Dental Marketing Shouldn’t Scare Children (nor the child within)

This is hot off the presses.  The story is a dentist put up a billboard ad across from a daycare.  The ad photos reportedly frightened the children at that daycare.  And, while it may seem obvious why the images might disturb children, this story serves as a lesson in dental marketing even to adults.

implant billboard

Most dental ads are unwittingly designed by dentists FOR other dentists.  Read that sentence again.  The ads are designed by dentists.  And, they appeal to other dentists.  The photos in this ad are more appropriate for a case presentation article in a dental journal than they are for public viewing.  More on that below.

This is obviously the "offending" image that is scaring the children.  Funny, though.. they probably have friends that look just like this!

This is obviously the “offending” image that is scaring the children. Funny, though.. they probably have friends that look just like this!

I’m not saying retracted photos of partially edentulous smiles should never be used in marketing.  There can be a time and place for images like this one.

Pull rather than push.

I’m a HUGE fan of using photography in dental marketing.  I would NOT use this “before” image in “push” marketing efforts.  By “push,” I mean marketing efforts that bring the product or service TO the prospects (whether they want it or not).  Think of it as “in your face marketing” like a billboard, TV, radio, or print ad.

However, I think this “before” image could be used in “PULL” marketing.  “Pull” marketing is when the prospective patient COMES TO YOU (and your marketing).  An example would be your website, whereby the prospect lands via a Google search (perhaps for “dental implants your city”).  A person who is actively seeking information about replacing her missing front teeth with dental implants may actually identify with the retracted edentulous image (within limits – don’t make it too gross!).

Get over it, ya bunch of wimps!

One one hand, I could argue that some people (including some whiny kids and parents) are just too sensitive, and if they don’t like it, they should just not look at it.  Hell… the “before” smile looks like a lot of 1st and 2nd graders’ smiles!

My 8 y.o. daughter's smile.  Oooh!   Scary!  I wonder if her smile makes other children cry?

My 8 y.o. daughter’s smile. Oooh! Scary! I wonder if her smile makes other children cry?

On the other hand, I can tell you that my wife would also cringe at the sight of the billboard “before” photo.  And, she’s probably not the only one.  For a PUSH implant marketing piece, I’d use just the after photos.  I’d use a nice portrait and a non-retracted close-up of the smile.

Here’s the news video:

Thoughts?  Comments?  Discuss below!

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11 Responses to Dental Marketing Shouldn’t Scare Children (nor the child within)

  1. Roy says:

    I agree on the “scary” appearance of the before shot in this case. What are your thoughts on before shots for short term ortho? I’ve gotten your opinion on some print ads I’ve done and thus far I’ve always had before and after. Thoughts?

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Hi Roy,

      If it’s “PUSH” marketing, I’d recommend unretracted smile shots. Smiles and faces are generally a safe bet. Retracted shots should be used judiciously (and mostly in your “PULL” marketing). Just my opinion. 🙂

  2. I love this comment made by someone: “Well, several years ago I woke up with a woman that had a smile like the one on the left. I don’t blame the kids at all. It scared the hell out of me too!”

  3. Linda Boehm says:

    Dental billboards and advertising on bus stop benches has always been very disturbing to me – nevertheless it is the moose selected by the news team embellishing and exaggerating the kids’ fear that really makes me cringe. However on a billboard the attractive smile will draw some phone calls – whereas the closeup edentulous image will just be offensive.

  4. I agree that its indeed scary. And how stupid to have it across from a day care center. Where was the research done? I have my office on a busy blvd., where there are tons of dentists and people. There is a large billboard ad atop a building attempting to sell dental implants, but the ‘before’ picture just shows an adult with one missing central. Its a lot classier because it doesn’t scare anyone, and the only people who will see it are those driving or walking by, largely businesspeople. Hm, I wonder how that dentist is doing?

  5. Whoops, no editor mode here. The billboard ad I just mentioned is not mine!

  6. Mike, I like your distinction between push and pull marketing relative to dental photographs. Best dental lesson of the day and I’ve spent an hour on dentaltown today already! Great post.

    • The Dental Warrior says:

      Thanks, Nicholas! I think we can get more “clinical,” technical, and close-up for those prospects who are RESEARCHING (pull marketing) a particular treatment (like implants, for example).

      But, for push marketing, I think images should be “friendlier.”

  7. David says:

    At the office where I worked, a periodontist gave us a small booklet (~15 pages) of procedures he has done to show patients when considering a procedure. Bone grafts, Connective Tissue Grafts, 3rd extraction sites, all in glorious HD. It terrified people and wasn’t effective.

    I’ve never seen corneal flaps on billboards advertising LASIK, or proctology exams being advertised via…well, nevermind.

  8. That definitely could be a scary picture to look at everyday for children. Perhaps the dentist may want to reassess his marketing if he is scaring people?

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