The Favorite Gig of My Career


Fransiscan Skemp “Heart” TV spot on Vimeo2


















I’ve been in the talent business for over 25 years now and have thousands of jobs to my credit, but when I was recently asked “what was your favorite job of your career,” the answer was easy.  In 2005, I worked on a campaign for the Franciscan Skemp Health System in LaCrosse, WI.  Franciscan Skemp had recently sold 49% of its ownership to Mayo Clinic (who today owns them outright), and wanted to promote the fact that many of their specialists were also Mayo Clinic doctors, who commuted across the Mississippi to work part-time in LaCrosse.  The campaign ran for two years and involved at 8 TV spots, radio, newspaper print ads, even a billboard for folks crossing the Mississippi River to see my smiling face.


Yes, this was the most lucrative booking of my career, but the reasons why it is my favorite go further than just money.


For one thing, it was a simple yet brilliant concept that did good things for the client and won industry awards.  Health care industry advertising is very stale in my experience.  All spots are pretty much the same – it’s either a few of the most telegenic docs – or a talent like myself – talking about how “we have all the latest equipment, with cutting-edge techniques, and boy do our people really care about YOU.”  But instead of having a hired gun say these things, the creative minds at Storandt Pann Margolis turned those clichés around by having me interview the citizens of LaCrosse in public, and got THEM to say amazing things about Franciscan Skemp.  This strategy proved to be *much* more credible and effective than the clichéd approach, and the “proof is in the pudding” since SPM won a Telly Award for the campaign.


Here is a link to one of the award-winning TV spots: https://vimeo.com/14071876


I also appreciated this gig because of how I got cast for it over the many dozens of other talented people who auditioned for this.  The producers were looking for two things: first, someone who did NOT look like a trendy NY or LA spokesperson who could pass for a super model.  Rather, they wanted someone who looked and acted like a stereotypically polite, down-to-earth, sincere Midwesterner.  Being a born and bred citizen of Michigan and now Chicago, IL, I had the Midwestern vibe down pat.


Also, they needed someone who could make a quick connection with and gain the trust of a member of the public approached unexpectedly on the street.  What convinced them of my ability to connect with people was, of all things, my 16 years in the restaurant business earlier in my life.  At my call-back, I talked about how I’ve worked in restaurants ranging from a modest deli in a college town, a fairly upscale place in a blue-collar area, a fine-dining seafood restaurant, and a busy restaurant in downtown Chicago that was popular with tourists from around the world.  I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people from a wide range of socio-economic, racial, cultural, and age demographics, and my tips depended on being able to make a quick connection with my customers.  Over time I got to be very good at this.  The producers bought my pitch and awarded me the job.


The actual shoot was a blast.  We filmed the TV spots across 3 very cold winter days in LaCrosse, WI, at various spots in town with a lot of foot traffic: outside the post office, in a shopping mall, and side streets around the downtown area, etc.  I was struck by how well the locals spoke of Franciscan Skemp, and that really helped me believe that I was promoting a very worthy institution.  The people of LaCrosse were unfailingly friendly and engaging – it’s a pretty happy place!  (Might it have something to do with the fact that it has more pubs per capita that any city in the US?).  Hmmmmm….


To sum up, this campaign had a compelling and effective creative approach, won industry awards, was a lot of fun to shoot with a terrific crew and the citizens of LaCrosse, and paid me handsomely.  For all of these reasons, it remains my favorite gig of my 25+ year career.


What was your favorite gig?

AUTHOR: tomtest-wpadmin     CATEGORIES: Blog
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