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As one absurd Obamacare ad campaign dies, two launch

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From Minnesota's accident-prone Paul Bunyan statue to Colorado's campaign promising that health coverage was just the thing for extreme sports, drinking and sex to Oregon's animated flying hippie, Obamacare has had more than its share of bizarre advertising campaigns. But now, at least one of them is killed, and as wrote December 17 in its obituary:

It’s no secret the health exchange in Oregon has been a train wreck since it launched Oct. 1.

But there might be one bright light amid the darkness. You know those quirky, hipster ads with the “Live Long in Oregon” jingle you can’t get out of your head? They’re going away… for now.

Critics of the quirky, vague and expensive ads will likely rejoice.

Right decision, wrong reason

Oregon had budgeted $10 million dollars on this campaign, then upped the ante by more than doubling that figure to $21 million.

The advertising itself featured 60 seconds of local singer Laura Gibson performing a song whose lyrics sound more like a lame state anthem's than anything to do with health care, which goes unmentioned. The on-camera action is more like an elementary-school play than a piece of persuasion. In fact, the only reference to health insurance at all is a cardboard cutout with "Cover Oregon" and the URL sailing across the bottom of the screen in the last three seconds or so.

But if you think Cover Oregon acting executive director Bruce Goldberg (who'd just stepped into his fired predecessor's shoes) killed the campaign because it was dumb advertising, you're mistaken.

The reason he killed it was that the state's overall Obamacare program wasn't working. As of December 11, according to Enroll Maven, Cover Oregon had succeeded in signing up a grand total of 730 Oregonians in qualified health plans – a mere 99.7 percent short of its goal of 237,000. As a result, the state had to hire 400 workers to process paper applications and reduce the backlog of 30,000 applications, about half of which have mistakes. The advertising money will pay their salaries.

For people who value competent advertising, that's the good news. The bad news is that, like the Hyrda heads of Greek mythology, as soon as you cut off one mindless ad campaign, another two grow in its place.

Pajama boy

One of these new Hyrda heads comes from those wonderful folks who've been telling you that the proper way to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas is not with gratitude or goodwill to men, not by catching up with relatives you haven't seen all year, but by sitting around the dinner table talking about health insurance.

Organizing For Action's latest went up on Twitter December 17. It features a nerdy looking guy sitting on what looks like a couch, wearing what must be the world's only plaid, adult-size onesie, holding a coffee mug. The copy, towards which he's smirking, reads, "Wear pajamas. Drink hot chocolate. Talk about health insurance" [emphasis in the original]. It's signed #GetTalking Below that is a tweet purportedly from Barry O himself, asking, "How do you plan to spend the cold days of December?"

Twitchy is already loaded with snarky comments, including one from Calcat36 saying, "Captain onesie is younger than 26. End of discussion. He stays on mommies [sic] insurance while living in her basement..." and one from Chris Christie showing the New Jersey governor helping hand out food in what looks like a homeless shelter, next to copy saying, "Get out of your pajamas. Put on an apron. And get volunteering. #SeasonofService" above a tweet saying, "In New Jersey, we are spending to cold days of December volunteering."

Drag queens

The same day, the Center for American Progress announced a new YouTube campaign in which drag queens will sell LGBT Americans on signing up for Obamacare. As the Washington Post explained,

Wednesday Night Tea, a drag show in Shreveport, La., has started promoting the health-care law as part of its act. And Out2Enroll is launching a social media campaign this week that will have “naughty” elements as well as holiday cheer, according to Kellan Baker, associate director of the LGBT Research and Communications Project at CAP.

In addition, CAP announced, the entire Wednesday Night Tea cast, including "the ever-lovely Vanessa LeRoux, Feenyx Styles, The Ladi Phat Kat (who recently placed 7th at the National Miss USofA Pageant At-Large), Mya Andrews, and Jax Hannigan – is also working on videos that will be posted on our YouTube page."

Forgetting for the moment the issue of whether drag performers resonate with gays as a whole, there's actually some business logic at work here. For one thing, same-sex partners don't qualify for coverage as family members under employee health plans in most states. For another, according to Front Page Magazine, "Gay incomes are three to five times" those of average Americans, so "[f]ew of them are going to be eligible for subsidies." And, except for the bisexuals, few will need to submit claims for Obamacare's birth control coverage.



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