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1 Million-Plus Campaign Uses All Media — and Humor

Reinforcing a theme it has driven home repeatedly over the past few years, the New York State Nurses Association hit the airwaves, mailboxes and even the Internet with a new, softer reminder to consumers to ask for a “real nurse.”

The $1 million-plus campaign, which includes direct mail, a new Web site at www.realnurses.com and direct response radio and television ads urging customers to call a toll-free number for a free brochure, was created by Quinn Fable Advertising, New York, the New York State Nurses Association's advertising agency for the past five years.

The DRTV spots feature Peggy Shay, an octogenarian actress who has appeared in Wendy's ads, telling people to call for a free brochure and to “ask for a real nurse, honey, ask for an RN,” said Kathy Fable, president of Quinn Fable Advertising. The agency coined the “ask for a real nurse” tagline four years ago.

The spots vary from previous years where the tagline was used as part of a bolder wake-up call to consumers who might not realize that many nurses at hospitals were not registered.

“Our past messages have been more threatening. They set out to tell people that many of the nurses hospitals were using were not registered nurses. They didn't have the experience or the training,” Fable said. “In past years, we needed to inform people and get them to react. Now the shock value is over with, people know what is going on, and we want to get them to embrace RNs with this warmer, more jovial spot.”

Fable admits the goal of the television and radio spots vary from traditional direct response as they are not intended to spur sales.

“It's not straight lead generation. It's using direct response for building awareness and getting the message out,” Fable said. “You can't tell the message in 30 seconds or 60 seconds. It's a much larger story. So, our goal is to get people to call or visit the Web site to get the full information.”

The brochure, called the Consumer Guide to Being a Confident Patient, lists some other questions to ask, Fable said.

“When people are in the hospital, they do what they're told. This tells them some of the basic questions to ask,” she said. “It explains to them that nonlicensed nurses may be able to take blood, but they won't know what to look for. They won't look at the whole picture and notice if someone looks pale or seems clammy.”

The DRTV spots are running on all major networks in the New York City, Buffalo and Albany areas. Preliminary results showed that the spots had generated more than 500 calls in the first week, which Fable said was fewer than in past years, probably because of the softer message.

Direct response radio ads, which launched a week after the television spots, had generated more than 150 calls in their first few days, Fable said. They mainly ran on news radio stations, with some oldies, talk and adult contemporary stations in the mix.

In addition, the agency was dropping 35,000 brochures in a direct mail campaign to people who had requested information in previous years, as well as to geographic areas, such as around New York City, where the use of nonlicensed nurses is more common. Because the brochure was sent directly, there is no need for a response-tracking system for the mail campaign.

Meanwhile, the agency had included a Web site for the first time as an alternative way to access information. The 520 hits the site took in its first week-and-a-half were especially encouraging to Fable, because the agency was trying to attract the attention of baby boomers who care for elderly parents, in addition to attracting the elderly through the ads.

“I'm pretty sure that those 520 hits weren't from the elderly, so we were happy to see we may be reaching the baby boomers,” she said.

Quinn Fable Advertising, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, also has worked for AT&T, ESPN, Oxford Health Plans, Bristol-Myers, CompuServe and SpryNet.

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