as well as technical and back-office infrastructure.

"Also, the way the AMA Marketplace is set up, we help bring more member traffic to the site through programs like opt-in e-mails and offline advertising," said Batnet1 CEO Chris Swenson.

According to the AMA, besides a propensity to spend more on entertainment and travel, physicians did not display different buying habits.

"I think physicians just kind of reflect the population in general," said Lentini. "They go to the Wal-Marts [and] JCPenneys. They shop at the same places we do."

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