Why sledgehammers don’t cut it in medical device advertising – advertising for less invasive surgery apparatus

Why sledgehammers don’t cut it in medical device advertising – advertising for less invasive surgery apparatus – Advertising Strategies

Bruce Lehman

For a year, now, we’ve been talking about what makes advertising good. We’ve talked about the differences between the feature set and the benefit set, and noted that features are only valuable if they deliver a benefit to the customer.

We’ve noted that people make decisions intellectually, based upon recognizing a need and logically analyzing data in order to determine what the need is, and what must happen to fulfill the need. But we’ve also made a distinction between needs and wants and posed the hypothesis that people buy emotionally, based upon their wants.

The benefit set of any product or service must align itself with a prospective buyer’s emotional wants for advertising to truly be effective. What does effective mean? Delivering the desired response.

Well, in preparation for this latest article for Health Industry Today, I decided to take a quick journey through the mainstay journals of surgery to see if anyone promoting tools for less invasive surgery–some of the hottest product lines in health care–have been listening. The answer is, apparently not.

Most ads take you back to the 1950s or 1960s

If you want to get a good feel for what industrial advertising was like in the 1950s or 1960s, just flip through the pages of one of these surgical journals. For the most part, it’s obvious that the companies have not paid much attention to me, and they haven’t paid much attention to their own televisions and magazines either. The advertisements found in these journals are classic examples of the old sledgehammer, sales and technology driven approach: show the product, name the product, tell the reader what the product does, literally, and make sure you don’t place any trust in the reader’s imagination.

Operative Cholangiography: The Taut Advantage, reads one.

Elevating the Art of Endoscopic Surgery. Experience Nezhat-Dorsey. A Better Way? reads another.

The Cutting Edge in Safety and Security.

Introducing the Movement to Faster, Easier and Safer Open Laparoscopy.

MINORAX |TM~ Gives You the Best of All Worlds.

Generation II All-In-One Hand Control.

The Moss |R~ G-Tube PEG Kit Has It All.

And finally, in the most mundane example of them all: Laparoscopic Introducer Set? reads yet another, apparently forgetting or ignoring the fact that there are several other companies in the market that also offer laparoscopic introducer sets.

Yes, these are all headlines. And all are guaranteed to be found on top of, under or around pictures of products. Boring? You bet. Ordinary? That’s self-evident. Effective? Well, if the companies producing these ads have a sales organization to do the job that the ads are attempting to do, or if they simply want to make sure that they are completely lost in the clutter of their readers’ minds, I would have to say that these ads are definitely effective. But as vehicles which uniquely position their products, and begin to capture and retain even a small share of the minds of their prospective customers, I don’t think they are effective.

Linvatec using effective ad campaign

Is there any relief in sight? I did, in fact, come across an ad campaign which boldly (everything is relative, right?) embarks upon a path pointedly ignored by all the others.

This is Linvatec’s new campaign for its line of endoscopic surgical instruments. The lead ad in this campaign has the components that make good advertising good: a visual that jumps off the page, and draws in the reader. It includes an extremely well done photographic composite of a gloved surgeon’s hand holding a standard surgical clamp which extends from a typical endoscopic surgical tool handle. The headline reads:

Our New Line of Weck |R~ Surgical Instruments Brings the Feel of Open Surgery to Endoscopy.

You get the message in a second. And the message is not only relevant to the reader, it’s compelling. Even more surprising, the body copy carries through the impact. It isn’t heavy, stilted or loaded with techno-talk. It is very readable, and quickly readable, as it simply and elegantly makes its point:

Weck Endoscopy instruments capture that hands-on feel for endoscopic surgery. The same sensitivity you’ve learned to expect from a century of Weck expertise in fine surgical instruments. Patterns include Babcock tissue forceps and Metzenbaum scissors, to name a few. To feel the difference, call Linvatec.

Then there are a simple visual line-up of instrument heads at the bottom and the logo. What a relief! It’s a wonderful example of leveraging the halo and equity of a known name in the category to extend into the category’s hottest new segment.

Second Linvatec ad translates the benefit

Supporting the campaign is a second ad promoting a specific product line and innovative feature. But unlike its mundane counterparts, this feature is translated for the reader right into a benefit.

The Feel of Open Surgery. Delivered With The 360 |degrees~ Rotation Endoscopic Surgery Demands.

The visual, formatted identically to the campaign’s lead ad, is a crisp, striking, tight photograph of the key component of the instrument the headline is talking about. Again, the body copy is short, to the point, and elegant in style and tone. It starts with a simple grabber:

Starting today, we’re taking the contortions out of endoscopic surgery.

I want to add that both of these ads also take full advantage of two other key aspects of effective advertising: size and position. Both are spread ads (demonstrated to be geometrically more effective than single page), and both have bought inside cover pages.

Now, I’m not quite prepared to say that this campaign is groundbreaking stuff. But for the context in which it is seen, the campaign is certainly mind-opening and fresh. The ads meet the often constrictive requirements of product management that has to have a picture of the product and an emphasis on the feature set. But they both do it in a creative way, giving their reader the respect for both analytical and metaphorical senses that any individual desires and deserves.

Bruce Lehman is president of Lehman Millet Inc., Boston. He has developed his keen eye and critic’s skills during his 22 years in the business of sales and marketing. His articles on health care advertising for the device manufacturer appear as a regular feature in Health Industry Today.

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