I’ve been in the ad business for over three decades. I spent half my career with big Chicago agencies touting everything from beer and cigarettes to salty snacks and cake frosting. I also advertised my fair share of sporting goods, insurance, batteries, cleaning products, and other products one might think advance the greater good of man.

All of which was very exciting, consuming and glamorous at the time—until on September 28, 1986, while in a conference room at Needham Harper and Steers (now DDB), I saw the Challenger Space Shuttle blow to smithereens. At the time, I was working 16 hours a day, 7 days a week for 12 straight weeks trying to sell my first national campaign to Frito-Lay for Ruffles Potato Chips. I stood there in the conference room and realized, “This is just a damn potato chip I’m busting my tail over!”

Don’t get me wrong. I loved working on big national accounts (one of which was Energizer, for whom I co-created the Energizer Bunny in 1988.) But when I joined SPM in 1995, I quickly realized that healthcare advertising was a different animal. It’s complicated. It’s mentally challenging. It’s like advertising multiple products to different audiences for a single brand. Beyond that, for every service line you advertise—whether it’s heart, cancer, neurosurgery, orthopedics or maternity—the decision a patient makes can impact the care they receive. And your influence—your advertising—can make a life-saving difference for someone.

At SPM, we believe people deserve to know that there are differences in hospitals—differences that can save lives. Once you’ve been in the industry for a few years, you know which hospital has the best cancer specialists, neurosurgeons, heart surgeons, and which institutions are conducting revolutionary research trials. So, you become somewhat of an expert to your friends and neighbors. They call and ask for your thoughts. And sometimes you can even help them get in to see a specialist sooner, and ultimately receive better care.

Wow. Where else in the advertising industry do you get to potentially make a life-saving difference in someone’s life? It feels good to help people feel good.

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