Illinois partners with The Onion to push Obamacare enrollment [Chicago Tribune :: ]
(Chicago Tribune (IL) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 10--Illinois officials are hoping headlines like "Recently Insured Man Can't Wait To Get Out There, Start Seriously Injuring Himself," and "Man Without Health Insurance is Forced to Sell Action Figures to Pay Medical Bills" will bring the right blend of comedy and news to persuade more young people to sign up for new health coverage.
In a push to enroll more "young invincibles," the state's official Affordable Care Act outreach vehicle, Get Covered Illinois, has forged a partnership with satircal news site The Onion to run a series of advertisements and marketing material online.
Under terms of the agreement, the state will pay Chicago-based Onion Inc. $150,000 for $300,000 worth of online banner ads, a video, an editorial and a custom news section that will feature Get Covered Illinois, said Mike Claffey, a Get Covered Illinois spokesman.
The Onion, via its creative agency Onion Labs, will develop and feature the content through March 31, the deadline to enroll in the new health plans offered on online marketplaces created by the law known as Obamacare.
The success of the marketplaces, a key pillar of the law, depends largely on whether enough young, healthy people sign up for coverage to help offset the cost of older, sicker customers.
Reaching and engaging younger consumers is particularly important in Illinois, where they comprise some 53 percent of the uninsured, according to state data.
Illinois' decision to tap the satirical humorists at The Onion was a savvy move by the state, said Kelly Leonard, executive vice president at The Second City, the Chicago satire factory that also has a division that works with corporate clients on marketing and messaging.
"Humor is the great equalizer. It's a great way to deal with difficult and taboo subjects," Leonard said. "I think it's brave and potentially will be quite effective. Funny works."
The Onion, which made its name as a hard-copy newspaper that skewered just about everything, printed its last newspapers in December, transforming into an all-digital media company. Its audience skews toward younger adults -- particularly those between ages 21 and 34, a key segment of potential health insurance consumers.
Using laughs to reach the under-34 set, a segment that tends to get its political news from satirical cable shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, "is a wonderful way to have political discourse and a very potent way to send a message," Leonard said.
The Second City partners with The Onion on a number of projects; it is not involved in the Get Covered Illinois campaign.
Illinois completed the deal through its $33 million contract signed last year with FleishmanHillard to market and promote its exchange, which is operated in a partnership with the federal government at HealthCare.gov.
As its Get Covered Illinois campaign enters the final weeks before the March 31 enrollment deadline, officials are scrambling to get consumers signed up. Much of that focus will be on luring more young people, whom experts expect will wait until the last minute to enroll.
Because these consumers tend to consume media differently than their older peers, "we have to work with non-traditional, and especially digital, sources for news and entertainment," said Jennifer Koehler, Get Covered Illinois' executive director.
Onion Labs has worked on campaigns for brands like 7-Eleven, Microsoft and Adobe, but its work with Get Covered Illinois marks the first time it will work with a government agency, said Onion CEO Steve Hannah.
"The comedy we produce is extremely funny and easy to share across social media outlets," Hannah said. "The younger demographic ... that the state is targeting makes up The Onion's core audience. This demographic is extremely smart, and organizations need new and creative ways to reach them."
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