Let's face it, there's a time and a place for the "before and after" bariatric surgery campaign. That time isn't now—at least not for the team at St. Joseph Health System. St. Joseph, located in Lexington, KY, saw the before and after approach and thought, "been there, done that." Setting out to find a more effective approach, they discovered just how touching, truthful, and successful the emotional side of bariatric surgery could be.
The lesson came straight from St. Joseph's patients. "With candidates for weight loss surgery, it's not just something they decide to do overnight," says Steve Castle, vice president of St. Joseph's agency, D S Tombras in Nashville, TN. "What we found through the interview process is that people really just wanted their lives back. This campaign focused on the wants that they couldn't fulfill anymore because of their weight."
The multi-media campaign, coined the "I want campaign," is based on testimonials about the wants and needs of a bariatric patient. The messages, particularly in the TV spots, are simple and relatable.
"We had an amazing turnout at our casting call and were able to learn from the actors we featured as well," says Bill Seymour, senior vice president at D S Tombras. "Sometimes we just let the talent speak on their own about how they felt about their current situations. It's rare that you end up taking creative direction from the people that you're casting which is an indication of how enthusiastic people were about the message."
The day after the launch of the campaign, St. Joseph had 20 walk-ins—up from the one or two they had been seeing each month.
To support the campaign, St. Joseph set up informational seminars—all of which were filled and some of which required increased capacity based on the positive jump in response.
The campaign was also used for facilities across six different markets, including Los Angeles, Houston, Orlando, Tampa, Phoenix, and Nevada. In each market, the campaign tracked 3–5 times more responses that the facilities had previously seen.
"This campaign got great results," says Castle. "It was almost like people felt like they were supporting a cause. They had voice."