When you’re in healthcare marketing, what has more impact than happy patients, willing to tell other potential patients about how your care saved their life, cured their pain, or generally helped them feel better?

Not much—and that’s why a good patient testimonial is a go-to when healthcare systems are looking to show the positive effects they have on the people they care for every day. It’s a simple idea that works well when it’s done well: If patients love the experiences they’re getting from their caregivers, they’re the best advocates.

This type of testimonial advertising is everywhere from digital ads, coming through your social media feeds, to radio ads and billboards. But that can create a problem unless you figure out how to differentiate your testimonials from the others in the market—because when something’s everywhere, it’s easy to ignore, which is the last thing you want when you’re making advertising.

So when our client, Hancock Health, asked us to help them promote Gateway Hancock Health, their Greenfield, Indiana immediate care location with lab and imaging services, we pivoted away from testimonials. In fact, we pivoted away from all the traditional paths usually used to dramatize positive patient experience, including using testimonials from doctors and nurses or actors portraying patients getting great care.

Positive Negative Thinking

Instead, we got negative. We started thinking about how we could dramatize the unpleasant experiences most people encounter when they’re seeking urgent care or trying to get a blood test or an X-ray.

It’s a sound plan for Hancock Health. The big reason is that, overwhelmingly, patients have positive experiences at Gateway. Lab and imaging prices are, on average, 70 percent less than you’d pay at a hospital, the billing is easy to understand, and Gateway’s got friendly associates and a pleasant environment.

Enter: The Grouchies

So how did we tout the patient experience at Gateway without patients? Enter: The Grouchies, grumpy little creatures who live in most urgent care facilities across the country. There’s Fritter, who wastes your time; Skwibble, who loves an unintelligible code in a healthcare bill; Squeezix, who adores a big, overinflated bill, and so on.


No Grouchies at Gateway

But you won’t find Grouchies at Gateway—and that’s the whole point of the campaign. They aren’t there because of Gateway’s ability to provide expert care that’s also convenient and pleasant and, oftentimes, at prices that are significantly lower than patients would pay at a hospital.

These adorable little troublemakers are the stars of radio ads, billboards near the Gateway exit on I-70, digital advertising, coloring pages, and they even have humorous quips in question-and-answer blog posts on Hancock Health’s health and lifestyle site, HealthPossible.org.

Possibly the best thing about the Grouchies is that their uniqueness makes people curious and gets attention—especially online. According to our data, HancockGateway.org saw an 11 percent increase in users and an 8.5 percent increase in pageviews this year. Grouchies’ digital advertising performed well, too, some of it even holding Facebook users’ attention for nearly two minutes, which is virtually unheard of for paid social traffic.


It’s nontraditional, to be sure, but the Grouchies blend perfectly with Hancock Health’s bright, friendly approach to making health possible. And a well-executed nontraditional campaign stands out in the market—something you do want when you’re making advertising.