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A “Brand” Takes Manhattan
The Imagine Campaign boosts the JHM profile beyond Baltimore

F. Scott Fitzgerald at Starbucks? Promoting Johns Hopkins, ads like these feature iconic figures suddenly back from the dead, this side of paradise.
Late last month, Johns Hopkins Medicine began appearing in advertisements carried by high-end magazines and national news shows—in New York City.

These are not your run-of-the-mill health care ads. Noticeably absent are doctors, nurses and patients. Instead, unforgettable figures like Louis Armstrong, Lou Gehrig and Lucille Ball are shown in contemporary settings. In one print ad, a vintage, black and white photograph of F. Scott Fitzgerald is artfully integrated into what looks to be a Starbucks. The author is typing away on an ultra-thin laptop—presumably on the next big classic he never got to write.

The ads invite people to “imagine” the possibilities at Hopkins. In one TV ad, a narrator asks: “What if Lou Gehrig had played just a few more seasons? How much longer could we cheer?” And: “What if Louis Armstrong never suffered a heart attack? How much more could we dance?” Then: “We’re about to find out. At Johns Hopkins, doctors and scientists are working together to discover bold new cures that will change medicine forever. Be a part of the transformation.” The word “Imagine” appears as a tagline.

Emotional and optimistic, suggesting that a relationship with Hopkins can lead to nothing less than a longer life for future generations, the ads have the potential to cultivate a new base of patients and raise the profile of the Hopkins Medicine “brand.” In the process, it’s hoped that they will supercharge JHM’s ongoing $1 billion campaign and, more specifically, attract contributions for the two planned clinical buildings.

Ingrid Bergman, in a latter-day Rick's Cafe. Here's looking at you, kid!
The print ads will appear in the New York Times Magazine and Forbes. The television ads, on shows like Face the Nation and Meet the Press, will run in Manhattan and the tri-state (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) environs. The campaign began the Sunday after Thanksgiving. It will quiet down during the Christmas holidays, resume after New Year’s, and continue on and off for the better part of six months. After the first of the year, the ads also will appear in the Baltimore market.

They are but one part of a larger campaign that includes a film, brochure, Web site, events and articles in the New York media. Meetings, cocktail parties and dinners, some hosted by Forbes, are expected to pave the way for development officers. “They set the stage for building relationships, and philanthropy is based on relationships,” says John Zeller, associate vice president for development and alumni affairs.

At these gatherings, potential donors will be shown a 12-minute film that presents Hopkins as distinctively poised to make many of the next great advances in medicine and bring them rapidly to patients. The film also helps viewers understand the challenges of raising money for bricks and mortar. Faculty talk about the pressing need for space in which to conduct their research, which very well could, as the ads promise, “change medicine forever.”

The campaign integrates eight separate elements.
At least $130 million in charitable giving will be required to construct the new clinical buildings. The Web site (, included in the ads, puts forth plans to expand and rebuild on the medical campus. It focuses on what past significant gifts have meant to Hopkins and lays out specific opportunities for philanthropy.

Created by Eisner Communications, one of Baltimore’s largest advertising agencies, the campaign has been in the works since January. “Eisner got us,” says Dean Edward Miller, recalling the agency’s presentation to leadership. “They had spent a lot of time talking to people here. They distilled in one word what Hopkins is: hope. Hopkins is a place you come to for hope.”

“This is something new for us,” Miller acknowledges. “But we’re doing it because we think we have an obligation to make people more aware of what’s at stake.”

—Anne Bennett Swingle




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