Jeremy Tuber

Heartland Dental’s ad touches the heart and is marketing genius


Is there anything more heartwarming than “that look” kids and dogs can give you with their big, attentive eyes? If you have either pups or kiddos, you know exactly what I am referring to.

Glancing through a copy of Dental Economics, I couldn’t help but notice a full-page, full-color ad for Heartland Dental. What first caught my attention with the ad were the large brown eyes gazing back at me—giving me “that look.”The eyes were those of Jake the Golden Retriever. His eager “play with me” expression could melt the heart of any animal lover, and he certainly melted mine.

However, what was so impressive about this ad wasn’t the photo of Jake (although it was a nice image), it was the ad copy.

The copywriter didn’t opt for simply regurgitating the overused platitudes and “advantages” of practicing dentistry in a DSO model.  For example,

Why choose Heartland Dental?

  • Flexible schedule.
  • Spend more time with your family.
  • Focus on the clinical aspect of dentistry, without admin stresses.

From a copy writing standpoint, those bullet points I offered above as examples are ineffective, somewhat nebulous, and creatively lazy.

I respect the copywriter who created this Heartland Dental ad for not going that direction because those types of bullet points are ubiquitous in ads, aren’t they? You see them all over, but the problem with using them is that they don’t illustrate in a real-world, personal way what spending more time with your family actually means, and that’s critical. Bullet points like that in advertising are used by uninspired or inexperienced copywriters, and they just convey information—not a feeling.

Ads that provide the best return on investment go beyond providing information—they evoke a feeling.

Instead of using bullet points, the following copy was used in the ad, “Why join Heartland Dental? Jake misses our long walks together. Time is a precious resource, and when work is demanding, the attention can be taken from the important things in life. Heartland Dental will alleviate this burden by supporting your non-clinical services in order to offer you the work-life balance you need and deserve. Now when he looks at you with those puppy dog eyes, you can grab the Frisbee and go!”

Tips for dental advertising

For a dentist who misses her/his family and feels their work-life balance is not in alignment, this ad is magical—particularly if they are an animal lover. It reintroduces that feeling of work-life balance in a personal, specific, and meaningful way.

The ad sells the concept of working in a DSO model by weaving in a personable and relatable story that will resonate with dentists who miss their family, feel overworked, don’t enjoy the administrative component of running a practice, or miss their dog, cat, bird, et al. That’s why this ad works.

In holding the role of manager of communications // managing editor for the Arizona Dental Association since 2010, I’ve seen a lot of ads targeting dental professionals. This one is one of the best ads I’ve seen. Kudos, Heartland Dental.

And there’s a lesson here for dentists who advertise: rather than focusing your ad copy on the importance of oral health (yes, I know that it is), focus your ad copy on how confident and happy patients will be because they came in for treatment.

Again, focus on a feeling rather than just providing information/education in your ad. After all, most patients don’t come in for treatment because they want “good oral health.”

Depending on the type of dentistry you do, consider focusing your ad copy on reminding patients: how enjoyable it was to eat whatever they wanted; how their smile used to light up the room (and it can again with treatment); the confidence they could have not worrying about their dentures; or giving their child a wonderful head start in life by getting invisible braces.

The point is, whatever patient base your practice specializes in, focus your ad copy on a specific situation(s) that your patients can relate to (avoid generic, overused bullets that just “educate” patients). Your ad copy should get them to feel something and compel them to want to schedule an appointment. If it does, there’s a good chance your ad will be effective at driving in new patients.

Disclaimer—I am not affiliated with Heartland Dental or any DSO, nor was I asked to write this article. There are pros and cons associated with all the different types of dental practice models. I support dentists in Arizona no matter what model they practice in. This ad was brilliantly done, and I just wanted to share it as a case study in advertising and content creation—that’s all.

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