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Marketing Mix Podcast with Will Flaherty

Will Flaherty evaluates measuring performance of OOH and television ads in the new media world

October 2, 2019

Joining us on the Marketing Mix Podcast is Will Flaherty, VP, Growth at Ro. Will discusses building trust through different channels in the healthcare market, the importance of analyzing media consumption habits, and Ro’s successful sports partnership with MLB.  In exploring the varying degrees of consumer trust in traditional and digital advertising, Will discusses the evolution of Ro’s television advertising, tracking performance of OOH marketing, and the brand’s plan to segment and personalize messaging over the next 12 months. 

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Jeff Ragovin: Ro is all about connecting patients with doctors to enable them to get treatment when and wherever they need it. Could you tell us a little more about Ro?

Will Flaherty: At Ro we’ve built a technology that allows a consumer to connect with a physician or a healthcare provider licensed in their state. A healthcare provider can assess the condition of the patient based upon a number of different inputs and can recommend and prescribe medication if appropriate to help treat the symptoms of the conditions the patient is presenting. In addition to the physician network, we’ve also built out a pharmacy so we can actually send recommended treatment directly to the patient’s door. It’s all put together to create on experience that’s far more convenient, cost-efficient, and something that consumers have preferred as we’ve gone to market in the last 2 years.  

Jeff Ragovin: You were previously leading growth marketing at Rent the Runway, as well as at SeatGeek. You are now leading growth marketing at Ro, which operates in a completely different space. How have your previous experiences prepared you for your current role at Ro?

Will Flaherty: If I had to pick one lesson I’ve applied throughout my career it would be that in your marketing efforts and attempts to grow businesses, you have to instill trust. The consumer needs to trust your service and what you're delivering to them. In all of these spaces, trust manifests differently. At SeatGeek, when we were operating in the secondary, re-selling ticket market for sports, concerts and events, we found that consumers at the bare minimum were not even sure whether to trust the ticket they were buying. As a new and emerging brand, it was incumbent upon us to really instill this trust that we are outstanding, we are going to take care of you and we are going to implement a buyer guarantee if anything goes wrong. 

In the same way at Rent the Runway, our core business was delivering high-end formal wear for the 2 or 3 most important nights of a customer's year, whether it was a special event, an occasion or a wedding. As that business has evolved into a subscription service that caters to everyday clothing needs, consumers expect incredible precision with delivery, product and customer service. In the same way, trust was super important there too. At the end of the day, if you can deliver on the customer promise then everything else will follow. 

At Ro, a customer truly needs to trust us with not only their most private healthcare information, but also that we are going to provide them the best course of treatment. The standard that someone might apply around pursuing a course of medical treatment is way higher than the consideration someone might give when buying a new cotton t-shirt. At the end of the day, if I change the type of t-shirt I’m wearing, it’s not going to impact my health or my wellbeing. Our service has a much bigger impact on one’s health. The way that people think about health decisions are far more considered, far more deliberative, but also far more dependent upon a base level of trust in service. As a growth and customer acquisition team, we want to make sure that everything we’re doing is instilling trust in our brand. 

Jeff Ragovin: You have Roman, Rory and Zero under the Ro brand. Talk to us a little bit about the 3 brands and how you’re marketing them. 

Will Flaherty: The business started as Roman before Ro. Roman is a brand focused on men’s health, primarily on erectile dysfunction. Overtime, we realized that the technology we built can treat more than just men’s health. We started to think about how can we speak to different audiences, populations and demographics. Our decision to launch Rory and Zero was really driven by the desire to have a brand architecture that can better speak to different populations that weren't covered by Roman. Zero is a platform focused on the treatment of addiction, and Rory is brand that focuses on a set of women’s health conditions, primarily around menopause. 

Jeff Ragovin: Roman partnered with the MLB. Can you tell us a little more about your partnership strategy?

Will Flaherty: Our core audience is men, usually in their late 30’s and up. When we did our assessment of what the media consumption habits of these individuals are, we found that a large chunk of them are watching sports on TV, and baseball in particular. We started to first advertise on baseball as a media partner, so on TV broadcast and on some of baseball’s media properties online. We saw a really good response and traction, enough that we decided to do more and not just more in the media sense, but how can we use an affiliation with an entity like baseball to continue to build trust. By becoming a partner of MLB, it allows us to really feature the league and its mark and name in our advertising. 

Jeff Ragovin: Do you think that consumers trust traditional advertising channels like TV more than they do newer, more targeted ones like Facebook advertising? 

Will Flaherty: I think the truth is that no single channel is going to bridge the trust gap immediately. At the end of the day, the real elemental goal of the Facebook ad impression, the paid search click, the TV ad impression is to get someone to your site or product. It is to get them to engage a little more deeply with your brand, and even if they don’t convert in that moment, give them the chance to interact with your email communication or other consumer touchpoints before they do convert. When we look at all of our data, there are multiple touchpoints that consumers will experience before they ultimately become a member. We think it's important to be present in all of these places as collectively they help to build up trust and drive conversions. 

The reason we like TV is that it stands apart compared to some of the other channels. There’s more of a creative canvas to really tell a story and to explain what we do. If you're advertising on TV at prominent events it gives your brand enhanced credibility as you are communicating at such mass scale. We value it because it contributes to the overall, collective marketing mix. 

Jeff Ragovin: What is the main message you're trying to convey with your TV ads? 

Will Flaherty: At first when we started running TV ads about a year ago, out messaging was focused around who we are, what is the problem we are solving and our core value props, and at times, we would sprinkle in some humor to create a sense of comfortability. Now our focus is less around explaining who we are, what we do, and the category that we exist in, and more on human and personal stories. We hear our customers’ stories all the time, so we want to start elevating them to the extent that we can. Over the last 6 months, we featured one of our founders who speaks openly about his medical history and story. We have featured some of our physicians. Our physicians have done a series of commercials where they speak about and read customer testimonials of patients they have treated. We think human stories are the most powerful way to build trust.  

Jeff Ragovin: How are you measuring the performance of TV ads and OOH billboards? 

Will Flaherty: It is measured holistically along with every other channel. It’s really hard to say that one channel is responsible for one entire conversion. When we look at the conversion paths, a majority of them involve multiple touches across multiple channels. It's hard to say that a certain billboard in a certain market contributed X number of conversions. We have to look at it holistically and compare markets with markets rather than channel with channel. We do have a post-transaction survey, which includes OOH as an option, but it’s generally not going to be one that pops to the top of the list even if someone did encounter it. 

There are some providers in the OOH industry that are beginning to experiment with interesting place-space measurement. They look at footfall, how many people are passing through an area and how that, in turn, might actually manifest to conversions. It's inherently going to be hard to track conversions. I would recommend that its calibrated and coordinated with investments you make elsewhere. The temptation you might make is to run only OOH in one market to see what the isolated effect is, but you have to do it in concert with other things to drive greater effect. Don’t create a false experiment that doesn't really tell you anything about what that final strategy would even do for your brand and business. 

Jeff Ragovin: What do you think the future of marketing looks like at Ro? 

Will Flaherty: Our aspiration is to continue to grow and expand the scope of what we treat and how our members interact with the healthcare system. As that expands, it allows us to address more populations. For us, the real goal and challenge that we’re excited to take on is how we can continue to grow the Ro brand to be inclusive of all the different consumers that we treat. How our messaging evolves and becomes more personalized, more segmented, and more targeted to all the different populations of who we want to reach is going to be the mission over the next 12 months.

Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.

Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes