Market Overview

Rubber Ducks, Hallucinations and Flying Lanterns Mark a Decade of 'Disruptive Advertising' for StrikeForce, a Nontraditional Healthcare Agency


What does a fleet of 500 rubber ducks have to do with a TV commercial
about a form of psychosis?

Everything, according to Mike Rutstein, Founder and CEO of
StrikeForce Communications, a healthcare advertising agency well-known
for its unconventional approach.

Both the rubber duck race, he explained, and the campaign that unveils
the prevalence and impact of hallucinations in people with Parkinson's
Disease—more than 50 percent of whom will suffer from psychosis—are the
result of the agency's unorthodox approach to healthcare marketing

"On Labor Day, we plan to celebrate our tenth anniversary by racing our
ducks down the river," Rutstein said, pointing out that he and the
StrikeForce staff will be cheering alongside parents of children with
cancer. The race will take place in Sudbury, Mass, and benefit the
pediatric oncology ward at the UMass Medical Center.

"A lot of what we do involves making medical crises more manageable," he
added, reflecting on the 10 years that have passed since he set out on
the solo path to what is now a full-service marketing agency with
roughly 30 full-time professionals and more than a hundred others who
work on selected projects. Over the past decade, the agency has
generated more than $100 million in revenue and won more than 50 awards,
many for communicating complex ideas to consumers and patients.

In the Parkinson's campaign, for example, StrikeForce was looking for a
way to illustrate the hallucinations and delusions that are often
visited upon those with the disease. The condition is manageable, but
only if patients and their caregivers—often family members—are aware
that hallucinations are part of Parkinson's and can be controlled.

Charged with developing an unbranded disease awareness campaign, the
agency put together an unconventional creative staff, including a poet
inspired by a book of poetry written by someone suffering from the
condition. The team then used the poetry as a jumping-off point for Secret
a riveting TV spot that allows viewers to experience
hallucinations through the eyes of a person with Parkinson's.
Recognition and treatment bring clarity, along with more welcome
visitors, such as family. Viewers are then urged to visit the
accompanying website for help.

"We call this ‘disruptive' advertising, because it's designed to shake
people up and get a conversation going," Rutstein said. "It also mirrors
the disruption that occurs when a loved one starts seeing things that
aren't there."

In order to differentiate the TV spot from other medical ads,
StrikeForce turned to Mark Pellington, an independent film director
whose latest full-length feature is Nostalgia, starring Jon Hamm,
Ellen Burstyn and Bruce Dern.

"Going outside the healthcare marketing pool allows us to draw on other
disciplines—such as the arts—and inject fresh ideas into everything we
do," Rutstein said. "The agency's ‘open source' structure is a key part
of our ‘precision pairing' approach. It allows us to pair every
client with the best talent in or outside the business."

A similar approach was used in the agency's ‘Let Go' campaign for
Harvoni, a break-through Hepatitis C treatment. The campaign used a
collection of flying lanterns to depict the joy of release from what,
for many, had been a lifetime of uncertainty.

Pro bono and nonprofit assignments have included work for the
Michael J. Fox Foundation, Alex's Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer—a
multi-million dollar charity that was actually launched by a
four-year-old—and, of course, the annual Labor Day Rubber Duck Race, to
be held rain or shine at the Grist Mill on the Sudbury River, just
outside Boston. The StrikeForce armada will be out in force, ready to
compete with thousands of other ducks for the benefit of the Child Life
Program at UMass. Quack.


STRIKEFORCE is a revolutionary healthcare communications company that
operates through a unique open source model and "Precision Pairing"
philosophy. This approach offers greater access to top-level talent and
the ability to truly tailor or "pair" solutions to meet the individual
needs of each client, without the bloated overhead and fixed assets of a
traditional model. The result is a more potent work product through a
more efficient pricing structure.

STRIKEFORCE COMMUNICATIONS LLC is based in New York City. The agency's
engagements include work for the following clients: Alcon Laboratories,
Orexigen Therapeutics, Pfizer, NxStage Medical, Warner Chilcott, Pozen
Pharmaceuticals, KCI, Azur Pharmaceuticals, Abbott Laboratories, Ocean
Nutrition Canada, Ziemer, ITI, Amniox Medical, Artelon, Mobius
Therapeutics, Sunovion, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, BMS,
Gilead Sciences, Acadia Pharmaceuticals, Michael J. Fox Foundation and

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