An Odd TV Campaign Cuts Through The Clutter In Healthcare Marketing

A few weeks back, I wrote that I was embarrassed to be a part of the advertising industry because of the silly strike that agencies overseas organized to limit the number of agencies that clients invited to pitches.  My industry has now redeemed itself, and of course it is through the work.

I saw the new TV campaign for Gonai-f fertility drug and was amazed not only by the spots, but by the fact that the advertiser isn’t even mentioned in the spots.  Instead, the spots drive you to a branded website ( that can help couples who suffer from infertility problems find a fertility specialist through an online directory that provides results based on the zip code you enter.  On that site is where you’ll find information about Gonai-f.  It’s subtle, but it’s there.  In fact, the site really works hard to NOT sell and instead seeks to inform and help.  Plus, there’s a “share” button included with each spot so friends of those who suffer can forward them the spots quickly, easily and privately.

This unusual way to sell a product is matched by the unusual way they make their pitch.  Normally pharmaceutical ads, like most hospital ads, start with people who are concerned about something, then introduce the product and explain how it works to solve their problem, and then ends with happy people whose problems have been solved.  Blah, blah, blah.  Sure, if you have the problem, you might listen.  And if you are one of the people who is frustrated with your inability to conceive, then you might just respond to any basic message that offers hope.

But “typical” drug advertising (and hospital advertising) typically does nothing to separate the product from its competitors.  Indeed, that distinction is hard to make, particularly when drugs (and hospitals) really do the same things.

So this campaign separates itself not by claims of superiority, but rather by resonating in funny (if not odd) human ways with the frustration and embarrassment couples face when in this predicament.

The spots feature an extremely “normal” couple that could be friends with anyone, except that he is in a bee costume and she is in a bird costume.  The thing is, they don’t seem to know it.  They are discussing their problem like anyone else would, talking about how often they make love (or, “have sex” as she puts it often), how many different tips they have followed from the various friends who try to help them, how unfair it is that a couple in love like them cannot conceive, etc.  And they do it all with a straight face.

Fortunately, I have three kids (yes, they’re mine) so I’ve never experienced this problem.  Despite that, I couldn’t help but watch the spots.  If I knew someone who was suffering from this, I would tell them about the site — not because I’m in advertising, but because it’s very memorable and should, at the least, put a smile on that person’s face.  At least, I think so.

I’m very interested to know how couples suffering from fertility issues will react to the campaign.  I hope it’s favorable, because the effort and the guts of the advertiser deserve some success here.

Which brings me to my point about healthcare advertising in general.

Advertising is supposed to stand out.  It’s not just presenting a message so people know you exist; rather, it’s about carving out a spot in the brains of your audience so that your company, products, and/or services are top of mind when the time comes for you to satisfy a need they may have.  To do this, we must take chances.  We must find unique ways to stand out.  And we must be memorable.

While it’s sad to me that most of my industry’s work (including some work from my own agency) is designed to simply toss our clients’ hats into the ring of competitors (often on the insistence of client-side advertising managers who don’t want to rock the boat with their superiors in an economy where jobs are hard to find), it’s refreshing to see an agency take some pretty major chances.

Rather than throwing their client’s hat in the infertility drug ring, this agency created a whole new ring.  Bravo.

So go ahead and push the envelope.  Push your agencies to present your story in a memorable way.  And have no fear.  As this campaign demonstrates, there are others out there with much larger problems than a boss who thinks your ads are too different.


  1. April 15, 2010

    Charles –
    We met at a lunch roundtable (social media) at the SHSMD conference in FL last year.

    Love this article and it is so true of healthcare as an industry. Always predictable, conservative and sadly boring in most cases. I’m happy to say that I have really worked to get our hospital to go beyond that. It has been a huge struggle with both management and our staff. Their expectation is to feature technology or actual employees on the job. Fortunately our market research shows our quirky/humorous advertising approach does indeed resonate with consumers so I’ve managed to stay the course for now. Check out our spots:

    Keep the great articles coming!

    • April 15, 2010

      Well done Becky. Glad to see it wasn’t the same old, same old. I trust the reaction has been good. I know these are on YouTube, but did you embed them in other places? I couldn’t find them elsewhere, which is troublesome. They need to be seen to have an impact, so get it out there where ever you can — eblasts, blogs, comments to local media stories about mammograms, ED waiting times, medical records (you provide links back to the site). Your Facebook page has these under videos, but you should also embed them in the Wall and ask for comments. Remember, every person who you reach via Social Media is free. And when you get right down to it, whether someone sees the spots on TV or on the internet is irrelevant — except the internet costs less.
      Oh, but don’t forget to give viewers a chance to subscribe, just like your YouTube page.