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Emotional Advertising is Still Most Effective

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, May 12, 2010

Every so often someone will ask me if I have a favorite hospital ad. If asked the same question about a song or movie, I might spend eons internally debating the attributes of one versus another. But with hospital ads, the same one floats to the top of my mind every time.

My favorite ad is a TV spot from Abington (PA) Memorial Hospital's 2008 "Power to Heal" campaign. I almost don't want to summarize it here, because that will ruin the effect. If at all possible, click here to view the "Abington Batter" commercial.

But if you're absolutely unable to watch it now, here's the synopsis. The ad is narrated by a teenage baseball player, who describes the memory of his mother receiving cancer treatment at Abington Hospital when he was younger. As sad piano music plays in the background, he laments that he remembers when his mom and dad would sit together in the stands, but now it's just his dad. But then comes the twist: His mother is not there because she is at his brother's track meet. "Hope he's winning," the batter laughs, as the music becomes more uplifting. "Because we're not."

If you want to watch more, the "Abington Teacher" and "Abington Runner" spots are great, too.

The most memorable thing about this ad is the ride it takes you on, which doesn't happen often in healthcare advertising. Some organizations fear that such a tactic would shock and alienate their audience, but it works here. I also appreciate the bit of humor at the end and the focus on positive outcomes. But the real reason I remember this ad two years after I first saw it is the way it made me feel when I first watched it.

And I'm not the only one. Emotional advertising resonates with consumers. This fact isn't news, but what surprises me is how few hospitals use emotional advertising consistently.

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