Advertising carried on blood pressure monitors at 20,000 stores reaches more than 1 million users a day,” a press release from Lifeclinic International boasted this week.

According to the Lifeclinic website, “the blood pressure monitor is free for consumers to use. So it’s no surprise that our blood pressure monitors are a recognized consumer destination, attracting customers and building store traffic daily by offering shoppers an important service. Lifeclinic said that because 52 customers per store use its Health Stations every day.”

Let’s hearken back to the sage words of economist Milton Friedman: there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Nor a blood pressure reading, apparently.

Health Populi’s Hot Points: The growth of new channels and milieus for health-oriented advertising is inevitable. As print and traditional broadcast avenues decline in effectiveness (and thus lose favor among ad space buyers), it’s a sort of whack-a-mole phenomenon: health ads will show up elsewhere to motivate sales of products aimed at health care consumers.

Thus, the volume of ad messages will expand in retail and mobile health (mHealth) channels as part of the ever-morphing health care consumer-facing environment. As Wayne Gretzky brilliantly demonstrated on the ice, you’ve got to go where the puck is going to be.

Is there anything wrong with this picture? The answer is not simple. Before the consumer takes his blood pressure, is there an opportunity to opt-in to an advertising message? Is opt-in even a relevant question in this scenario?

On the other hand, a consumer’s experience of an ad at the point-of-health-care-service (in this case, blood pressure screening) can bolster a positive health message — in this case, for example, “Did you know that a high salt intake in your diet increases your risk of high blood pressure?”). On the other hand, messages that are more brand/product specific could be subject to greater regulatory scrutiny.

In either case, inevitably, watch the ad space of retail and mobile health channels to clutter. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon in the consumer-facing health market.

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