Doogie Howser Is Back in Scrubs as Cigna Reprises Its Fun ‘TV Doctors’ Campaign

Private Practice's Kate Walsh also joins the lineup

Neil Patrick Harris and Kate Walsh join Patrick Dempsey and Donald Faison for Cigna's new round of spots.
Headshot of David Griner

It’s been nearly 25 years since Doogie Howser doctored and diaried his way into our hearts. But now he’s back and wants your attention—stat!

That’s right, Neil Patrick Harris is revising his role as Doogie Howser, M.D., to join Cigna’s much-loved “TV Doctors” campaign, which debuted in 2016 with spots starring Patrick Dempsey (of Grey’s Anatomy), Donald Faison (Scrubs), Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), Noah Wyle (ER) and Lisa Edelstein (House).

The campaign from McCann New York is now back, with Dempsey and Faison both returning, alongside two other icons of fictional medicine: Harris and Kate Walsh, whose Dr. Addison Montgomery was a centerpiece of both Grey’s Anatomy and the spinoff Private Practice.

In addition to new video ads featuring the TV doctors, the campaign will come to life on Instagram Stories as well, with a 24-hour branded content push coming this Sunday, Sept. 17.

The goal of the campaign is to help prevent the 100,000 annual deaths estimated by the Centers for Disease Control as the result of failing to get a routine annual medical checkup.

“Cigna is proud that our continuing efforts have helped raise awareness of the importance of preventive care, and have actually driven a 6 percent increase in preventive care visits among Cigna customers,” said Cigna vp of global branding Stephen Cassell. “We hope that hearing from our new ‘TV Doctors’ ensemble this fall will spur even more people to take action and schedule their annual check-up.”

The 6 percent increase cited by Cassell was based on a comparison of Cigna claims in September 2015 to September 2016, when the campaign debuted.

While Walsh is a great addition to the campaign, it’s a bit disappointing that the brand went with two Grey’s Anatomy doctors when there are still so many medical dramas out there to call back to. Are Howie Mandel and Denzel Washington (OK, maybe just Howie) really so swamped that they can’t reprise their roles from St. Elsewhere? Rob Morrow can’t revisit Northern Exposure? Adam Arkin is too busy directing every show on TV to come back as Chicago Hope’s Dr. Aaron Shutt?

But of course, the jewel in the crown of Cigna’s new medical monarchy is Neil Patrick Harris, who steals the show as always, and even gets his own spot about the importance of the word “stat”:

In behind-the-scenes footage, the actors discuss both the importance of check-ups and some of the more challenging lines that TV doctors are supposed to memorize and rattle off with professional nonchalance:

Client: Cigna

Agency: McCann NY
North American Chief Creative Officer: Eric Silver
Co-Chief Creative Officers, McCann NY: Tom Murphy & Sean Bryan
Executive Creative Director: Larry Platt
Group Creative Director: Danny Rodriguez
Senior Art Director: Jesse Yowell
Senior Copywriter: Dan Colburn
Copywriter (“Stat”): Josh Gold
Chief Production Officer: Nathy Aviram
Exec Integrated Producer: Kathy Love
Senior producer: Cindi Blondell
Senior Integrated Producer: Wendy Leahy
Executive Music Producer: Eric Johnson
Music Producer: Dan Gross
Global Account Director: Veronica Bertran
Group Account Director: Mat Cunnell
Account Director: Colleen Moisio
Account Executive: Mike Morettoni
Asst. Account Executive: Emma Langston
Group Strategy Director: Julianna Katrancha
Senior Strategist: Justin Luk
Strategist: Collin Peters
Director, Broadcast Producer: Danielle Korn
Dir Talent Partnerships: Kimberly Kress

Production company: Untitled, Inc.
Director: Grant Heslov
Founder/Executive Producer: Jim Evans
Director of Photography: Phedon Papamichael

Editorial Company: Cut + Run
Editor: Jon Grover
Assistant Editor: Beau Dickson

Music Company: JSM

SVP Group Account Director: Jan Lemke
Account Director: Clifford Strashun
Account Supervisor: Jay Cohen
Associate Director of Project Management: Charelle Shaw
Project Manager: Jennifer Yuan
Associate Project Manager: Connie Tejada
Associate Director of Social Media Strategy: Lisa Goldberg
Social Strategist: Amanda Zanghi
Art Directors: Astrid Andujar/Cheryl Thrower
EVP Chief Creative Officer: Sung Chang
Creative Director: Emmeli Osterdahl, Laurie Messina
Copywriter: Regina Strong, James Santiago

Client: CIGNA
Lisa Bacus – EVP, Global Chief Marketing & Customer Officer
Stephen Cassell – VP, Global Branding
Jen Hayward – Director, Brand Marketing
Paulina Riccio – Branding Specialist
Gloria Barone Rosanio – Cigna Corporate Communications

Don't miss the Brandweek Sports Marketing Summit and Upfronts, a live virtual experience Nov. 16-19. Gain insights from leading sports figures on how they navigated a year of upsets and transformation and what's in store for the coming year. Register

@griner David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."