A Different Outlook for LifeCare

The smiling doctors, the gleaming new laser equipment and the “We care” messages are nowhere in sight.

Instead, patients sneak out of the hospital, eat ice cream or ride roller coasters in a debut campaign for LifeCare Hospital.

Two television commercials break this week in New Orleans, where one of LifeCare’s eight hospitals is located. A third spot will be released in September.

The budget for the initial campaign is $1.5 million.

“The majority of hospital ad campaigns focus on bouncing babies and telling people how wonderful their facilities are,” said Vince Caruso, marketing director of the Dallas-based hospital chain.

“We could put people into the Four Seasons and they would still not want to be in the hospital,” he added. “We’re just the first ones in this market to come out and say it.”

The ads were created by Trumpet of New Orleans. The agency was selected to handle LifeCare’s first broadcast effort following a review of agencies earlier this year.

“The idea we presented is that people want to get on with their lives,” said Trumpet creative director Robbie Vitrano. The ads, he said, “are more about engaging the will to live, which is very much a part of their therapy.”

LifeCare falls into the category of long-term, acute care hospitals, which can continue treatment of patients with lengthy illnesses or injury rehabilitation needs following a short-term stay in a conventional medical facility.

Previously, the company focused its marketing efforts on building relationships with physicians, hospitals and insurance case managers.

Said Merlin Aalborg, chief executive officer of the company’s New Orleans division, “We started getting feedback from our customers saying, ‘We know who you are, but the community doesn’t know. When we refer a patient, it would be easier if they knew who we were.’ “

Trumpet has built a stable of healthcare clients in the last two years, including Tenet Gulf South Hospital and Venture Health Partnership Group’s medical plans in Louisiana and Oklahoma.

“It’s a happy coincidence we’re working in this field again,” Vitrano said. “The work we’ve done seems to … address some of the problems with how people see healthcare.”