Steward ads promote its ‘new health care’

Steward ads promote its ‘new health care’

Message emphasizes Steward brand over individual hospitals

Steward Health Care is using the Olympics to hone its image. The Boston-based chain of 10 community hospitals, many of which were on the verge of going under when Steward acquired them, is running a series of ads on WHDH-TV (Channel 7) during Olympics coverage that cast the company as a delivery system for a new type of world-class health care.

The powerful ads, shot on location at Steward hospitals in Norwood, Quincy, and Brockton and featuring employees from all of the chain’s 10 facilities, are attracting attention because of their message and the significant financial outlay they represent. Hospitals often advertise, but rarely on television, and rarely during a high-profile event such as the Olympics. When hospitals do run ads, the ads typically promote the hospital. But the initial Steward ads don’t even mention the chain’s hospitals; instead, they attempt to build a brand around the Steward name.

Cerberus Capital Management, a New York private equity firm, owns Steward, which operates hospitals in Fall River, Methuen, Brighton, Norwood, Dorchester, Brockton, Ayer, Haverhill, Taunton, and Quincy. The company’s foray into health care is being watched closely in Massachusetts. Many health care officials are skeptical that Cerberus/Steward can turn the struggling hospitals around, but Steward officials say they plan to expand their business model to other states. A Steward spokesman declined to discuss the ads, referring a reporter to the company’s press release.

 Paul Levy, the former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center, said he thinks the ads are part of a campaign by Cerberus to make Steward more attractive to would-be buyers. “This has very little to do with anything other than establishing the image and the brand of the Steward hospitals so when the day comes when Cerberus sells the company it will be better received in the public markets,” Levy said.

The ads are a plug for community hospitals. “If small communities and neighborhoods everywhere can produce world class athletes, then why can’t small communities and neighborhoods produce world class health care?” one of the initial ads asks. The question is answered by a Steward employee who says she believes “world class health care is here.” Another of the initial ads features individual doctors and technicians pledging to be stewards of “the new health care,” which is the tagline for all of the Steward ads.

What the “new health care” means is never fully explained in the ads, although company officials have said they are trying to convince people in the communities surrounding the Steward hospitals to choose those hospitals for their care rather than the more expensive teaching hospitals in Boston. Steward says its hospitals provide equivalent care at far less cost.

Shorter ads that are just now beginning to appear during Olympics coverage trumpet technology and technicians at specific Steward hospitals.  Jim Trousdale , who oversees the electronic records system at Norwood Hospital, is featured in one ad. A CT technician appears in another.

According to Steward, the ads were developed by the Boathouse Group Inc. of Waltham and directed by Lisa Rubisch, who has shot ads for such companies as Nike, Fidelity, Coors, and Honda. In the irony department, Boathouse is run by John Connors, the son of Jack Connors, who founded the advertising firm Hill Holliday and recently stepped down as the chairman of Partners HealthCare, the corporate parent of two of the biggest teaching hospitals in Boston — Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Homepage image by Steward Health Care.