Someone call a doctor. Swine flu (hysteria) is spreading. Newspapers are dying. Automobile companies are on life support. Mutants draw box office millions, as marketers engineer the next viral video. The U.S. economy sneezed, and the world collapsed. Politicians scrambled to resuscitate. And our climate is clearly running a temperature. Disease is America's metaphor du jour, and brand managers best check their vitals.
A television commercial for the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio presents Austin, who is 14 and bald from chemotherapy, wearing a blue varsity jacket while seated in a rocking chair. “I don’t really see like how this all happened — the whole cancer situation,” says Austin, over footage of his playing basketball in his school gym, and walking down a hallway in a hospital gown. “It just blows my mind that I end up getting it. I knew as soon as the doctor told me, I was like, ‘I’m going to beat it, no matter what. It’s just a disease.’ ” It is emblematic of a new approach to advertising by hospitals — an industry that, despite the recession, is not slashing ad spending.