A Mower Healthcare Campaign Reaps Big Rewards

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Cover image for  article: A Mower Healthcare Campaign Reaps Big Rewards

Chris Steenstra and her team were faced with an important yet challenging task. The Account Director and Chief Administration Officer at the Mower agency wanted to inspire young adults to consider a career as a long-term care provider. It's the type of occupation that, even in the best of pre-COVID times, calls for immense compassion and patience without a lot of pay.

Mower was the agency of choice to launch a campaign that would recruit and also train long-term care providers. "Our client, Iroquois Healthcare Association, an Albany, New York-based association of upstate hospitals, was designated as a workforce investment organization and received special New York State funding," Steenstra explained.

The recruitment campaign, named Caring is Your Calling, supported a new brand called Caring Gene®. And a grant from New York State helped bankroll it. "The funding was allocated because of the severe shortage of long-term care providers, especially at the entry caregiver level -- certified nursing assistants, home health aides and personal care assistants," she said. "There is a dire shortage with an aging population, not just in New York State but across the country."

Mower started by conducting some primary research among the target audience. "We talked to long-term caregivers who are very successful, very happy, very good at what they do, and teased out what their motivation was," Steenstra recalled.

The agency wanted to know what led them into the field. What gets them out of bed in the morning? Why do they love it knowing how hard it is? "It's such a demanding career," she said. "It's very physical. It's not very glamorous. It certainly doesn't pay very well, especially in the beginning, although there is a career ladder."

Mower discovered a behavioral gem in the research findings. "There are some people that have this desire to care for others," Steenstra explained. "They want to be helpful. They're nurturing. They just want to help people, and so for them, there's no other job that would be as fulfilling, money aside, difficulties aside.

"Long-term care -- nursing homes, assisted living and so on -- is an area of healthcare where a caregiver can really build a relationship with the patient and the resident," she continued. "It's not like at a hospital where you're in and out -- or primary care where you're in and out. Caregivers really get to know the residents, or the people that they're caring for in their homes."

With that insight, Mower developed the Caring Gene® brand, and that became the centerpiece for a statewide multimedia campaign that included "radio, television, out of home, digital -- the full spectrum of media to target that audience of primarily 18 to 34 year olds and even more, 18 to 24s who were just starting their careers, maybe just coming out of high school," Steenstra added.

The initiative had three phases. Phase one was launched about a year before the pandemic with several different iterations of TV spots and other assets. Once COVID hit, the message had to be re-crafted as a call-to-action. "There was this whole other reason to get involved in healthcare," Steenstra said. "We would have been tone deaf if we had just continued with the current campaign. That's when we pivoted and launched the Caring Is Your Calling [messaging]."

Mower took a cue from the World War II icon Rosie the Riveter and messaging on vintage posters that were meant to rally civilians into action. "The whole look and feel of that second phase of the campaign was much more urgent," Steenstra noted. "We had a new TV spot, all new creative, which was really in the moment and talked about becoming a healthcare hero." This second version of the campaign performed very well.

At that point, "we had two years and two different campaigns worth of data and insight on how they performed, especially on social channels like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Reddit," she recalled. "We were able to see what was resonating."

Mower recognized some attributes of the target audience. They were into pop culture. A lot of them were into hip-hop. They were playing games online. So, in the third iteration of the campaign, Mower pivoted to a very different approach. The third iteration became the "Dance Campaign."

The agency created a series of eight different videos featuring groups of caregivers in different dance scenarios. Some were like flash mob dances with a spontaneous feeling. Others took more of a storytelling approach: someone dancing their way from a dull boring kind of retail job or fast-food job into a more fulfilling caregiver role.

The third phase of the campaign really took off, leading to almost 2.1 million total website visits, 143,000 job search tool interactions and almost 2,300 job applications. "We never had so many comments, shares, likes and people posting things and really engaging with a paid ad," Steenstra said. "We got the psychographic finely tuned in that third iteration. Also, we were still in the height of COVID, and people started to realize how critical these healthcare providers are."

The campaign was also recognized by the marketing industry, winning the prestigious Grand Prix award in The Drum B2B Awards in 2021, two gold and six other awards during the 2021 Healthcare Advertising Awards and four gold and five other 2021 ANA B2 awards.

The rewards were clearly multifold for both Mower and its client, Iroquois Healthcare Association. Patients and residents who ultimately benefited from the increased caregiver ranks certainly felt the results, too.

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