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Innovative advertising testing research shows valuable results for OSF HealthCare

OSF HealthCare is an integrated Catholic health system owned and operated by the Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis, headquartered in Peoria, Illinois. OSF HealthCare employs over 24,000 Mission Partners (employees) in 145 locations—including 15 hospitals, two nursing colleges, and a 1,700-provider network—throughout Illinois and Michigan. In 2020, OSF OnCall was established, a digital health operating unit that delivers seamless navigation for the care and services patients desire—when, where, and how they prefer to receive them. OSF Innovation, ranked among the top 10 innovation centers in the country, is a multidisciplinary program focused on the largest healthcare challenges in the industry.

Highlights of the OSF HealthCare AdVoice Study on Campaign Marketing Persuasion (Very Likely
to Use or Consider):

  • 42% increase for a new brand campaign
  • 27% increase between service-line benchmark and campaign results for cardiology campaign
  • 20% increase between service-line benchmark and campaign results for primary-care campaign
  • 16% increase between service-line benchmark and campaign results for birthing campaign
  • 13% increase between service-line benchmark and campaign results for oncology campaign









OSF HealthCare has been a client using NRC Market Insights for almost five years, having initially used the solution to discover the value of trended consumer brand and preference insights. Market Insights has helped the organization understand their consumers and boost their marketing effectiveness by using the nation’s largest healthcare-consumer database to amplify the opinions and attitudes of consumers, unearthing insights not just around the markets OSF serves, but around markets throughout the country. As a complement to Market Insights, NRC’s AdVoice platform has been used by the organization to provide OSF HealthCare with complete testing for their healthcare creative. This has allowed the OSF team to gather market-specific data to make informed decisions on the campaigns that connect best with consumers.

“Market Insights continually helps us reach our goals,” said Andrea Bonk, program manager of Market Research & Analytics for OSF HealthCare. “AdVoice has helped us hone in on the message, to optimize effectiveness with direction driven by the consumer’s voice, which supports the efficient use of our resources. Resources are tight, so we want to get it right—and AdVoice helps us do that, because we’re working smarter instead of harder. In the end, all of this work contributes to success in reaching our goals.”

The opportunity OSF had with their multi-service-line brand initiative was to combine insights from both Market Insights and AdVoice for line of sight to creative impact and effectiveness. With the campaign already having been in OSF markets for a certain period of time, the goal specific to AdVoice was to hear direct consumer feedback on messaging, creative presentation, and consumer engagement. The goals of OSF were to improve awareness, preference, image, reputation, and advertising recall—testing five service lines simultaneously and against each other.

Solutions and Results

“ROI for branding campaigns is tough, because branding campaigns are really awareness plays. One of the things that we try to do is look at the other lift that marketing campaigns bring in consumer data; then, we also join it up with market share. When you merge the improvements, we see that marketing contributes to that positive margin. Using NRC Health tools, optimization decisions made by leadership are quantified by the data.”

—Andrea Bonk
Program Manager of Market Research
& Analytics, OSF HealthCare

OSF utilized AdVoice to test what was working and what wasn’t and to see what data needed to be added to be most successful. They tested the overall branding campaign, assessing a variety of tactics for each segment, and used the data to optimize the campaigns after the initial launch.

Marketing leadership also tested all five segments against each other by comparing benchmarks against other service-line data from NRC Health, such as cardiovascular and birthing campaigns, and specific marketing-creative pieces against each other, to see what worked in terms of tactical research. Once digital, video, print, and billboard creative pieces were tested, NRC Health could compile the results to identify emerging trends.

Bonk explained that when marketers are under pressure to get a message out, sometimes the first thing to go is robust testing. She said that in that connection, it was exciting to use AdVoice testing post-launch to get all the valuable insights of the study, even though the content under examination was already in the market.

She added that getting timely responses from the NRC Health AdVoice team was invaluable. “It was just a joy to watch the focus-group facilitators build off our questions, like, ‘Hey, that respondent just said that. Can you build off of it?’” she said. “Both of our facilitators were able to work those points into the discussion, in addition to a discussion guide that we had already reviewed and helped build. That was just a really great process.”

Bonk said the information could solidify what optimizations were needed and confirm whether the organization was hitting the mark or conveying the messages its leaders wanted to convey about each point concerning the larger brand. “There was excitement to see the real-time results, once it had already been launched,” she said.

By listening to consumers through AdVoice studies, Bonk said the OSF creative team could see that their work in showcasing their diverse communities was being recognized. “Not only did AdVoice provide constructive, actionable feedback, but the focus group participants also called out, unaided, the diverse communities our videos and advertising tactics represented and how refreshing that was to see,” she said. “It’s one thing to hear, ‘Good job’ from your leadership team—but it’s extra special when you hear it from the audiences you want to reach.”

The qualitative focus group provided valuable, constructive feedback, specifically around the headlines used throughout the creative executions. The feedback from consumers was that headlines needed to be very clear and direct, and that the current headlines were too ambiguous—causing consumers to have to “think too hard” about what it was OSF was marketing. The directness of the participants was exactly what the OSF team needed, Bonk explained; helping their healthcare system understand specifically what they needed consumers to know was one of their biggest takeaways.

“You’re not just getting, ‘Did this campaign perform well against all other marketing campaigns about cardiology?’” Bonk said. “You’re looking specifically at, ‘How did this question compare to the benchmark?’ That helped us to say, ‘All right, we’re getting the tone right, we’re getting the message right, and we’re getting the branding right—but we didn’t get the call to action right.’ That helps us use our resources better than if we just had this general benchmark against a campaign. So by diving in and comparing the service lines against other service lines by the question, we know what we need to work on. That’s super valuable.”

She said the constructive feedback and baseline performance AdVoice provides gave the OSF creative teams a much fuller perspective of what their target audience thought about a particular concept, what they valued, what they expected, and what they want out of healthcare marketing in general.

Infusing Human Understanding

Bonk also acknowledged that, regardless of what people do, everyone wants to hear great things about their work. “We want everything to resonate and everything to hit all the right notes,” she said. “But in reality, sometimes we’re just too close to it. Listening to feedback about marketing campaigns, especially after they’ve been in the market, gives a fuller glimpse of the stories and images we should be telling and using.

“When viewing Market Insights, especially holistically, we can see advertising recall increase and a lift in other key metrics that we hadn’t put on the radar, even to measure,” she added. “A great example of that is when we launched a local cardiovascular campaign in one of our more competitive markets; we saw not only a lift in ad recall and cardiovascular service preference—which was our goal—but also a lift in people’s perceptions about best doctors, quality of care, and best image and reputation. That simultaneous lift was a halo effect that helped build the case for how marketing does more than just build awareness. The focus on Human Understanding allows us to know more about the people we’re trying to reach, so we know them well. You can get a much better view when you holistically put these tools together.”

“One of the things that truly sets NRC Health apart is the people. Every person we’ve worked with has always been a joy. Everyone is on their A-game, which sets NRC apart from other account teams—from our first contact starting the AdVoice submissions, to discovering themes and building a great presentation we could share. Every single one of our NRC team members takes healthcare and consumerism to the next level. It’s impressive.”

—Andrea Bonk
Program Manager of Market Research
& Analytics, OSF HealthCare


For more on NRC Health’s Human Understanding Program,
call 800.388.4264 or visit