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Kaiser Permanente's Thrive Campaign Reaches Milestone, Launches New Ads

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, October 23, 2009

The ads in the latest installment of Kaiser Permanente's "Thrive" campaign at first evoke thoughts of TV spots for a computer company or financial organization, rather than those of a healthcare organization.

The stunning visuals and topical content have propelled the commercials to go viral online—one of them, "Emerald Cities," has been viewed more than 5,000 times on YouTube. But the Oakland, CA-based organization's marketers will tell you that the ads' distinction is part of why the five-year branding campaign has achieved such success.

Kaiser launched the campaign in 2004 to differentiate the 35-hospital organization in the eight regions in which it operates. After conducting research on other healthcare organizations' messaging, marketers decided one way Kaiser could differentiate itself was to promote health as opposed to healthcare—reinforcing their emphasis on preventative care.

"Thrive is almost a public service message to the marketplace that says this isn't just about our Kaiser members—it's about the fact that we want our communities to thrive," says Debbie Cantu, vice president of brand marketing and advertising at Kaiser. "Everyone benefits when people are healthier. We ultimately started to evolve that message to talk more about the KP differentiators."

When creating the visual palate for the campaign, designers set out to craft realistic ads.

"We wanted to create real moments in people's lives where they're eating healthier or dancing or out mowing or just enjoying life," says Mark Simon, executive creative director at Campbell-Ewald, an agency based out of Detroit and Los Angeles. "We wanted that energy to come through."

The campaign consists of print, TV, radio, cinema, a microsite, social media, and outdoor, including billboards, cabs, bus sides, and public transit.

One of the difficulties in building a long-lasting branding campaign is the possibility that it will become outdated. Simon says he's had this obstacle in mind from the campaign's inception and he isn't afraid to tweak certain elements when necessary.

For example, in the early stages of the campaign, designers set certain keywords in a larger font than the rest of the text on the print and outdoor ads. It made sense during that time period, says Simon, but it is a style they no longer use.

"We're not talking a massive shift in art direction, but I just felt that if you look at how culture and style evolves it felt dated to me," he says. "It's not an earth-shattering revelation, but I think it's important in making sure that this campaign remains relevant, which is what Thrive is all about."

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