Garfield's AdReview

By Published on .

At the risk of perpetuating hateful stereotypes, ever watch a 75-year-old try to operate, say, a digital camera? It's kind of comical. And pitiful.

We never met Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb who was still writing at the age of 92, but we'd bet anything that in retirement he drove very slowly and couldn't navigate bank-by-phone. Aging hinders concentration, which creates confusion, which fosters insecurity, which leads to panic. Our sainted mother, God rest her soul, was no Alzheimer's patient, but she was launched into paroxysms of terror by call waiting.

Now then: Medicare Part D.

Much more complicated than thermonuclear fusion.

This is a federal prescription-drug coverage program administered by private companies with multiple options, multiple exceptions, a "doughnut hole" of non-coverage and pricing, by hundreds of carriers, all over the map. Over the next months, seniors will be bombarded with information from a zillion sources. The winner among providers will be the ones who make Medicare subscribers feel at ease.

So, strategically at least, you'd have to say Pacificare was on the right track. A pair of spots from Deutsch, Los Angeles, immediately establish a viewer comfort level by employing, as its celebrity endorsers, Fred and Ethel Mertz.

OK, yes, they're fictional characters, from the "I Love Lucy" show. And, no, actors William Frawley and Vivian Vance aren't eligible for Medicare Part D, because they are technically dead. Doesn't matter. They're universally recognized, especially in the target demographic. It is also extremely eye-catching to see their 1958, black-and-white selves magically altered to talk about 2005 reality.

No question, it's an ingenious concept executed with near-technical perfection. Only problem is: We have absolutely no idea what they are talking about.

Ethel: Fred, you still need to choose a Medicare drug plan.

Fred: Awww, the big fight's about to start.

Ethel: Well, you don't want a big fight to start in here, do ya? Besides, you could be saving money.

Fred: Wait just a minute. How much?

Ethel: Says here Pacificare could save you hundreds, even thousands of dollars!

All right. That's plain enough: Save money with Pacificare. Got it so far. This ad is just getting started, however.

Ethel: Say, Fred, you can even choose popular brand-name drugs.

Fred: But generics are cheaper.

Ethel: Well, they've got those, too!

Then, amid superimposed small-print disclaimers, right into optional vision and dental plans, home delivery and coverage gaps. If you were up to speed with Medicare Part D to begin with, you could probably sort that all out. If, however, you are among the 102% of seniors not thoroughly versed in the complexities of this program, this might as well be TV Albania. That's why, at various points in the spot, we go from the Mertzes to a nice young fellow in living color trying to put it all in perspective.

"At Pacificare, we believe freedom is the best medicine. That's why we offer multiple plans, starting under $23 a month in many states. Plus all of our plans save you Medicare's $250 plan deductible." OK, that does it. Enough!

You want to earn the trust of seniors? A first step might be not to overwhelm them not only with more than they can digest, but with more than they can bear. Once again: cute concept. But in the end these spots have info-overload-out the Desilu.

Review 2 stars

Ad: Medicare

Agency: Deutsch

Location: Los Angeles

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