U.S. healthcare industry: Google wants to protect you from Michael Moore's Sicko

Taking a break from reading the wall-to-wall iPhone coverage on TechMeme, I ran across a post from Lauren Turner, who works for Google as an account planner selling ads to the healthcare industry. In the post on what is called the Google Health Advertising blog, but only contains two posts, she assures potential advertisers that Google can help protect them from the negative impact of Michael Moore's just released film "Sicko," which does to the U.

Taking a break from reading the wall-to-wall iPhone coverage on TechMeme, I ran across a post from Lauren Turner, who works for Google as an account planner selling ads to the healthcare industry. In the post on what is called the Google Health Advertising blog, but only contains two posts, she assures potential advertisers that Google can help protect them from the negative impact of Michael Moore's just released film "Sicko," which does to the U.S healthcare system what Fahrenheit 9/11 did to the Bush administration.

At first, I thought the post was a hoax, especially given the blog has only two posts and is not well put together. Why would Google want to take sides with the U.S. healthcare industry, which is ruled by a profit motive. Moore's film zeros in what is evident to millions of Americans--the profit motive can tend to get in the way of what is in the best interest of patients.

But, Lauren Turner turns up on LinkedIn as a 2004 Princeton University graduate who has worked at Google since January this year. In addition, the blog is linked to from a Google Health Advertising page.

I saw "Sicko" last night, and while the film doesn't include the point of the view of U.S. healthcare industry executives (I assume they didn't relish being on film with Moore) and over rotates in spots, who can deny that the U.S. healthcare system, and the U.S. government that won't fix it, is deeply flawed. Moore is telling us what we already know, with heartbreaking examples and some humor.

Moore makes his points best in the film in chronicling some of the tragedies resulting from our healthcare system, and in documenting how people who live Canada, the United Kingdom and France have nationalized, socialized health care systems and have longer lifespans than the U.S. population.

sicko.jpg

Perhaps Ms. Turner's blog post is the product of an overzealous, new ad salesperson who is telling the client what they want to hear--"Sicko" picks on the poor U.S. healthcare giants with sensationalist footage and doesn't talk about all their good deeds.

See Peter Travers' review of "Sicko" for a different viewpoint.

I wonder what Eric Schmidt, Larry Page and Sergey Brin think about the U.S. healthcare system, Michael Moore's film and actively helping the healthcare industry beat back negative press. Perhaps Google could lend its powerful voice to the U.S. healthcare debate as well as place text, video and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites for Kaiser, Humana and Blue Shield.

Below is the text of Ms. Turner's post:

Does negative press make you Sicko?

9:47 AM

Posted by Lauren Turner, Account Planner, Health

Lights, camera, action: the healthcare industry is back in the spotlight. (Not that it ever left the stage.) Next week, Michael Moore’s documentary film, Sicko, will start playing in movie theaters across America.

The New York Times calls Sicko a “cinematic indictment of the American health care system.” The film is generating significant buzz and is sure to spur a lively conversation about health coverage, care, and quality in America. While legislators, litigators, and patient groups are growing excited, others among us are growing anxious. And why wouldn’t they? Moore attacks health insurers, health providers, and pharmaceutical companies by connecting them to isolated and emotional stories of the system at its worst. Moore’s film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare’s interest in patient well-being and care.

Sound familiar? Of course. The healthcare industry is no stranger to negative press. A drug may be a blockbuster one day and tolled as a public health concern the next. News reporters may focus on Pharma’s annual sales and its executives’ salaries while failing to share R&D costs. Or, as is often common, the media may use an isolated, heartbreaking, or sensationalist story to paint a picture of healthcare as a whole. With all the coverage, it’s a shame no one focuses on the industry’s numerous prescription programs, charity services, and philanthropy efforts.

Many of our clients face these issues; companies come to us hoping we can help them better manage their reputations through “Get the Facts” or issue management campaigns. Your brand or corporate site may already have these informational assets, but can users easily find them?

We can place text ads, video ads, and rich media ads in paid search results or in relevant websites within our ever-expanding content network. Whatever the problem, Google can act as a platform for educating the public and promoting your message. We help you connect your company’s assets while helping users find the information they seek.

If you’re interested in learning more about issue management campaigns or about how we can help your company better connect its assets online, email us. We’d love to hear from you! Setting up these campaigns is easy and we’re happy to share best practices.

As for Sicko, all I can say is -- go easy on that buttered popcorn.

Update: I asked Google for a comment on the "Sicko"/Google Healthcare Advertising blog post and got back this statement via email: "Google has no official opinion on Michael Moore or his movie 'Sicko.' "

I guess that means that Google corporate doesn't consider Ms. Turner's opinion of "Sicko"--including the sentence, "Moore’s film portrays the industry as money and marketing driven, and fails to show healthcare’s interest in patient well-being and care."--as official. It's commendable that Google allows its employees to express their opinions in what appear to be official public Google blogs, but using "Sicko" to pander to advertisers doesn't come off as the most credible or noble approach to filling Google's coffers.

Update 2: Now we have an explanation from Ms. Turner regarding how to read her post. She just meant to state Google's position that "advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue." I won't argue with the idea of advertising as democratic. Anyone with the money or winning bid can get their message out into the ether.  But ads tend to be one-sided sales pitches without footnotes, not a public dialog. If we want a public dialog, having the two opposing sides in a public debate would be a far better way to educate the public.

Here is the text of Ms. Turner's post :

My opinion and Google's 9:03 AM Posted by Lauren Turner, Account Planner, Health

Well, I've learned a few things since I posted on Friday. For one thing, even though this is a new blog, we have readers! That's a good thing. Not so good is that some readers thought the opinion I expressed about the movie Sicko was actually Google's opinion. It's easy to understand why it might have seemed that way, because after all, this is a corporate blog. So that was my mistake -- I understand why it caused some confusion.

But the more important point, since I doubt that too many people care about my personal opinion, is that advertising is an effective medium for handling challenges that a company or industry might have. You could even argue that it's especially appropriate for a public policy issue like healthcare. Whether the healthcare industry wants to rebut charges in Mr. Moore's movie, or whether Mr. Moore wants to challenge the healthcare industry, advertising is a very democratic and effective way to participate in a public dialogue.

That is Google's opinion, and it's unrelated to whether we support, oppose or (more likely) don't have an official position on an issue. That's the real point I was trying to make, which was less clear because I offered my personal criticism of the movie.

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