July 1, 2009
MARKETLink proceeds help fuel AAHA PR campaign
National groups freeze dues hikes
By: Jennifer Fiala
For The VIN News Service
Two of the nation’s largest veterinary medical organizations are not raising their annual dues this year, and at least one — the American Veterinary Medical Association — reports that the freeze is in response to the country’s chilly economic environment.
The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA), however, reveals that the decision to keep membership dues at $920 a year for a two- to three-doctor practice is largely based on last year’s $10-million cash sale of MARKETLink to MWI Veterinary Supply Inc., which is keeping the group’s finances firmly in the black.
AAHA established MARKETLink in 1996 to provide drugs and supplies to the group’s members.
Proceeds from its sale to MWI, finalized in July 2008, are now bankrolling a major advertising campaign designed to tout the merits of AAHA hospital accreditation to veterinarians and pet owners, especially.
According to Jason Merrihew, AAHA marketing communications coordinator, the group hired public relations and marketing firm Fleishman-Hillard to develop advertising spots that will air on cable channels like Animal Planet starting in January. The advertisements, according to AAHA, were planned in response to frustration felt by veterinarians at accredited hospitals who believe that the public does not appreciate the value of AAHA accreditation or know what it means.
And when pet owners start recognizing the value of a hospital's AAHA accreditation, more veterinary practices might invest in the programs, reports an AAHA-issued fact sheet on the campaign. The AAHA hospital accreditation system is designed to benchmark a standard of excellence that raises the level of care being provided to companion animals.
"Our research shows that pet owners care about accreditation," the AAHA fact sheet says. "After being educated about what AAHA accreditation means, eight out of 10 consumers say that AAHA accreditation is important and will be a factor the next time they select a veterinarian.
"... We are building a national AAHA brand around accredited hospitals that will benefit every member who chooses to demonstrate their commitment to the standards and prove the quality of care they're providing," the fact sheet adds.
According to the group’s Web site, AAHA serves roughly 6,000 practice teams in the United States and Canada. Nearly 3,000 total practice teams are accredited.
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