As an advertising agency specializing in ophthalmology, we’ve realized that there’s one thing most practices have in common. They are all very conservative when it comes to marketing. Most practices continue to focus on years in business, surgeon experience, technology and a caring staff. This is all great, but there is a problem. Every practice is saying exactly the same thing.
Our agency’s recommendation is to step outside of the box. There’s a huge world of creativity out there just waiting to be tapped. You just have to realize that being “creative” is not the same thing as “risky.”

The average American is bombarded with 3000 advertisements a day. It’s easy to get lost in this shuffle. Think about it. Which ads have you listened to in the past week that you remember? If you remember any, they probably consisted of cavemen, talking babies, and quacking ducks. Recently, we had a practice that wanted to get patients over their fear of LASIK surgery. They also wanted to do something a little different, a little more creative than your run of the mill “Hi, I’m Dr. Bob. Come see me for a free LASIK consultation.” They were in the market for something that would attract people’s attention. We used the chicken concept. This consisted of a tiny baby chick with the headline, “Chickens Welcome”. It was a huge hit in the area. Phones were ringing better than they had in months with no increase in the advertising budget, just a change in the creative approach. After a couple weeks, the practice received a letter from a very upset patient asking if it was true that their practice considered their patients “chickens”? The patient said that they found this ad very offensive and unnecessary. At this point, the doctor wanted to pull the campaign in an effort to not offend anyone else. This is an understandable feeling, but at the same time the results spoke for themselves. When the doctor saw the number of surgical patients who had called because of the chicken ads, he soon changed his mind. This campaign made his practice stick out like a sore thumb, and what happened? His volume exploded.

Any time you step outside of your comfort zone, you’re taking a risk. You might get some negative feedback from people that don’t understand where you’re coming from, or let’s face it, from people that don’t have a sense of humor. Our creative team knows if they create an ad campaign that they feel slightly apprehensive about presenting to the client, it’s probably going to be a great. You may want to create some sort of emotion in your ads. Remind them of the first time they fell in love; make them laugh to get over their fears. While emotion may seem a far stretch for ophthalmology, it is possible to bridge the two. One example is a cataract campaign we created named, These Eyes. It started off as “These eyes watched as man took his first steps on the moon. These eyes watched as my daughter took her first steps. These eyes watched as my son hit his first home run. These eyes watched until I lost my vision to cataracts.” Think about it. Everyone that is having cataract surgery most likely watched the moon landing. They remember their child walking and of course they know they lost their vision to cataracts. We hit on historical and emotional key points. This approach gets the patients interest immediately. Coke has done a great job branding itself emotionally. From their “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” days, to their most recent campaign, “Coke strives to remind you of your first sip every time.” A common mistake of most businesses is trying to reach the masses with the same ad. For example, many times I’ll see a practice running the same radio ad on a sports talk station as they run on a top-40 station. Does this make sense? Of course not. Create a commercial that appeals to the crowd listening. Also, not everyone is going to want what you are selling, so don’t waste your time trying to appeal to everyone. Appeal to the ones that will count. Appeal to the ones that will make your phones ring and keep your patient schedule booked.

We’ve encountered many clients that think if their ads aren’t serious, people won’t take them seriously. This is just not true. Although ophthalmology is a very serious business, you don’t have to evoke that tone all the time. It’s tired. It’s been done. People have seen so many white-coated doctors telling them to get LASIK or cataract surgery, that they will tune you out. Visuals are a great way to catch people’s attention. A striking image or animation will stay in your mind for days. There’s no point in spending so much on your advertising budget, only to drop the ball on production. I’ve seen many practices spend $50,000-plus on their TV budget, only to spend $500 on the production of their TV spot. In turn, they end up with a cheap looking spot that fails to produce phone calls and patients. Remember, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of cheap prices are long forgotten.”

I challenge each of our clients to take a risk. Remember, go out on a limb every once in a while, because that’s where the fruit is!

Written by SMM