The TV spot begins on an ominous note. "This time last year, Jack was diagnosed with high cholesterol." Zoom to an empty chair surrounded by family members sharing a holiday dinner. "He thought he was fine. He wasn't."
Turns out ads like this one—for http://MyHeartKit.com/, an unbranded campaign for Lipitor (atorvastatin)—are so effective because they tug at the heart strings of consumers. Agencies are now hoping to leverage this approach by tapping behavioral psychologists to instill fear, hope, and humor in their ads—though the results have not all been as stellar as the Lipitor spot, which was created by Unit 7.
How should companies gauge the level of emotion to use in advertising?
SPELLMAN: Companies should be modulated. We know from public health campaigns that the formula that works best is fear plus hope.
The most successful messaging in the history of public health was directly emotional. There was an HIV campaign a while back where literally the specter of death—the grim reaper—is shown at the beginning of the ad: a direct, honest, emotional confrontation that communicates that what's at stake is life and death. And the answer—the hope—is HIV testing.
I'm not saying you should bring the grim reaper into a cholesterol ad—but the point is that the ad was very emotional, with a direct appeal both to fear and to hope.
How does Unit 7 tie emotion into its DTC campaigns?
You're talking about the unbranded Lipitor campaign, right?
SPELLMAN: Yes. The ad starts out at a Christmas dinner, and there's an empty chair shown at the beginning—the point being that the head of the table is vacant.
BABCOCK: The empty chair gives the viewer that moment of understanding that it could be them who is not there one day. Our job was to get people to reassess—either that what they're currently doing may be wrong or that they are doing nothing at all.