Redemptive Advertising: How Digital Ads Can Make a Positive Impact
“You mean we should do TikTok dances?”
That’s the response I often get when I start to talk with many of our clients about enhancing their digital strategies. I get it; digital advertising has become such a noisy force in the world that the idea of using it for something good like health care marketing strikes many as odd.
It’s admittedly weird that the same tools being used to sell nonstick pans could be a way to help people make better health choices. But for now (and likely years to come), reaching people in their digital spaces can be the most effective way to make an impact.
We help clients reach their audiences, and that often includes some element of digital advertising. Over the past couple of years, our agency has moved more and more into healthcare marketing, and it’s been awesome to see how a little creativity (and amazing clients) can lead to powerful results. More on that in a minute.
While digital marketing for the sake of selling more widgets is certainly not all bad or immoral, I do think it’s not only possible but effective to also use our strengths as marketers to identify and help people in crisis. I like to think of this as redemptive digital advertising.
So what makes a digital campaign ‘redemptive’?
These are broad guidelines rather than hard-and-fast rules, but I think for a digital campaign to be redemptive, there should be three general qualities:
- The service being marketed helps people in crisis
- The ads help reach the audience in a new place they aren’t used to
- The digital tools reduce friction for people to get the help they need
I’ve seen this approach make a real difference in people’s lives in a number of ways, but there are a couple of use cases that stand out:
Example 1: Suicide support through search ads
One of our amazing clients is a nonprofit called TheHopeLine which started as a way to support listeners of the Dawson McAllister Live radio show, and "has now become one of the world's premiere resources for students and young adults in crisis. In 2020 alone, TheHopeLine received 3.3 million visits while completing 9,902 live chats and 1,564 suicide interventions.”
TheHopeLine came to us with a very interesting and specific question: How do we reach more people who are contemplating suicide to get them the help they need?
So we put together a strategy to target keywords in google searches around the ideas of depression, suicide and mental health, and our campaigns have had a huge impact: Just last month, 8,000 more people found help by chatting with a trained support person.
I look at our clients' ad investments all the time to make sure that the money they’re spending is being used wisely to get results, but this may be the best ROI I’ve ever seen: for every 46 cents invested, the campaigns connect a person in crisis to the help they need.
Example 2: Getting people to the emergency room faster
I have two young kids and have therefore made more emergency room trips than I would have ever hoped for. Once when my son was only months old, he passed out after getting out of the bath and my wife and I couldn’t tell if he was breathing. We jumped in the car and drove like crazy people to the ER – praying and speeding all along the way. Luckily, he was fine. But I’ll never ever forget that frenzied feeling. I was manic and focused all at once. I knew I needed to drive, but could hardly remember where the hospital was – much less the fastest way to get there.
(Our hospital clients would definitely want me to point out that I should have called an ambulance in the above example instead of driving. Please don’t take this as my advice for when you should call 911 and when you should get in the car. That’s not my specialty.)
But when we identified an opportunity for one of our hospital clients to get more people through the ‘front door’ of ER service, we saw a lot of potential in digital. This particular health system happens to be located in the fast-growing area of Williamson County, Tennessee, where the new folks increasingly outnumber the long-time locals.
Remembering what it was like in that frenzied state, we came up with two interesting ways to help people get to the ER quickly when they need to:
Idea #1: Send people a simple magnet with a directional QR code that gives directions to the hospital.
Idea #2: Use search advertising to get people directions quickly.
When we designed this landing page for our emergency room campaign, we tried hard to not overthink it. This page is designed to do one thing for people in crisis – get them directions quickly. When they click on the “get directions” button, it opens the maps app on their phone and they’re immediately on their way.
Digital marketing can do a lot more than sell widgets. As marketers, we should find ways to serve people in crisis with creativity and efficiency to get them the help they need as quickly as possible.