The Doctors Talk It Over Envigorates Medical Audience

Photo of the 1947 U.S. three cent stamp commemorating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Medical Association. The stamp is an illustration showing a doctor deep in thought looking at a sick child in bed. The child's father is standing in the background with a concerned look on his face while the child's mother has buried her head in her arms and has hands clasped in prayer.
The Doctor, a 1947 3 Cent U.S. Stamp

They laughed when the after dinner speaker, talking about the shows and ratings, referred to Lederle Laboratories' The Doctors Talk It Over. When the snickers died down, an advertising agency executive remarked, "The program must have something. It's in its third year on the air and the American Cyanamid Company (Lederle's parent company) doesn't throw away a quarter of a million dollars a year for anything, not even a broadcast program."

Lederle spends more on its air program than the entire advertising budget of all the rest of Cyanamid's units. It spends it to reach a tiny segment of the dialing audience, the medical profession. It has nothing to sell the public. It sells only ethical pharmaceuticals and biologicals, products used by hospitals and dispensed by druggists upon doctors' prescriptions. It sells nothing on the air, the program having none of the aspects of commercialization expected on a sponsored program. Sole identification of the billpayer is the opening, which states:

Lederle Laboratories, Incorporated, a unit of American Cyanamid Company and manufacturers of pharmaceutical and biological products, present transcribed: The Doctors Talk It Over.

That's all that directly or indirectly ties into the business of the sponsor until the signoff, when once again the announcer states:

The Doctors Talk It Over has been a transcribed presentation of Lederle Laboratories, Incorporated, a unit of American Cyanamid Company, and manufacturers of pharmaceutical and biological products.

There is generally also an offer of a free copy of the talk to professional listeners "by writing to Lederle Laboratories, 30 Rockefeller Plaza, New York 20, New York."

Just three mentions of the corporate title, that's all, weekly at 10 to 10:15 p.m. EST for well over $300,000 a year.

The program rating is usually between 1 and 2 (March 2 broadcast reached a 2.2), ranking, report after report, at the bottom of all sponsored shows on the air.

Lederle wants to reach just one audience -- MDs. Its rating is so low that there are no audience composition figures available from normal rating sources, nor are these same sources able to produce sponsor identification figures. That necessitated a special study, for it couldn't be taken for granted that The Doctors Talk It Over was reaching the correct audience. These special studies have been made three times. The returns indicate that doctors are listening and that regardless of the restricted air commercial, they know who is sponsoring the show.

The apparently small percentage of those who have heard the program who listen regularly is not unusual in the medical segment of the listening audience, since medical professionals are for obvious reasons in no position to listen regularly at any time of the day, although 10-10:15 p.m. is a period when the greatest percentage of medicos is likely to be available to listen.

It is also impossible to choose medical subjects that are of interest to all doctors, since of necessity some of the programs are addressed to specialists and others to general practitioners.

Finally, the program has to fight for medical ears against purely entertainment programs. For the latter reason the program has switched from Friday to Tuesday to Monday seeking a period when it wouldn't have to fight Bob Hope, Fibber McGee or Bing Crosby. That it does reach and influence as large a segment of the medical profession as it does is a tribute to the thinking behind the program.

It is not a pseudo-medical broadcast. The doctors who talk it over are leading figures in the medical field. At first they looked with a suspicious eye upon broadcasting under the sponsorship of a commercial firm. Most of that looking askance is no longer evident. Even the medical associations, both country and national, now feel that The Doctors Talk It Over is the nearest thing possible to a closed-circuit meeting with the people who mean the most to the professional. It is "ethical publicity" for the doctors who talk and a professional brush-up for listeners.

Like all successful broadcasting, and The Doctors Talk It Over is successful despite its bottom rating, the program is not required to travel under its own steam alone. Promotion of the program differs from that for a general-appeal air show.

The direct mail and giveaways are sent 100 percent to the medical professional. Over 123,000 announcement cards are sent out monthly to the medical and allied professions. They are decorative as a railroad timetable, but they do list the subjects, the authorities and the stations.

Each week an average of 1,800 reprints of the broadcast are requested and sent out. An offer of two bound volumes containing the actual scripts of the first 52 broadcasts brought in 85,000 requests. That meant 85,000 doctors impressed with Lederle Laboratories. Disks of each broadcast are made part of a circulating library and are drawn upon regularly by schools, medical societies, nursing schools and allied professional groups. This service, provided without charge, has built extra respect among these groups for the ethical character of the program and its sponsor.

Not only has the program given Lederle the medical personality it desired but its medical representatives, numbering about 250, find it has made their job of contacting the profession and hospitals far easier and much more productive. The 50 branch offices also note that direct calls from pharmacists have increased progressively as the program has been on the air.

Nurses and attendants also feel a glow when Lederle is mentioned, for several broadcasts have placed the nursing profession before the medical profession. A recent program was devoted 100 percent to the Massachusetts Plan, which establishes regular increments for not only the nurses in hospitals but attendants as well. Since the plan also regards the nurse as a professional person and looks forward to the day that nursing will not include maid and porter duties, it's natural that Lederle, who brought information about the plan to the profession and the public eavesdroppers who listened in on the program (March 17), won more friends through the broadcast.

The presentation was one of the first network transcribed programs. The reason it is transcribed is that it would be impossible to guarantee that any practicing physician could be available for broadcast at any specific time. Then too a doctor is not a professional broadcaster and plenty of work with each guest authority is essential if they are to sound as their coworkers in the field expect.

Milton Cross is the reporter on the show, and with Joseph L. Boland, Jr., of the agency travels to each recording date, with the authority outlining the scope and factual context of the show for the writer.

The Doctors Talk It Over may not rate among popular broadcast vehicles but it's right for the profession to which it's addressed and has justified its cost of a quarter of a million a year to a firm that had spent practically nothing before for advertising.

Today the outstanding ethical pharmaceutical house -- to the medical profession -- is Lederle. The company has arrived at that pinnacle through not selling on the air.

From Sponsor, April 1947

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