Oregon really threw down the gauntlet earlier this summer when Cover Oregon launched its quirky and highly entertaining TV ads.
Thursday, Covered California fired its first volleys. Peter Lee, executive director of Covered California, assured reporters during a press conference that "you won't be seeing movie stars, you won't be seeing rock stars."
That's right, we won't see movie stars or rock stars. Instead, we see signs. Yes, signs. That's what the ad is titled: "signs."
To be fair, Lee completed his "you won't be seeing rock stars" thought with "you'll be seeing real people." But mostly we see signs at the beginning of the ad. There's a lot of somewhat wonky voiceover about "equal access to quality health insurance," "financial assistance" and "pre-existing conditions." We heard none of those things in the Cover Oregon ads -- instead the ads left me with a wonderful feeling about how great Oregon is -- and therefore how great Cover Oregon must be. Cover Oregon seemed to embrace the concept of branding. Is it too late to call in Don Draper of "Mad Men"? Or maybe Peggy Olson?
But not everyone is reacting the way I am. Larry Levitt, senior vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said in an email that he appreciated that "these ads emphasized actual protections and the subsidies, in contrast, for example, to the Vermont ads that don't really mention anything." Like Oregon, Vermont also took a more generic approach. Anthony Wright of Health Access liked the ads, too. "You can have the beautiful textures of the California coast and Central Valley, while also providing concrete information consumers need," he said.