Examining the Veracity: Oregon's Musical Ads Light on Details

on August 23, 2013  |  Permalink

Topics: Health Care Reform

In July, Cover Oregon launched the first of a four phase advertising campaign, rolling out $3.2 million worth of television and print advertisements in the state to boost recognition of the state’s health insurance exchange. The first phase of the progressive advertising campaign includes two TV ads featuring local musicians who wrote songs intended to educate Oregonians about the exchanges, in hopes of getting hundreds of thousands of uninsured individuals enrolled in coverage.

The first television ad features musician Matt Sheehy, who performs the song "Long Live Oregonians," as he travels through various settings in the state, from the deck of crabbing boat to the Oregon Caves National Monument to a grassy country. In the song, Sheehy encourages viewers to "be healthy" and "get the best care that a state can get."

The second ad features folksinger Laura Gibson strumming her guitar in a grassy field singing "Live Long in Oregon." In the ad, handmade props float in and out of view, changing the scenes as Gibson sings, "Where I'm free to be healthy, and happy and strong, live long in Oregon."

In an email with American Health Line, Ariane Holm -- a spokesperson for Cover Oregon -- said, "[O]ur goal was simply to raise awareness about Cover Oregon and build brand awareness." She noted, "rather than tying us to the Affordable Care Act … we wanted to do something true to the Cover Oregon mission, creating something made for Oregonians, by Oregonians."

It appears that in their attempts to avoid making connections to the ACA, the ads do more to promote the state and its residents than the exchange, which is not mentioned by name in either song and only makes an appearance in print in the last five seconds of the ads.

Janet Schwartz -- an assistant professor of marketing at Tulane University's A.B. Freeman School of Business -- in an interview with American Health Line, said that the first ad "seemed more patriotic than trying to get me to buy health insurance." Schwartz explained, "For any kind of marketing content you want to know exactly what it is about." She noted that the second ad seemed "more on message about health care" and is "more clear on what the exchanges are going to bring to the people in the state."

However, Judith Hibbard -- a professor of health policy at the University of Oregon's department of planning, public policy and management -- told American Health Line that neither of the ads "really say much about what Cover Oregon [is]." She noted that although the ads are "engaging and make people feel good," they did not do a great job at getting people to understand that they have new coverage options available to them. Hibbard said that going forward, Cover Oregon would benefit from including more information "so people know what Cover Oregon is and what their new options are."

However, both Schwartz and Hibbard said Cover Oregon made the right choice in staying away from the politics surrounding the ACA.

-- by Heather Drost, staff writer