This month, in the CEO Spotlight, we welcome Robert Davis, President/CEO & Editor-in-Chief of Everwell TV/MediVista Media , Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
- You have 20 years of major experience in the health and TV production sector, having worked for or produced for such companies as Newsweek Productions , Time-Life Medical and CNN Medical News . You also write medical columns, teach, and author books. What propelled you to get into the digital out-of-home sector and why did it interest you?
I have devoted my career to using the media (especially television) to inform consumers about health issues, and a DOOH network in doctors’ waiting rooms seemed an ideal way to do so. People are especially receptive to health messages in this setting because they’re captive for long periods and have health at the forefront of their minds. From a business standpoint, the declining cost of DOOH technology, combined with growing advertiser interest in targeting, made the proposition very appealing.
- I notice from your website that all your senior executives have also been long involved in TV and health projects. Did you know them all before launching Everwell in 2007. Are any of them financial partners? Do they offer strengths in areas that complement yours?
Yes, I knew – and in some cases, had worked with – all the members of our executive team before we launched. It’s an extraordinarily talented group with skills in crucial areas such as sales, marketing, business development, and technology that definitely complement my own.
- I gather that MediVista Media is the holding company for Everwell. Does it also hold other companies? Around the time you launched or shortly after, you began selling shares, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission . You had at least two investors. Are you now a public company or what is the ownership arrangement?
No, MediVista Media does not hold other companies. It’s the corporate name; Everwell is our brand. We are a privately held company. Our investors are individuals, including some of our senior executives. We are a relatively new company, and the timing isn’t yet right for us to go public.
- In 2009, you launched ‘Everwell…Everywhere’ with plans to extend beyond screens in thousands of doctors’ offices and a website to further include e-newsletters, video-on-demand, Smartphone apps and text messaging. How is this initiative progressing in each case?
I’m extremely pleased with our progress so far. Traffic to our consumer website, everwell.com, is up considerably since last year, and subscriptions to our weekly consumer e-newsletter have grown rapidly as well. We just completed two deals to distribute our content through VOD, which we’re excited about. And we recently put the finishing touches on our iPhone app, which we are starting to promote. Our strategy is all about integrating DOOH with texting, web, and other distribution platforms to allow advertisers to reach health-conscious consumers at multiple touch points. I see such an approach as the future of DOOH.
- I’m having a bit of difficulty figuring out a target audience for Everwell’s video-on-demand, as well as for the Smartphone apps. Can you give us more background on how you see these being used and by whom?
Our goal with these and other platforms is to reach our waiting room viewers beyond the doctor’s office – whether they’re at home or on the go. It’s also to reach the sizable audience of health-conscious Americans who may not see us in the waiting room but are interested in getting our healthy recipes, fitness advice, and wellness tips.
- I notice on your website – and perhaps on your screens – that you are cautious or skeptical as to whether many of the health claims on the market that you mention are really true, and you often take a humourous approach to these topics. Do you do this on the screens as well, or are your screens geared more to the straight and proven medical information.
Our content focuses on prevention and wellness – e.g. diet, exercise, emotional well-being, safety – as opposed to medical treatments. These are issues that doctors typically have little or no time to discuss with patients. Our approach is to make the content lively, engaging, and when appropriate, fun. We also make it extremely practical, which often includes helping viewers figure out which health claims are believable and which aren’t. For example, does vitamin C really prevent colds ; are plastic bottles really unsafe? 
We avoid a stale ‘newsy’ look and feel with anchors and reporters. Instead, our segments use a variety of innovative formats involving engaging personalities — including everything from a pharmacist who’s literally inside a medicine chest  to a dietitian who shows up at people’s houses to ‘rescue’ them  to a doctor who goes on ’rounds’ to places like donut shops and amusement parks. 
- Do you have a Board of Medical Advisors that vets your screen content? If so, who are they and exactly what do they do? Do they meet once a month to go over all your new content?
Yes, we have a panel of four physicians – representing the fields of internal medicine, cardiology, preventive medicine, and nutrition – who review all our content for accuracy and balance. We email them video files and/or scripts once or twice a month, and they provide feedback via e-mail. They also review health-related advertising for appropriateness. This process further ensures that all the content we present is highly credible.
- Part of your Website is interactive. Do you foresee any possibility of incorporating interactivity, 3D or other future upcoming technological developments on your screens?
Interactive screens are something we’ve definitely considered, and I see DOOH in health care eventually moving in that direction, especially as the cost of technology continues to decline.
- Do all your screens across the country run the same content and advertising from a central source, or are there specific regional networks? Can a doctor manage and/or add content to the screens in his/her office?
Our screens are addressable, so we can and do run different content and/or advertising on different screens. Right now, content varies according to the specialty of the office. For example, cardiology offices get a different content mix than ob/gyn offices.
In addition, our software allows doctors to easily put their own custom messages (text or video) on their screens. Medical practices love this feature because it allows them to communicate whatever they want – whether office hours, insurance information, or products and services they’re offering – in exactly the way they want.
- Did you develop your own proprietary software, or do you use a company like Enqii, Broadsign, Scala or Omnivex? Why not, or if you do, why that particular company’s software?
We use third party software. After an exhaustive search, we chose our software vendor – NCR Netkey  – because of its ability to handle the functionality we need, including custom messaging by doctors, screen-level addressability and control, efficient distribution of video files, and the ability to design special features that are unique to our network. We’ve been very pleased with the results.
- How large a sales staff do you have? Do the same people cover advertising for your screens, website, e-newsletters, and more?
We have an in-house team of two sales execs who sell all our properties, and we also work with DOOH aggregators. In addition, we are developing ad sales partnerships with other non-DOOH media companies.
- There seems to be a lot of competitors to you getting into the same field: DOOH for doctors’ offices, clinics, hospitals. What do you feel that you offer that they don’t? Are you interested in acquiring other companies – or being acquired?
What distinguishes us is our content and the fact that we’re a trusted multimedia health brand. For some others in DOOH, content is an afterthought. For us, it’s the starting point. We design our content specifically for the environment and the audience, taking into account patients’ viewing patterns and state of mind. For example, because people in the doctor’s office are often anxious, we create segments that provide reassurance rather than more anxiety (by, for example, warning that they may have some hidden disease, as other health programming often does).
Knowing that people sometimes drift in and out as they perform tasks like filling out paperwork, we design the segments to be short and self-contained. Further, we avoid using a repeating loop, which can annoy staff and patients with long waits. Instead, we shuffle our segments so that none ever repeats during a given day. Above all, we design programming that’s attention grabbing and that viewers value. Too much other health video out there is dry and didactic, with mediocre production value. As we see it, there’s no point in having a DOOH network unless you have content that people actually want to watch.
As for the future, we are open to any possibilities that allow us to continue building the Everwell brand in DOOH and across other platforms.
- Following on that topic, where do you see Everwell’s possible growth: more doctors offices, perhaps medical centres or hospitals? Or perhaps outside the U.S., and, if so, where? How many locations and screens to you have currently?
We currently have about 1,000 screens in U.S. physicians’ offices nationwide (concentrated mainly in top DMAs) and plan to keep adding more. Though we have no plans right now to deploy screens outside the U.S., we are interested in distributing our content internationally. Our multiplatform approach offers us enormous opportunities to do so at a very low cost, and we see this as a large potential growth area.
- In researching your company, I saw that you have partnerships with other content distributors and syndicators. I know that you do all your own content. Does this mean that you sell your programming to other sites or to TV channels or? How long does your content information run?
We do create all our own segments, which typically run from 30 second to five minutes in length. The structure of our content partnerships varies depending on the particular deal. In some cases, we do an ad revenue split; in others, we receive a licensing fee. In all instances, however, we retain full ownership of the content.
- I think you run seven minutes of advertising per hour. What are some of the advertising categories and major repeat advertisers on Everwell screens?
As you’d expect, much of our advertising is for pharmaceuticals and other health-related products and services. However, our broad-based wellness content also lends itself to numerous other categories, including food, fitness, and packaged goods. One of the unique things we offer is the ability to link advertisers with relevant content – for example, food company sponsorship of our healthy cooking segments. We also see retail as a big category. Research shows that consumers often go shopping after visiting the doctor, and our ability to localize ad messages allows a pharmacy chain, for example, to give viewers the location of the nearest store. Regardless of the category, our research shows that hearing the message in the doctor’s office gives it added credibility.