Village Medical’s dystopian ads herald a healthcare alternative

November 15, 2023

If you’re looking for a dystopian vision of healthcare in America, Village Medical has you covered, reports Medical Marketing and Media (MM+M).

In the ‘New Way to Well’ campaign from Village Medical—a recently-launched service from VillageMD—patients are confronted with a cold, harsh version of the nation’s healthcare system.

The 60-second spot titled “Factory” starts off with an ominous voiceover: “Today’s healthcare system can feel like a factory.”

During the ad, we see physicians moving abruptly in an assembly line fashion from patient to patient, the latter of whose expressions capture the resigned disappointment that many of us feel when—after weeks or months of waiting for an appointment—our two minutes with a doctor are quickly over.

While most patients can relate to this scenario, Village Medical sees the target for the campaign, which includes two 30-second and two 60-second commercials, as being older patients with chronic illnesses. These patients, specifically, require a more holistic approach to their health and the organization wants them to know they have their best interests at heart.

“What Village Medical is committed to doing is taking care of patients who manage chronic conditions,” Ellen Donahue-Dalton, chief marketing officer of VillageMD, explains. “Almost three quarters of Americans over the age of 65 have a condition that they will live with for their entire lives. They will take medications for it and, in some cases, have multiple medications for multiple conditions. The more medications, the greater the risk of falls, hospitalizations, and other complications. We are trying to reach the consumers who need the healthcare system to be more than just a transactional episodic system.”

In place of the healthcare infrastructure we know, the Village Medical approach is structured around care teams of physicians and advanced practice providers who collectively help patients to navigate their Village Medical Stay Well Care Plans. The ultimate goal is for fewer hospitalizations and better lives.

Donahue-Dalton says it was important that doctors not be portrayed as villains in a broken system. Deutsch NY, the creative agency responsible both for the ads and the broader 360 campaign, instead cast a sympathetic eye towards both patients and doctors as part of this effort.

“I can’t give Deutsch enough credit because we were asking them to walk this line between protecting our doctors—because they are heroes—and also demonstrate the problems inherent in the system in which all doctors operate,” Donahue-Dalton says. “This shows that there is a real alternative that can be delivered by Village Medical. Deutsch did this amazing job of balancing all those things in a way that was striking and provocative.”

The power of the ads comes from the menacing factory setting, lightened by a certain dark humor.

“Ellen’s the one that saw potential in this idea to begin with,” says Samira Ansari, chief creative officer at Deutsch NY. “It was easy for us to sort of think about a factory as a setting to talk about the healthcare system. We think of the system as being efficient—moving patients and practitioners around. However, it doesn’t work. It’s impersonal. It doesn’t give patients the care that they need, and on the other side, it doesn’t give practitioners the time to do their job the best way they can.”

Given that Village Medical is a relatively new player in the market, the hope placed in these ads is that they will resonate with patients and healthcare professionals alike.

“There are health systems in most markets that have been there for 50 years, even 100 years,” Donahue-Dalton says. “They have built the traditional system of care that most consumers put up with. We’re new to the market and needed to differentiate ourselves in a way that was provocative and yet show that we could also deliver a solution.”

At the time of our interview, Village Medical did not have metrics they could share about the campaign, but Donahue-Dalton describes an encouraging reception, anecdotally at least, among doctors.

“When they realize that this is their story and that they have a future path of practicing medicine the way that they believed they were going to be able to, the feedback and response has been overwhelmingly positive,” she says. “I don’t know if you’ve worked with a lot of doctors but their feedback is not always overwhelmingly positive.”

Research contact: @MMMnews