Such is the nature of Facebook's power that I learned of the web-wide RealityLasik campaign through my FB newsfeed. The AMO marketing push is a freestanding website -- RealityLasik.com -- promoting Lasik surgery through a series of pseudo-reality video episodes featuring an actual patient from pre-op through post-op. The campaign's first subject is Kristin Cavallari, the actress of the reality tv series Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County fame. You might surmise from these elements that RealityLasik targets youth. AMO makes $200 per eye surgery done with its equipment and the marketing is largely left to medical practices and word out of mouth. With doctors chasing business so rabidly, the major media outlets are saturated with the medical advertising. Those ads generally seek to differentiate themselves from other practices and market the benefits of corrected vision broadly. With AMO benefiting most from the expansion of this volume business, it makes sense for them to bear the effort of expanding the pie in an independent campaign, like perhaps the dairy, cranberry or orange cooperatives do. (Somehow the AMO VISX merger passed antitrust scrutiny. What BS when Staples couldn't buy Office Depot in a highly fragmented office supplies market. Antitrust like environmental regulation, among too many other things, depends on the whims of the administration in power.)
Unfortunately for AMO, Lasik is such a busy SEO term that dominating it in Google search results would require a huge advertising budget beyond the cost of producing the reality series. Fortunately, Facebook offers youth targeting and a clean advertising slate -- and one more suited for broad marketing campaigns than advertising by individual practices. AMO sponsors a colorful profile on the social network that is promoted through entries in the newsfeed. The profile itself centerpieces a long vertical Flash driven presentation. (This is in fact the first Flash-ed profile I've seen on FB.) I give it high marks for the Urban Outfitters style of coolness. The long presentation follows the visual gauntlet pattern that entices the reader with a dozen or two serial opportunities to view the videos on the RealityLasik.com website. (FOX News follows the same pattern only with an even higher proliferation of click enticements.)
Does it succeed? For a web marketing campaign on targeted at youth where the SEO is prohibitive, promotion on FB will soon become de rigueur. AMO is merely among the vanguard of corporate sponsors to recognize reach of this emergent nexus of youth activity. This proposition especially holds true for lifestyle marketing. SEO marketing reaches people looking for solutions to problems. Why else do you query the search engine? Even if you could target the search results, lifestyle is still more congruous and effective slipstreamed into the flurry of social life. Lifestyle is all about sharing a notion of tribal life and exemplifying member role models like Kristin Cavallari.
AMO is handcuffed into the lifestyle choice -- pushing convenience and aesthetics over visual acuity for practical uses like sports -- because of medical reasons. The making of the flap to allow the laser access to the cornea weakens the integrity of the eye. The flap will heal well enough for the typical person but not well enough for those particularly subject to the risk of eye trauma. You can't push it to volleyball players and the like but you can sell it as the lifestyle choice of young women who hate their glasses and contacts.
While marketing on FB may be de rigueur, the effectiveness of reality marketing on it is another question. The FB demographic tends to be very smart and the wall comments already reflect cynicism and derision toward the fakeness, both of the campaign itself and the sponsored profile. I have to agree with the assessment of the videos. Kristin Cavallari and her family members seem to have the mindless enthusiasm of Kool-Aid drinking cultists or MLM networkers. They may indeed act that way in real life -- be so enthusiastic and uncritical about a serious procedure -- but the reality frame requires uncertainty, doubt and drama to sustain interest. I'll watch the ugly dudes of The Ultimate Fighter reality series of SpikeTV -- or even Sense and Sensibility or Pride and Prejudice -- for hours because of the gripping drama but the only thing that would make me want to watch Kristin Cavallari's lasik videos for more than few minutes is if she stripped naked on camera. The right tone would be the Ashlee Simpson show.
Unfortunately for RealityLasik.com, the competing search result LasikReality.com offers a sobering view of the possible complications, even in the hands of a skilled surgeon at a university medical center. (Having seen quite a few Lasik ads while researching cataract surgeons for my mom, I came away with the impression that every Lasik surgeon was trained in Lake Wobegon. They are all above average. Searching for "Mark Mannis," the ophthalomogist responsible for the Richard Miller's ill-fated Lasik returns LasikReality.com above the doctor's own pages. How's that for Google algorithmic justice?)
The profile has 1,338 friends since inception on May 28th -- and not growing. Assuming a $1 mil marketing budget, the campaign will pay for itself after drawing 2,500 additional pairs of young eyes.
Here's a hilarious tongue-in-cheek post mocking the campaign by Matthew M. Sasche in the discussion portion of the profile:
I've been following the Kristin Cavallari / REALITYLASIK.Com partnership for some time, and I'm thrilled to see it here on facebook.
I'd have to say that my favorite episode in the series -- I've watched them all numerous times, by the way -- is Episode Two: "To See or Not to See". Indeed, this is a question we all must ask ourselves: whether 'tis nobler to get a sweet eye job from REALITYLASIK.COM or to suffer the slings and arrows of being a total loser with glasses.
For any of you on-the-fence with this issue, I hope the ad campaign with the beautiful Kristin Cavallari influences your decision; I know it totally changed my perspective. Kristen Cavallari is a true American success story-- having worked her way up from D-list reality-show-celeb to a solid B-listing -- and I think she is the perfect spokeswoman for such an exciting and innovative new surgery.
I'll admit, I was a little apprehensive about having lasers tear apart my eyeballs, but once I saw that Kristin did it, my fears seemed trivial by comparison. Some celebrities will stamp their name to anything, but obviously not Kristen! Simply put, REALITYLASIK.COM is the real deal, and it isn't just some glitzy site designed to con you into getting a superfluous and potentially dangerous surgery-- THEY REALLY CARE!
I had my LASIK surgery done by a less-reputable company (the surgery was conducted in a 7-11 restroom), and let's just say the results weren't pretty.
If only I had listened to Kristen Cavallari and gone to REALITYLASIK.COM, then maybe I wouldn't have this Paris Hilton lazy eye.
A site like REALITYLASIK.COM is obviously catering to an informed and educated demographic -- evidenced by the fact that they chose the reputable Kristin Cavallari to propel their image. Let me just say how refreshing this is. Sometimes companies use teen idols as a means to take advantage of young people with lots of (their parents) disposable income. But not REALITYLASIK.com. As we can see from the episodes, this was not a staged event! Kristen went to a number of experts, and even had a "second opinion". This is truly a wonderful service and I encourage everyone to at least consider getting this surgery.
Btw, I just checked and there are a handful of practices weakly trying to advertise themselves through unsponsored Facebook groups.
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Post InfoThis entry was posted on Sunday, June 3rd, 2007 and is filed under facebook, marketing, social networking.
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