||A Healing Touch From Hospitals
Some advertising agencies weathering the economic downturn are getting a shot in the arm from the most suitable of sources: hospitals.
In the first six months of 2011, advertising by American hospitals, clinics and medical centers rose 20.4 percent, to $717.2 million, from $595.5 million in the same period in 2010, according to the Kantar Media unit of WPP.
Advertising agencies increasingly are trying to quicken the pulse of consumers, who have come to expect ads with doctors in scrubs posing with impressive machinery, ad copy boasting of "skilled" doctors and "caring" nurses, and the latest ratings from U.S. News and World Report.
A new television commercial for Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, for example, features pedestrians on a busy sidewalk, and the text, "We can't help you with playoff tickets. We can't help you with co-op board approval, or getting your child into a preschool. But if it's really a matter of life and death -- we can help."
A print ad for the campaign, much of which celebrates the fact that the hospital has been around since 1857, has this headline: "We had cardiologists before the city even had arteries."
The campaign is by the New York advertising firm of DeVito/Verdi.
"We're looking to brand a hospital while breaking some of the clichés and unwritten rules of hospital marketing, like showing a building, showing pictures of the medical staff, or showing machines," said Andrew Brief, director of client services for DeVito/Verdi.
DeVito/Verdi also created a campaign for Mount Sinai Medical Center, which began running in 2003. Print ads featured patient success stories with catchy headlines such as "Ironic that a plumber came to us to remove a clog."
Also featuring patients' stories are television commercials introduced by New York-Presbyterian Hospital around the beginning of 2011. The campaign, by Munn Rabôt in New York, includes a spot featuring Heather McNamara, 9, in the commercial, who describes a lifesaving procedure when she was 7 to remove a baseball-size cancerous tumor.
Patient testimonials have become so popular in the last decade that some hospitals get their hearts -- and their heart clinics -- set on the approach.
"They say, 'We have really satisfied patients so why not use patient testimonials to tell our story?' " said Susana Cascais, managing director of Frank Unlimited, a Seattle agency whose local clients include the Group Health Cooperative and the Everett Clinic. "But we try as much as possible to steer our clients away from those clichés, because if you cover the logos in those ads, it could be anybody."
A billboard by the agency for Group Health last year, highlighting secure online medical records, read, "Helpful for when your wife yells, 'What is wrong with you?' " And a print ad, for the Everett Clinic about pediatric care and scheduled to be introduced on Sept. 26, reads, "We diagnose mumps, ear infections and Legos lodged in noses daily."
Also X-raying the funny bone is Bethesda Heart Hospital, in Boynton Beach, Fla., which recently ran billboards along I-95 in Boynton Beach and nearby Delray Beach, cities popular with retirees.
"Your heirs can wait," read one billboard; another, "Outlive your foursome."
Paul Amelchenko, the creative director at BFW Advertising in Boca Raton, Fla., which produced the ads, explained in an e-mail message that the strategy "was to focus on the benefit of the hospital (we help you live longer) versus the features that they have (great technology, world class physicians) that all other hospitals claim to have as well."
A television spot for the Mayo Clinic that began in August starts with a single firefly in the night sky, which gradually lights up with too many to count, and is accompanied by the voiceover, "You can make an appointment with one doctor -- or you can choose Mayo Clinic, where a team of experts works together for you."
The campaign -- by Campbell Mithun in Minneapolis, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies -- includes a similar spot with paper lanterns multiplying in the night sky.
Reid Holmes, executive creative director at Campbell Mithun, said an institution as well regarded as the Mayo Clinic need not "prove its performance ability." Instead, spots highlight the collaborative approach of the doctors and the fact that -- with facilities in Minnesota, Arizona and Florida -- it is more accessible than consumers may think.
"The reputation that the Mayo Clinic has is its own proof point," said Mr. Holmes. "But a predominant misperception in many ways is either, 'I'm not dire enough to need them,' or, 'I'm just a regular dude and I can't get access to them.' " The ads, he continued, demonstrate "that anyone can get an appointment at Mayo."
At UPMC, which is based in Pittsburgh and operates 20 hospitals, some current commercials and online-only videos take the unusual approach of de-emphasizing hospital care. The spots, which feature people who are not actors, highlight efforts like a college scholarship program.
The videos are part of a broader campaign, called "Life Changing Medicine," started late last year by Grey New York, part of the Grey Division of the Grey Group, which is owned by WPP.
"When looking at building the brand of the hospital, this organization goes beyond just the hospital and beds," said Dean Walters, a marketing vice president for UPMC. "What consumers don't usually see is the tremendous giveback to the community that UPMC makes."
(Source: The New York Times, 09/13/11)
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