W&H image campaign takes innovative routes

Rows of sparkling white teeth, blemish-free faces and beautiful products have dominated advertising in the dental industry for many years. Nowadays, however, it’s not really possible to use the smiling patient cliché as a unique selling point. W&H, with its unusual campaign that takes the dentist’s waiting room as its theme, has opted for completely different means of communication. “We don’t want to show off the smile. What we really want to do is to conjure that smile on the viewer’s face. So we show people just as they are and try to satirize them at the same time,” says Angela Heigl, member of Team Brandcom.

Surprising visual images and funny characters not only provide plenty of material for discussion but also bring amusement and emotion into play. Dr Martina Banze, Director Marketing at W&H, explains, “We’re only successful if we can release strong emotions and convey our brand values at the same time.” In an interview, she and Angela Heigl talk about the trends and challenges of image advertising:

image advertising in the dental industry
Challenges for the dentist on a daily basis.
In the interview, Angela Heigl, Team Brandcom (left), and
Dr Martina Banze, Director Marketing (right)

Your current image campaign has already attracted lots of attention in the dental industry.
What were the main objectives for this unusual campaign?

Dr. Banze: The main objective was differentiation from the competition. We want to appeal to dentists by using fresh new ideas, and of course a friendly twinkle in the eye never goes amiss either. Our aim is to provide dentists with reassurance. Whatever they encounter, we stand by them as a reliable partner and use our expertise and product range to support them in their daily work.

How does your current campaign differ from the campaigns of your competitors?
What’s your unique selling point?

Heigl: On one hand, it’s certainly one of the few campaigns that doesn’t feature any products. On the other hand, we’ve broken away from the classic “I” perspective. Many companies today still advertise with “the best products” and “the greatest offers”, etc. We consciously distance ourselves from these superlatives and try rather to put ourselves in the shoes of our target groups by looking into the space that best demonstrates dentists’ daily routine and their many functions, i.e. the waiting room. By doing this we address people and their problems while at the same time positioning ourselves as problem-solvers.

Dr. Banze: Our campaign slogan is “Whatever you encounter: With W&H surgical devices you’ll be prepared for anything!" What we’re suggesting here is that we deal not only with the instruments but also and primarily with a range of different patients. The waiting room of a dental practice is home to a wide variety of different personalities and characters – some are easier, others rather more difficult to take care of. And this is what really counts, the fact that we understand dentists and their daily challenges.

What role does the choice of visual imagery play in the creation of a new campaign?

Heigl: Visual imagery always plays an essential role in image campaigns. While the visual images are clearly defined in product campaigns, there is more room to manoeuvre in an image campaign. Our clear objective is to differentiate ourselves from the other advertising campaigns in the industry and to get away from the typical cliché of the smiling patient. More important than the imagery, however, is the idea on which it’s based. It’s only possible to translate this idea into both text and image if the idea works in the first place.

Restoration and Prosthetics
Advertising subject for the application segment of
Restoration and Prosthetics
Advertising subject for the application segment
Oral surgery and Implantology.

What is the core message and who are the recipients of your image campaign?

Dr. Banze: As already mentioned, the core message “Whatever you encounter: With W&H surgical devices you’ll be prepared for anything!” is aimed very precisely at the target group. We use it to send dentists the message that we’ll support them to the best of our ability with our instruments and equipment and that we want to make their work easier.

Heigl: Basically, the campaign addresses the end user. But our core message can also be aimed equally well at our partners for example. We therefore position ourselves as strong partners for dentists, dental technicians and our partners.

What, in your opinion, are the most important factors for the success of an image campaign?

Heigl: The success of any image campaign stands or falls by the emotions it awakens. Initially it should inspire sympathy and offer viewers the opportunity to identify themselves – based on the shared humour, the tonality or the aesthetics. I always have to try and make contact with people on an emotional level. An image campaign without emotion will remain unsuccessful. A campaign makes an impact when people talk about it, when it stimulates discussion and conversation. Of course, the important thing is always to have a great idea that appeals to the target group.

Dr. Banze: It’s also essential that both the public image and the self-image of a brand are in harmony. Of course, we can stir up emotions but it’s also important for the customer to discover our brand in this image. And for this reason we pay special attention to ensuring that the degree of emotion is congruent with the public image and self-image of the W&H brand. In my view, we’ve managed to do this very well in our current W&H image campaign.

What are the challenges of successful image advertising in the dental industry?

Heigl: We work in the B2B sector which presents a huge challenge in my opinion. Classic B2C companies have a wide variety of advertising materials that we simply can’t use to the same extent in the B2B sector. One of the biggest challenges is reaching the target group and being able to put the campaign into practice. Another aspect is that the dental industry has a strong technology bias. And it’s not always easy here to bridge the gap between technology and emotion.

What advertising trends do you see in your industry?

Heigl: Many companies now feel free to step away from technology and pure product presentations towards new, creative advertising ideas. My general feeling is that the industry is becoming braver. Companies are opening up and daring to try out new things. The general impression is that they’d all like to raise their profile and are pushing for a unique selling point within their area of expertise. These efforts are more obvious at present than was the case a few years ago.

Dr. Banze: Advertising is perceived differently all over the world and there are different levels when it comes to content. It starts with simple product presentations and associated price details and extends to really subtle and profound advertising without targeting the product directly. The stories that you want to tell with a campaign have to be fine-tuned to these regional differences. This means that we also have to respond to such differences in our image campaign.

What role does online communication play in the success of an image campaign?

Dr. Banze: I think online communication is becoming increasingly important. In our digital age in particular, many target groups spend their time mainly on social media channels, a strong trend that’s observed specifically in the younger generation. This is why it’s also imperative to promote any image campaign through online media. For example, we’ve also got a presence on YouTube and Facebook which gives us the opportunity to take our image campaign forward electronically. These days, print alone would fall well short of the mark for a successful campaign.

How do you measure the success of your image campaign?

Dr. Banze: To measure success we use surveys that ask about brand values, acceptance of the image campaign and lots more. Naturally, there are various methods available to us. One particularly good way of demonstrating the success of a campaign, however, is when people start copying you in the advertising sector. And at present we are being copied. That’s massive proof of success for me. It shows that we’ve done everything right.

Finally, can you give us a look at what the future might hold?
What will the W&H image campaign of 2025 be like?

Heigl: Unlike product campaigns, image campaigns don’t convey any know-how. Their job is to put brand values firmly in the foreground. W&H will soon be 125 years old. Working with our partners has been one of the most important corporate values for just as long. We can assume that the W&H image campaign may look a little different in 2025 but the value of being a good and reliable partner will continue to exist. This means that our current values will still be valid and will also form a significant part of any image campaign even many years down the line.

Thank you for your time!


Client: W&H Dentalwerk Bürmoos
Agency: grallerwerbung, Vienna
Photography and post-production: Staudinger & Franke, Vienna