TV Spots for a Women’s Hospital Took Audiences by Surprise, Then the #MeToo Movement Provided Another Powerful Boost

March 17, 2020

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinSuccessfully building awareness of the complete range of services at a women’s hospital began with a new approach to an old advertising technique.

There was something unexpectedly disarming about the advertising that began appearing on air and on the internet late in 2016 in the Upstate New York Capitol Region, an area that encompasses Albany, Troy, Schenectady, and Saratoga.

Sharon Lawless, vice president of client relations for Smith and Jones

Sharon Lawless, vice president of client relations for Smith and Jones

The ads were for the 128-bed Bellevue Women’s Center, part of the 438-bed Ellis Medicine hospital system. Women of various ages, some young, some middle-aged or older, some informally dressed, others not, offered answers to the question “What’s different for women?”

Their answers, actually scripted and spoken by a selection of actors, were easily identifiable to many other women. They ranged from brief discussions of getting paid less for doing the same job as men, to lighthearted mentions of “having fabulous hair” to lots of health-related issues. “Getting a doctor to take me seriously” was one. Breast cancer got a mention. So did uterine and ovarian cancer.

Unique Visual Context

What was disarming about the advertising was the visual context. Audiences could see women walk through a film studio to stand in front of a seamless white paper background for their interviews. From time to time, there were glimpses of people behind the camera in the darkened space adjacent to the brightly lighted no-seam. The technique created the same kind of fascination that an audience might have with a magician who purports to reveal how he’s doing a trick while he does it. You might guess that showing how it’s done would take the magic out of it, but instead it’s riveting.

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