RBS Ad Report Card: VCU Hospital’s strong dose of scary

lawyercriticalcareThe ad’s goal is is to make sure people know that the new $184 million facility is available, but might the ads just be too darn depressing?

The spot:

“Every day in Virginia, babies will be born prematurely. People will suffer life-threatening burns,” a stiff female narrator says. “Many will suffer sudden or unexpected heart attacks or stroke. Others will be diagnosed with advanced stages of cancer. None of those people will be prepared for what is going to happen to them. But we are.”

The video shows people who never saw it coming: the expectant couple, the fire fighter rushing to a blaze, what looks like a lawyer loosing his tie at the end of a long day, a 50-something woman at home and a family of four in their driveway.

When I first saw the commercial for VCU Medical Center’s brand-new Critical Care Hospital, I lost the will to keep watching TV. I could be horribly burned on the way to the office or wake up to discover I had cancer. Or I could loosen my tie one afternoon and have a heart attack. So what’s the point?

But if something terrible does happens to me, I sure want to be in this new facility. Heck, if I get a splinter, I want to be treated there. I’ve heard they have flat-screen TVs.

The ad’s goal, says Marcos Irigaray, vice president of strategy and marketing at the medical center, is to make sure people know that the new facility is available. “We’re here with this type of resource because you never know when something is going to happen,” he says.

The ads starting running in August and include a similar print and public radio campaign. I’ve spotted the campaign in Richmond magazine and, I believe, Style Weekly. Irigaray would not say how much the hospital is spending.

I hope they won’t be depressing enough to send people to the critical center for psychiatric treatment. Most ads feature attractive people enjoying themselves with a given product, or something symbolic of a product, such as the guy with ED throwing a football through a tire.

Nothing symbolic here. The theme of the video, as well as the magazine and radio spots, is that the $184 million hospital is there when the unexpected (read: bad stuff) happens.

The print spots are less disconcerting, and like the TV spot feature locals. The fire fighters are actual Richmond first responders, according to Susan Dubeque, a partner with Neathawk Dubuque & Packett, which produced the spots.

“One of the things we know from consumer testing is that if you startle and frighten and turn off people too much, they will turn you off,” she said. The firm wanted to “hit people at a level within people’s comfort zone they could relate to.”

According to Glenn Leshner, a communications professor and the author or a recent study about the efficacy of scary ads, viewers turn out dire and disgusting ads because they sense danger and instinctively retreat.

Grade: A-. I’m not so sure this ad isn’t slightly too depressing for the majority of viewers, and I’m still not sure what, exactly, constitutes critical care. The music also sounds like an HR training video. But it’s memorable and clear. And I like that the actors are local. I can imagine people watching TV all across Richmond and turning to whomever is on the couch next them to say, “Well, that’s good to know.”

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