Laughing it up in the ER

As I was endangering drivers on I-26 last week looking at billboards, one actually made me laugh out laud. And I’d seen it before. For months.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, that’s a good billboard.

I love Lexington Medical Center’s simple Urgent Care series, which features familiar quotes that often precede daily bumps and bruises. My favorite is “Oh, it’s not THAT heavy,” which you can catch on I-26 or Sunset Blvd. near the hospital. Its makes me think of poor Uncle Bobby icing his back after a gamely attempting to lift one of my overloaded suitcases.

Lexington Medical Center is no stranger to Addy Awards and other accolades from the advertising community. But what makes this campaign brilliant is its use of humor.

C’mon, people, we’re talking about an EMERGENCY ROOM. Think of the marketing challenges of creating positive associations with an urgent care center! The last time I was at an emergency room, I was in the throes of an allergic reaction. Time before that: food poisoning. With its garish lights, needles, antiseptic and atmosphere of sickness, this is not a place where I like to spend my time. And still, they’ve won me over.

The natural tendency in marketing an urgent care center would be to rely on fear. After all, following an ambulance to the hospital is a parent’s worst nightmare. I can see the commercials now: slow-motion shots of ambulance lights, followed by an exchange of worried looks between parents, and ending with a dramatic shot of a child’s mangled bike in the road. Tagline: “When it counts, doesn’t your family deserve the best urgent care? Lexington Medical Center.”

Horrible, isn’t it? To pull people around like that? Oh, I’m sure parents would notice. They’d go running after their children with bike helmets — maybe encourage them to come inside and play a nice board game. The call to action is the same, but everyone feels bad in the process. And quite frankly, I think there’s enough fear in the world today without marketers adding to melee.

Instead, Lexington Medical Center opted for humor. Another great billboard in the campaign says something along the lines of “Hey, watch this!” It captures the spirit and triumphs of childhood, while reassuring parents that their kids will bounce back after learning the lessons of gravity. These quick messages complement the billboard medium and allow drivers to fill in their own memories. For me, “Hey, watch this!” elicits images of elaborate trampoline flips. These gymnastic feats are great memories — literally some of the highest points of the my sixth grade year — and I’ll always be glad that my parents swallowed their fear and let me embrace them.

After all, odds are that someone we love will end up in the emergency room with a broken arm or a need for stitches. And most of them hobble out, a little wiser, to continue vibrant lives. Emergency rooms don’t need to be the den of drama we see on TV — they can help us through the physical setbacks that come with being human … and even make us smile, apparently!

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