Patient testimonials may be a popular content tactic in healthcare advertising — but Aaron Sidorov, group creative director at Deloitte Digital, is not a big fan.

“They are a tired trope, because it’s the one format that almost every hospital tends to follow,” he explained. “There’s definitely good reason for telling those human stories, but we wanted to make sure that we were creating work that set NYU Langone apart from other hospitals and health systems.”

Debbie Cohn, interim SVP, marketing and digital communications at NYU Langone Health, agreed with Sidorov. “We love hearing from our patients. It never gets old,” she stressed. “But too many hospitals use patient testimonials. The challenge has been how do we hang onto the human story and maintain the impact of these outcomes without relying on the patient-talking-head format.”

For #TheBestOutcomes, an effort now in its second year, NYU Langone and Deloitte Digital chose instead to create short, action-packed films shot on location and designed to highlight the hospital system’s cutting-edge work. They tell the human story of not only NYU Langone patients, but also the system’s doctors, nurses and administrators. Recent films include “A N.Y. Minute,” which showcases the system’s EMTs, and “Flight Simulation,” featuring distinguished neurosurgeon Dr. Anthony K. Frempong-Boadu.

“A N.Y. Minute” highlights the importance of speed in stroke treatment. But its title has a secondary aim: To reinforce that NYU Langone is a New York institution.

“New Yorkers know New York better than anybody else. They know the streets, they know the landmarks, they know the hospitals… they know what it’s like to walk in and out of NYU Langone,” Sidorov said. “They know the ambulances, they know the sirens, the sounds, the smells, the taste and everything else about the city they live in. We wanted to make sure that the films we were creating could be experienced by our local audience.”

“By having New Yorkers tell our story against a New York backdrop, that’s how we maintain the authenticity of the brand,” Cohn added. “It’s an authentic representation of what people can expect from NYU Langone.”

The commitment to a certain cinéma vérité in a short time frame — the films top out at 60 seconds in length — presented challenges. For the campaign to be effective, the ads had to be filmed on location. Needless to say, shutting down a major New York hospital for a day-long shoot was not an option, and accommodating a 50-strong crew without disrupting hospital operations created further logistical headaches. 

“It was exciting… well, equal parts exciting and challenging for both Aaron and me,” Cohn recalled with a laugh. “A high level of choreography played a huge role in the success of the films. If we’re shooting in the emergency department for strokes, there’s no guarantee that a patient won’t come in during the four hours we’re on set. Obviously we can’t block the bays and the entrance.”

The films have accomplished what Cohn and NYU Langone hoped they would, providing a window into daily life at the hospital. “The story you see and the high standards portrayed reflect the investment that is consistent across our 300-plus locations,” Cohn added, noting that the campaign has extended the reach of NYU Langone north to Boston and south to Philadelphia.

While Cohn and Sidorov declined to share details about future films in #TheBestOutcomes effort, Sidorov dropped a hint or two.

“Anyone who curious as to what films we might be working on next, it really is just as easy as looking at the news coming out of NYU Langone,” he said. “You’ll have a very good sense of the next few topics that we will be working on.”