Advertising: Opportunities in Storytelling
ONE OF DH’S CORE SERVICES is advertising. True, advertising often exists solely to sell something (a product, service or project) or to build an image, but we believe it can be so much more. It is a business strategy and an important expression of an organization’s brand.
Organizations are most successful when their advertising works in concert with other communication strategies. That’s why we blend advertising with public relations, branding, research, and digital.
We sat down with Andrei Mylroie to get his thoughts on advertising, the DH approach, and how he sees the industry changing.
DH: What differentiates DH from other advertising agencies?
Andrei: It’s rare that we look for pure advertising opportunities—for example, going after the advertising program for a car dealership (just because we know it’ll result in big commissions and production volume). We build broader programs that are grounded in strategy. We consider a client’s entire situation and business goals, and then we recommend the strategies that will create the best results for the client. That might be advertising, or it might be a mix, including branding, PR or digital. It’s not uncommon for a client to hire us for help with advertising and design work, but then we end up doing a rebrand and it reveals problems in the organization that need to be addressed. We have a deep track record of revealing business opportunities for clients.
DH: DH added in-house design in 2013. Can you tell us about that?
Andrei: We’d been doing work that incorporated design since the firm opened, including pretty sophisticated advertising and brand campaigns. But we saw an opportunity to do more in-house. One of the things that’s been powerful about building a creative services team has been finding new opportunities. When you bring together strategists and designers at the table on a project starting from day one—listening, understanding, acting together—great things happen. The value is that it brings different perspectives from different backgrounds. We are able to connect the dots in bigger ways for our clients, and ultimately come up with stronger programs. It’s also more efficient and a lot of fun.
DH: How do you feel about the quality of work produced by DH’s design and creative services?
Andrei: Creatively, DH is doing beautiful work. We take ideas that are complex and find a way to communicate them in a simple, memorable, compelling way. I get really excited about the work we’re doing. It’s great to see it being recognized by others as well. Last week I heard someone say that DH has the three most talented art directors they’d ever worked with. That was really cool to hear … and humbling.
One of the things I’m especially proud of is we have art directors that have super complementary styles. So it’s a bit different than the “one agency, one approach or look” that you sometimes get. When you look at Leah or Judy’s work, you see a huge amount of range. Same thing with Kaelynn and now with John and Julie, who are about to start with us.
DH: What trends do you see in the advertising industry today?
Andrei: We’ve seen things become more testimonial-driven and story-based—genuine. For example, for Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital, we created a campaign using real patients and physicians—not actors or hospital administrators. We knew from research that if people are considering switching physicians they want to know about the physician’s personality—what they’re interested in, what their bedside manner is like, will the doctor listen to them? But if you look at most physician marketing, it’s traditionally rooted in specialty, whether they’re board-certified or where they went to college. That’s table stakes, not differentiation. So the Memorial campaign went into personality and style of the physicians and what they’re like to work with. It’s important to get underneath the story that needs to be told.
And it isn’t just advertising alone anymore. With digital advertising there’s an opportunity to build programs across mediums to drive action. This can be digital advertising, social media content, web strategy. They all work together. For the Memorial campaign we pushed people to a microsite where they could watch longer-form video interviews with the physicians that provided more information. The TV spots also extended across digital ads, social media content, internal communications, and even community relations. It’s about developing a bigger program, rallying around a central idea, moving the needle.
DH: What do you think is responsible for this change in advertising?
Andrei: Traditionally advertising was a one-way model. Companies or agencies would decide on a message and shout it from the rooftops. If customers weren’t getting it, they’d increase the media buy and shout even louder. But so much has changed in the last five years—especially because of social media and new communication channels that are available. Consumers can choose where and how they get their information. They are more savvy, and their BS detectors are more sensitive. Now the idea of a conversation between an organization and its audiences is more accepted, and we’ve seen that play out in how we bring together digital, social and traditional advertising. The great thing for DH and our clients is DH has always been wired to understand audiences in a deeper way, so when the rest of the industry started to evolve and adapt, we were already way ahead.
DH: What do you think gives DH our deep understanding of audience?
Andrei: Our roots are in public relations, which, at its heart, seeks to create two-way mutually beneficial relationships. That’s always been a focus for us. When we first started, we looked across PR, advertising, design, and public affairs with the goal of building an agency filled with people who were used to working across disciplines—not just design but strategy. Our approach drove our early growth in many ways because it was a differentiator.
DH: What projects are you most proud of?
Andrei: Some projects feed our creative soul and are fun and inspiring—like our rebrand: from a pure creative perspective, it’s compelling work. But sometimes we do work that maybe doesn’t look quite as on-trend or that won’t win design awards, but it’s so on-point in terms of the audience—meeting them where they are with a message that gets them to act. Take our work for Apple Health for Kids. We enrolled thousands of kids that weren’t previously covered in health insurance plans. And the creative and messaging were super simple—literally 1, 2, 3. Follow these three steps, and you’ll get your kids enrolled. It was incredibly effective. I’m proud of our team’s ability to do this—to focus on the job that needs to get done.