Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, the Philadelphia region's leader in brain rehabilitation, wanted to raise public awareness of their unique program.
So together we set out to create a campaign that is as bold and innovative as their approach to patient care. (See the campaign here.)
The prestigious health care publication, Strategic Health Care Marketing, recently featured the campaign in their June 2012 printed issue. Read the article below.
Can You Sell a Rehab Center with a Metaphor? One Hospital Decides It Can, Using a Low-Key, Visually Poetic TV Spot
By Peter Hochstein
Oh, the tribulations of excellence!
“We are inundated in the Philadelphia marketplace with fabulous health care,” Patti Monaco, senior vice president of account management for Mangos, a Malvern, PA, advertising agency, complains only half in jest.
Consequently, she says, health care competition is “in a word, fierce.” She adds, “It seems to be getting more and more competitive. We actually have in this community lots of choices – world-class all around, from children’s hospitals, to rehab facilities, to acute care.”
Any possible jesting aside, this competition was quite a challenge for 148-bed Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, a specialty hospital for physical and cognitive rehabilitation that was trying to differentiate itself from other rehab centers in the same market.
Adding to the problem, says Leighton McKeithen, director of marketing and communications at Bryn Mawr Rehab, “the market for [neurological] rehab services is really broad.” Examples range from a child or adolescent injured in a car accident, to an adult who has suffered a stroke to someone who has a traumatic brain injury resulting from a fall.
So how, with memorable impact and without breaking the bank, can you reach an audience of present and future decision makers for brain-injured patients? And who are those decision makers?
While health care professionals recommend where brain-injured patients should go for rehab, their families also play key roles in picking a rehab center, says McKeithen. He defines his target audience of decision makers as a woman, head of household, age 45 to 64.
He adds, “Women tend to be the primary decision makers for their families, whether [for] themselves, their spouses, their children, or their parents in many cases.”
Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s advertising uses only television and radio. “There’s no current print because we think the electronic media are the way to get the broadest coverage in this market,” McKeithen says. “That’s not to preclude print in the future, but we felt the wide reach of TV and radio is what we want at this point.”
The TV spot begins by showing a woman wearing a nightgown. It’s not immediately certain whether she is dreaming or drowning. Her eyes are closed. She seems to be suspended in a dark space, drifting in slow motion.
Then, after a few seconds, the camera reveals some bubbles and simmering light. It’s water! Mangos hired a top underwater cinematographer, Anthony Lenzo, to direct photography for the spot, says McKeithen.
Is the woman drowning? Only toward the end of the 30-second spot does the woman begin rising toward the surface, finally emerging from the water and opening her eyes. It’s all a metaphor for the recovery of a patient who has suffered a stroke or brain trauma.
Voiceover reinforces the metaphor. It asks, “How do you reawaken a brain that’s been traumatized by injury or stroke? Coax it back from the deep? Every brain has a mind of its own. Every person’s journey is different. So at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital we adapt, innovate, push. Because we know what a brain can do, how far a person can come, if we never give up.”
The visual concept doesn’t translate well to radio, but Mangos has found a way to make 30-second radio spots that substitute a bit of interactivity for the TV spot’s metaphoric photography.
One radio ad tells listeners, “Grab a pen. Now squeeze it. Imagine if you couldn’t – no matter how hard you tried – because the connection between your brain and body was broken by an injury or stroke.”
Another gets the audience to put itself in the place of someone whose vocabulary becomes confused and compromised. “What’s red, round, and grows on a tree? ‘Banana,’ right? Imagine if … you could picture an object but couldn’t name it due to a brain injury or stroke.”
To understand how brain-injured people and their families experience the condition, ad agency staff members did considerable homework. “We actually studied some recent cases like Bob Woodruff and Gabby Giffords,” Monaco says. The agency staff also read professional publications, spent time with the president of Bryn Mawr Rehab, and interviewed patients and their families extensively.
“We spent a lot of time trying to figure out how brain injury is different from, say, someone who may be going in and having a heart procedure,” Monaco says. Brain injury is “a very different type of situation with very different care. The family is that much more involved. It’s much longer-term.”
The Bryn Mawr Rehab campaign is broadcast primarily on TV and cable news shows, on radio during drive times, and on Pandora, an Internet radio service. McKeithen declines to reveal budget figures or gross rating points. However, he and Monaco leave the impression that their budget is modest.
Bryn Mawr has only one TV spot, which will run for 18 to 24 months. “We did not front-load the media plan. We came out at sustaining levels and hope to keep those levels going … so we won’t expect the needle to move dramatically right from the start,” McKeithen says. The objective, he adds, is “to build awareness over time.”
But the hospital will eventually learn what its modest budget buys. An online benchmark awareness study was completed through Bryn Mawr Rehab’s parent health system, Main Line Health. “We will be able to come back after the campaign has been running for a while and see [with a new study] how much we moved the needle,” Mckeithen says.
Peter Hochstein is a direct response advertising consultant, business journalist, and author. He can be reached through his website, http://peterhochstein.com.
Useful Insights from the Bryn Mawr Rehab Campaign Interviews
1. Sometimes you can be heard better if you whisper. “There’s so much noise out there that we felt a quiet, reflective, authentic piece of advertising could break through the clutter,” says Leighton McKeithen, the hospital’s marketing and communications director.
2. There is something to be said for authenticity. In the past, this column has reported on offbeat spots that tried to break through advertising clutter with quirky and surrealist visuals – including one that portrayed pregnant women on a conveyor belt. Not bad for getting attention, but there’s so much over-the-top advertising now that Mangos and Bryn Mawr Rehab took the opposite approach. “The thing that we feel strongest about with this advertising is that it’s very authentic,” says McKeithen. It is “derived from what we heard patients and their families tell us, and what our clinicians could reinforce as being an authentic presentation of someone recovering from a brain injury.”
3. Patients inspire creativity. Even if you’re not doing a patient testimonial campaign, extensive interviews with patients and their families can provide valuable insights. “The patient interviews were absolutely remarkable,” says Patti Monaco of Mangos. “One mother we spoke with … was full of information. Her daughter had gone through eight or nine months of rehab… She was able to talk about the entire journey. Starting from the day we visited the facility to today, when her daughter was being treated as an outpatient. She truly inspired our creative team.