Smashing the “product is hero” mold a certain antidote to uninspired advertising

Bruce Lehman

As I reflect over my past several articles and review my comments on advertising in the device and diagnostic industry, I realize you may have the impression that I think there is a marked trend in this volatile and competitive industry: dreadful advertising. Actually, that’s only close to the truth.

I must admit, I’m not sure if I’ve ever come across so many players in an industry who voluntarily present themselves in such a uninspired way. You know the ads I am referring to. Ads with irrelevant headlines, stock and trade photography, overly technical copy and mundane graphics; ads that focus, if they have any focus at all, on the advertiser’s product, rather than the wants and needs of their customers.

Breaking the “product is hero” mold

In my last column I promised to bring you some examples of ads that do break out of the “product is hero” mold we are accustomed to seeing, ads that have:

* Strong visuals that have impact on the reader

* A sound message that is intellectually stimulating, and, most importantly, has points relevant to the wants and needs of the customer.

Well, it took a while, but sprinkled into the roughage of CAP Today and Clinical Lab Products, I did encounter three diamonds, three ads that clearly stood out among their counterparts. Let’s see if you agree:

Clinical Lab Products is a product-oriented publication, dedicated to informing the clinical laboratories about what’s new for the central lab. Clearly, ads in this publication focus on products, yet most have the tendency to bombard their reader with technical information and product breast beating, rather than appealing to their concerns about their work environment. Therefore, I was hit between the eyes when I came across this tabloid spread.

I am first drawn to a bold “48 hours” on the left page and a “48 minutes” on the right. Under the 48 hours is a culture dish with sample, and under the 48 minutes is some kind of test strip. Before I read any copy, I am already aware of the dramatic time savings I am getting by the test strip. And, as a laboratorian, I almost instantly see, without being told, that one of my traditional time- and labor-intensive analyses has been automated. The advertiser has addressed two of the three most important benefits a laboratorian would want. And has done it in an eye-catching split second. Bravo!

I then move to the subhead, “It won’t take you long to discover the benefits of our new DNA Probe test for vaginitis.” Instantly, my third concern as a laboratorian has been addressed. The fact that this diagnostic test relies on a DNA Probe reassures me of its accuracy and precision.

Chiming in with emotional chords

MicroProbe Corporation and/or its agency obviously knows that if you hit your customer’s emotional chord with the right message, that customer’s emotional wants and intellectual needs will enable the purchase to fall into place. The Affirm[R] VPIII Microbial identification Test ad is a winner in my book. I give it an A.

The next two ads I retrieved were from CAP Today. They are part of a series that addresses the needs of today’s pathologists. Pathologists, you see, have a lot on their minds, not the least of which is staying in control of the proliferation of point of care testing in their hospitals. Why is this important to them? Because under new CLIA regulations, it they don’t, they could get put out of business.

Blood glucose monitors permeated hospital floors years ago. As technology has almost miniaturized the instruments on which the test is run, making the test more and more convenient, government regulations that maintain controls on testing have become tougher and tougher. This turn of events has left the pathologist in an untenable position. Pathologists are not able to remove a highly popular and useful product off the nursing floors. But at the same time they do not have the resources to keep the testing within regulatory control.

Johnson & Johnson shows understanding of pathology issues

Clearly Johnson & Johnson’s company Lifescan understood the issues that pathologists face when they were designing their campaign for their One Touch II Hospital Blood Glucose Monitoring System. They have given us a series of visually pleasing and graphically consistent ads. The ads are editorially strong, informing the pathologist that they no longer have to choose between a rock and a hard place.

The first ad in Lifescan’s series focuses on the timeliness of getting regulatory required performance data. The headline reads, “Generate Q.C. Reports Faster Than You Can Say ‘Joint Commission On Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.'” The headline is simple and clear. Visually, it is the most noticeable part of the ad, as it takes up one-third of the page, and it is overprinted in a large red box. There is a simple product shot, and it’s small! The copy is straightforward, direct and double spaced, so the reader can actually read it.

Simplicity wins out

The second in Lifescan’s series concentrates on the simplicity of keeping track of the performance of systems in place in the hospital. Visually the ad is the same as its sibling, creating a cohesive series that can easily be recognized and appreciated by readers of CAP Today. The only information that has been altered is the headline, which reads “The Simplest Way To Monitor Your Monitors,” featuring a second issue concerning the pathologist.

My only criticism of Lifescan’s series is in their graphic execution, which I find to be somewhat flat and monochromatic. I don’t think it does justice to their message. Overall I give this series a B+.

MicroProbe Corp., J&J earn plaudits

Congratulations to MicroProbe Corporation and to Johnson & Johnson for a job well done. And thank you for giving me the refreshing opportunity to write the column for this issue. It was more of a challenge than I had planned, but I suppose that comes with the territory. Next time I’ll take a shot at a comparative analysis.

Bruce Lehman is president of Boston-based Lehman Millet Inc., an advertising and public relations agency specializing in health care accounts. Daring his 22 years in sales and marketing, Lehman has developed a keen eye and critic’s skills. His articles on health care advertising for device manufacturers appear as a regular feature of Health Industry Today.

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COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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