What Can Negativity Do for Your Advertising? At the University of Rochester Medical Center, Talking About “The Bad Stuff” Is Doing Lots of Good

May 7, 2019

Notable Health Care Advertising

// By Peter Hochstein //

Peter HochsteinHere’s a powerful technique for building emotion into your advertising. If you dare to use it.

Advertisers in almost any business — and the advertising agencies that service them — usually hate negativity. They look for emphasis on the upbeat. They like to portray, as the ancient cliché goes, “happy people with happy problems.”

But in Rochester, New York, the University of Rochester Medical Center (which we’ll hereafter call by its initials, URMC) and an advertising agency called Antithesis have carved out an exception to the rule against downbeat advertising. They’ve reshaped the hospital’s brand by frequently conjuring up negative statements and images, at least at the beginning of much of its advertising. And they have the research to show it has worked.

The URMC campaign grew out of close collaboration between the co-owners of Antithesis, director of client services Larry Kleehammer, creative director Kent Joshpe, and their client Karl Withers, who is URMC’s associate vice president of marketing. All three had previously worked for the Rochester office of Saatchi & Saatchi, the international advertising conglomerate, which closed the office in 2005.

Here’s how it happened.


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