Robert Bartlett gets asked that a lot these days. The surgeon and researcher has long been hot stuff in his professional world-he invented a life-support system called ECMO-but the reason people now approach him on the street is his prominent role in the U-M Health System's "Victors Valiant" ad campaign. He appears in blue scrubs holding surgical equipment, his eyes flashing with laser-beam intensity.
The ads feature caregivers and patients in a montage set to a slow-paced, uplifting rendition of one of college football's most famous fight songs. The recognition has been a boon for one "star," Charity Riddle-the attractive young woman shown applying makeup with her prosthetic arms. "I'm a motivational speaker," says Riddle, who was treated at the U-M for a bacterial infection that required the amputation of both her arms and legs. "I show the U of M commercial during my presentations."
Now in its third year, the campaign is the brainchild of longtime Michigan ad agency Campbell-Ewald. In its initial bid for the contract, the agency "presented very much what you see today," says Dave Brudon, the health system's marketing director. "It's just real honest-no hype."
Brudon says the ads are intended less to attract patients than to increase the hospitals' name recognition-and give a gentle prod to would-be donors. Brudon points to viewer surveys suggesting that, thanks to the ads, more people think the U-M Health System "will make a difference in the future of medical care."