The National Institute of Health

The biggest name in disease prevention (brag) brought us in to transform public perception (and participation) around health research. The levity-centric, empathetic, national campaigns we crafted were—we’re sorry to do this—a viral success.


Brand Voice & Identity, Visual Brand Identity, Taglines, Web Copy, Graphic Design, Outdoor Ads, Digital Advertising, Social Media Content, Marketing Collateral, Email Campaign, Promotional Assets, Brand Partnership Content, Podcast Launch

Illustration of a typewriter with a halo over its head.

The Backstory

It’s rare to see a humanitarian cause use levity to get its message across. Way, way too often fear and guilt are the tools of the trade for movements that seek to change the world. The New Normal™  hired us so that their public health initiative could do the opposite. Launched by The National Institute of Health and The University of Chicago (and some other serious heavy hitters), TNN needed help launching a 10-years-in-the-making portal that makes it easy (nay, the new normal—wink) for everyday people to participate in health research studies. We created a Brand Voice & Identity that positioned TNN in a positive, approachable, humorous light (both in design and in messaging)…while still driving home the core promises and urgency of the campaign. This foundational work equipped the initiative with a consistent voice everywhere from participation stickers to sponsorship emails to the portal user experience itself to billboards and social media ads. The response to the campaign at large has been overwhelmingly positive and has proudly proven our belief that levity is a powerful tool, that humor is humanizing, and that —Obedient tagline incoming—fun sells.

Advertising Campaigns

The major challenge of the digital advertising campaigns we created for TNN was to undo the stigma around health research studies and trials. Most people are either wary or fearful of participating or think that they need to have a specific diagnosis to join. So we knew our ads had to not only grab attention, but also differentiate from overly-clinical language by breaking down the heady concepts into relatable, memorable messages. For the first awareness campaign we internally referred to as, “Weird Hobbies,” we identified a handful of peculiar things that people do with their spare time (like ferret racing or extreme ironing) to grab eyes, but also quickly communicate to the reader what they could do with their spare time instead: participate in a health research study. For our second campaign, we wanted to focus on the unique technology behind TNNs initiative: the central portal that connects individuals with clinical trials and studies they’re a match for. We quickly decided to capitalize on the matchmaking essence of the tech and compare it to something similar the masses are intimately familiar with: dating apps. By mirroring TNN’s subject matter with well-known dating language (swiping, friends with benefits, keeping it casual, etc.) we use humor and parallels to deliver one of the central value propositions of the initiative. Lastly, right at the beginning of the pandemic, in Spring of 2020, we created a campaign targeting research participants by lampooning the ‘quarantine’ hot topics (baking bread, zooms, etc.) to illuminate the opportunity for people (of all health statuses) to participate in COVID-19-related research studies.

Web Copy

For the digital ad campaign, we placed Sapp’s differentiators at the center of each asset—to cast them as the hero of the water-world compared to their competitors. We leveraged an offbeat, wry, conversational tone and an earthy, illustrative design style to help the ads go down smooth with the target audience.

Promotional Collateral

Of course, no movement is complete without the right marketing and promotional collateral to help them stand out at events. We took the new brand voice & identity and created leave-behinds, participation stickers, posters, and booth signage that grabbed—and kept—attention.

“Woohooooo!!! A HUGE thank you to Obedient for everything, I’m absolutely blown away. All that’s left to do is share a toast and bask in the glory of the exceptional work!”

—Sara Serritella, Director of Communications at the Institute for Translational Medicine
(a National Institute partner)

Back to the trophy case.