Genetic testing firm airs TV spot as part of $5M ad buy

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Genetic testing firm airs TV spot as part of $5M ad buy
Genetic testing firm airs TV spot as part of $5M ad buy

Personal genetics firm 23andMe aired its first TV ad Monday in a bid to build the audience for DNA sequencing.

The spot is part of a multi-channel campaign, called “Portraits of Health,” featuring national TV, radio and digital elements. The TV campaign begins with a national buy, mostly through cable networks, and the company said it expects to spend up to $5 million in 2013 with additional investment planned for 2014.

Havas' Arnold Worldwide created the campaign. Production company Buck directed and animated the :60 TV spots.

The consumer work is a first for the company, which recently set a goal of reaching a million customers by the end of this year. It also “pioneers advertising for the direct-to-consumer genetic testing industry,” said 23andMe's president, Andy Page, in a statement today.

The effort is designed to educate the general public about how understanding their DNA can help them make more informed and proactive health decisions. According to Page, it's also meant to help patients see 23andMe as a brand they can trust.

Earlier testing firms Navigenics and deCODEme were both bought by bigger companies that subsequently shut down the firms' direct-to-patient testing services.

Neil Rothstein, 23andMe's VP of marketing, said the company tested a variety of media channels and that "TV is still the best way to reach [a] mass group of people." The :60 spots, he added, offer "a lot of time for us to tell our story and for people to get a sense for our company and brand."

Breeding familiarity with the brand is key. "The reality is, even if you walk [through] downtown Mountain View [California, where 23andMe is based], not many people have heard of 23andMe, and that's in our backyard," said Rothstein. 

As to why that is, Rothstein, who joined the firm in September from Netflix, said the company has spent the past seven years or so on the science. "Only recently have we focused on growing the customer base," which stands at 350,000 now.

In an effort to spur growth, 23andMe recently lowered the price of its test kit to $99, closed a new round of funding, and hired Page as president.

In the 23andMe commercial, clipped phrases are dubbed together to form running conversations, not unlike the bigger picture formed by individual genes:  “This is me,” says one actor. “My DNA,” another quickly adds. “It helps make me who I am,” chimes in a third. 

23andMe stresses that the actors are speaking about their own test results. Knowing these results—and the risk for things like heart disease and arthritis—can lead to better preventive healthcare, the spot explains.

Who's the target audience? It's really not [aimed at] a specific demo," said Rothstein. "It's focusing on those who have this mindset and this way of thinking: They want to be proactive and be in greater control of their health. Those are who we want to target."

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