School of Thought
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Oh, do we have thoughts

Marketing the Unexpected

SOT Creativity

We like to give shout outs to good work whenever we can. When we’re the ones having our ideas spotlighted, we’re even more stoked. We want to change the way people think about advertising. We want to show people that you should give a damn—hey, it’s kinda our motto.

SOT Front Door

That said, we were ecstatic when the Association of National Advertisers decided to feature our recent campaign for Montage Health, in Monterey, CA, as part of their article. What follows is an article excerpt from the ANA piece, entitled “Marketing Out of the Box” by Chuck Kapelle. It ran on their subscription-based website this past July.


New Locations, Same Brand Values

When Montage Health, an insurance and health care provider based in Monterey, Calif., wanted to build a brand presence in its local community, it turned to San Francisco–based creative agency School of Thought to develop surprising and provocative ways to "reward" customers for embarking upon healthy activities. "There are so many pictures of smiling doctors shaking hands, we wanted to have unexpected pats on the back for people," says Tom Geary, founder and executive director at School of Thought.

The agency is working with a local grocery store to hang Montage Health–branded signs over the vegetable section with a message saying, "Good job reaching for those greens." It also enlisted volunteers to wear Montage Health shirts and offer water and congratulations to people completing a hike on a nearby trail.

Geary emphasizes that the effort was not simply about generating attention, but about using creative tactics to tell a bigger story about health care in the region. "The surprise and delight approach is important to us," Geary says. "It stands out, and it's more heartfelt when the message is right and hits you with surprise. The trick is to make sure the activation isn't gratuitous; if you can tie it to the brand's values, then it's great for everybody."

Key Takeaway: Flexibility is key when it comes to unorthodox placements. School of Thought originally wanted a congratulatory sign at the top of a hiking trail, but permits proved difficult to secure. Instead it ended up using the brand-shirted volunteers. "It's great whenever you can have clients get behind these unorthodox approaches," Geary says. "We always advocate to our clients to be arresting and distinctive. There's just so much competition."


Our Mantra on Advertising

The best campaigns are honest. They reflect the audience’s relationship with the offering and the category. We approach most campaigns with these thoughts in mind.

There’s power in getting real. It can be argued that hings have been moving in that direction for the last decade or so, and we’re happy to see that. So many audiences expect honesty now—and if you aren’t delivering it, you’re behind the times.

When we embarked on the Montage Health campaign in Monterey, we knew people would find the most value in a campaign that was about overcoming inertia. Too many healthcare ads unrealistically market fitness and lifestyle choices. The truth is that the majority of people don’t eat perfectly all the time. Holding them to a higher standard could even feel isolating.

Instead, we decided to play to the more truthful side of getting healthy. People aren’t perfect. We make a lot of mistakes before we get it right. Our attempts to change our habits can even seem comical at first.

You can watch one of our videos from the campaign below. It’s laced with lots of tongue-in-cheek humor and a pretty impressive kale fight scene that got a little heated. You can read more about the campaign, watch more videos and see our other creative ads for Montage Health at the link below.

Find more of our agency’s videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel here.

Thanks for watching!