SHSMD Spectrum Newsletter

Resuming Advertising During COVID-19

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The following question and answers come from posts on SHSMD’s online discussion groups.* Join the conversation at

Q. As our market begins to open back up from COVID-19 and we begin to restart non-pandemic-related advertising, we continue to face questions about using face masks in our creative. Our ads were developed a year or so ago and obviously don't feature patients/staff wearing face masks. We’re wondering if any other health care marketing teams are beginning to develop new advertising assets to better match the current atmosphere.

A. We’re facing the same issue. Senior management wants to make sure we are "walking our talk" in our advertising, which I agree with. I recently did a photoshoot with a caregiver and a child, and it was disastrous. No matter what we tried, the photos all looked scary. This was for a "don't delay care, come in to see us" campaign. The images were anything but welcoming. We even tried asking the the photo subjects to smile, but you can’t tell someone is smiling through a face mask.

A. I'm with an agency and one of our clients likes to “walk the talk,” too. We were careful to photograph clinicians in face masks and full PPE where it made sense, but we did take many shots with their masks pulled slightly down and shot a lot of "smiling eyes." The client chose a blend of those options as it helped find a balance between scary, approachable and appropriate in order to tell a story.

A. As you work to help consumers feel safe to return to hospitals, remember what created their fears: the imagery of hospitals under attack. Our recent conversations with consumers underscored the importance of showing, not telling, what today's reality looks like in hospitals. Consumers need to see that care is happening in a positive, safe environment. 

A. As part of our recovery efforts to get consumers back into the hospital after the initial COVID-19 response, we launched an omnichannel campaign called "We're Ready for You" as a positive messaging platform encouraging them to come in (don't delay) and get their health care needs met. As part of that we wanted to not just "tell" our consumers what we were doing to make it safer but to be more impactful to "show" them and give them a sense of what to expect when they arrived on our campus, including caregivers wearing masks. 

A. We're shooting new photography and some new video for our social media and digital channels. They will see us in our new attire and it's important they are ready for it. We've done some fun photos of clinical staff wearing regular medical masks, and we've done some using see-through mouth pieces. We’ve also done some with staff in full PPE. The work we're doing now is so incredibly important. Now is the time for our teams to shine. ​

*The answers to the above questions are excerpts from MySHSMD discussions. In some instances the responses have been edited for grammar and/or brevity purposes for Community Connections.


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