How Do You Get a Rough, Tough “Man’s Man” to Overcome His Angst and Get a Colorectal Screening? Maybe with Direct Response Advertising

March 21, 2017

Notable Healthcare Advertising

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter Hochstein

In the Champlain Valley of upstate New York, where the nearest big city is Plattsburgh, population just short of 20,000, and the prevailing ethos is blue collar, 300-bed Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital had a problem.

“ When you think of the kind of male who lives in that marketplace, they’re kind of rough guys,” says Mark Shipley, CEO and strategy director of the hospital’s advertising agency, Smith & Jones, in Troy, New York.

“A lot of them served in the armed forces,” Shipley says about the local male population. “A lot of them work outdoors. They generally aren’t afraid of things, but when you talk to them about getting a colonoscopy, it’s worse than going to war,” he adds.

Mark Shipley, CEO and strategy director, Smith & Jones

Mark Shipley, CEO and strategy director, Smith & Jones

“They’ll go out there and chop down a tree. They’ll suit up and go to Afghanistan. But they won’t go to the doctor to take a simple test to find out if they potentially have a problem that is in almost all cases curable.”

The primary objection that men raised was preparation for colorectal exams, a disagreeable process usually involving heavy doses of laxatives. One suspects there was also anxiety, articulated or not, about somebody sticking a tube containing a camera and jetting puffs of air up there. Women, trust me, it’s a major guy thing.

The hospital was concerned. Not only was this a health issue, but thanks to an affiliation with the nearby University of Vermont Health Network, they now had a board-certified colorectal surgeon who could treat any cases of colon cancer that the screenings revealed. So the problem was how to persuade men over 50 to get screened.

Smith & Jones recommended a two-sided approach: radio advertising to men, and a direct response package that enabled doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners to put referral cards for colorectal exams in their patients’ hands.

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