Examining the Veracity: Colo.'s Exchange Ads Target Specific Audience, Lack Hard Facts

on August 9, 2013  |  Permalink

Topics: Health Care Reform, Public Health, Uninsured, Exchanges

Colorado is among the highest spenders on Affordable Care Act outreach and education as it tries to get more than 700,000 uninsured residents to enroll in its exchange, called Connect for Health Colorado. The state plans to spend about $21 million -- or $4 per resident -- on efforts to promote the law's provisions. So far, Colorado has spent more than $1 million on its early-summer marketing efforts, including three television advertisements to reach young sports fans.

The state began running the ads during Colorado Rockies baseball games. They show individuals in their homes shopping for health insurance online through the exchange website. In one commercial, the shopper is transported to the World Series baseball game. In the second commercial, the shoppers are transported to a Las Vegas casino, and in the third ad, the shopper ends up at the Triple Crown horse race. At the end of each ad, the narrator states, "When health insurance companies compete, there's only one winner: you." (See videos below).

Are the Ads Effective?

In an interview with Kaiser Health News, Myung Kim -- outreach director for Colorado's exchange -- said the state's young adults "are big watchers of the sports shows" and are an important demographic for the outreach efforts.

Tom Leydon -- CEO of Denver-based Pilgrim, an advertising and digital marketing agency -- told TIME’s "Healthland" that the ads would be an effective way to reach the state’s residents. Research show residents like competition and the commercials "remind people of the good feeling they get when they win," Leydon said.

In an interview with American Health Line, Henry Aaron -- a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a board member at the Washington, D.C., Health Benefit Exchange Authority -- said that "most people, regardless of their politics, regard competition among profit oriented companies as beneficial, in general, for consumers." He noted that the health exchanges are responsible for trying to "make sure that insurers compete over the right things," including price, network and service. "For that reason, I think the wording of the [ad] was 'spot on,'" he said.

However, some observers have said the advertising campaign is too vague to be effective.

In an interview with the Denver Post, Michael Fallon -- an emergency medicine physician -- said the ads have failed to mention that "you have to shop with us, if you don't you'll pay a fine." He added that the commercials also failed to note that the exchanges are "the only place you buy subsidized insurance."

Aaron acknowledged that the "imagery could have been more informative and equally engaging," adding, "This is not, after all, a time to 'party on' but rather to celebrate the fact that the plans will be drive to cut bids in order to attract customers and beat out competition."

In a separate interview with the Denver Post, Kim said Connect for Health Colorado could change its marketing tactics leading up to the Oct. 1 open enrollment deadline. "We are looking at many different ways of doing education," Kim said.

by Michelle Stuckey, staff writer