AAO launches $5M ad campaign targeting adults

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The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) has launched a multimillion dollar advertising campaign designed to educate the public about orthodontists' unique qualifications, with particular emphasis on the adult market.

The campaign includes TV commercials, magazine ads, and a new consumer website, MyLifeMySmile.org.

Created by New York-based marketing communications firm Athorn, Clark & Partners, the "My Life. My Smile. My Orthodontist." campaign is designed to target the adult market, maintain outreach to parents of children and teens, herald the specialist training and two to three years of additional education required to become an orthodontist, and reaffirm the AAO's role as a primary source of information on orthodontics and oral health, according to the organization.

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A print ad from the American Association of Orthodontists' new campaign. Image courtesy of the AAO.

"There has been a great deal of direct-to-consumer information about orthodontic care, and this campaign gives the AAO the opportunity to remind consumers that the association and its members are the authorities when it comes to questions regarding orthodontic care," Michael B. Rogers, DDS, president of the AAO, told DrBicuspid.com.

"This is an exciting initiative for the AAO, as we tackle the consumer misconception that orthodontists are the folks who simply put braces on teeth," he said. "We want the public to know that, as highly educated specialists, our work with patients of all ages starts with the alignment of teeth and jaws for good function and good oral health."

The TV commercials are airing on Style, E!, WE TV, Discovery Fit & Health, Bravo, HGTV, and "What Not to Wear" on TLC. Print ads will appear in the March, April, May, and June issues of More and Fitness magazines, as well as the March issue of Ready, Set, Grow. Online banner ads are appearing on select websites such as WebMD, Everyday Health, and Facebook.

The total annual budget for this member-supported effort is $5 million, and it is scheduled to continue through May 2013. Versions of ad materials will be developed for individual members or groups of AAO members to use to promote their practices. The AAO messages are also appearing in Puerto Rico and Canada.

Targeting adults

The TV ads primarily feature adults who talk about gaining confidence and feeling better about themselves after orthodontic treatment.

“Adults are serious about having a healthy bite.”
— Michael B. Rogers, DDS, president,
     American Association of

"It's the best decision I ever made," a beaming young woman states in one of the commercials.

Adults are interested in learning that they, too, can benefit from orthodontic treatment, according to Dr. Rogers.

"With this campaign, we are letting adults know that it's OK to look into treatment," he said. "Early in my own practice, only a small percentage of my patients were adults. Now about one in five patients I treat is an adult."

From 1994 to 2010, the number of adult patients treated by AAO members increased by 58%, he noted. Even with the recent economic downturn, members saw a 2.5% increase of adult patients from 2008 to 2010.

"Adults are serious about having a healthy bite," Dr. Rogers said.

Although the AAO has not formally surveyed adults about why they opt for treatment, Dr. Rogers cited several reasons, taken from his own practice experience:

  • Many adults had been unhappy with their teeth and smile for many years and wanted to make a change.
  • Perhaps a child had orthodontic treatment and the parent liked the results.
  • Some adults had perfectly aligned teeth for many years, but experienced maturational changes that they wanted to resolve.
  • Others were advised by their dentists to have orthodontic treatment as a means to avoid unwanted enamel wear or other detrimental effects of their malocclusions.
  • There is a trend for people to want to look younger and have more self-confidence, which is related somewhat to reality TV shows.

"There are probably as many personal reasons to seek orthodontic treatment as there are orthodontic patients," he said.

The compaign also highlights that orthodontists are specialist when it comes to straightening teeth and aligning bites and the "smart choice" for those considering clear aligners, retainers, or traditional braces.

"Orthodontists are dentistry's specialists in orthodontics, and the campaign is simply stating who we are and what we do," Dr. Rogers said.

"We've found that consumers know they need to go to a specialist for their hearts, their knees, their backs, and their brains; yet they overlook these highly trained experts on oral health: the orthodontists," said George Clark of Athorn, Clark & Partners. "The new 'My Life. My Smile. My Orthodontist.' campaign really drives home the message that orthodontists care about their health and their smile."

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