HEALTHCARE WAR'S NEW ADVERTISER PLAYS IT NEUTRAL

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WASHINGTON-The already crowded healthcare advertiser field has a new, well-heeled entry.

The Kaiser Foundation, in conjunction with the National League of Women Voters, on Jan. 31 broke a multimillion-dollar TV and print campaign. But unlike current campaigns by the health insurance industry, White House allies and drug marketers that endorse or criticize specific healthcare proposals, Kaiser's ads are neutral and informational.

The Kaiser effort boosts to nearly $20 million the amount of advertising generated by President Clinton's crusade for a national healthcare plan. The campaign also demonstrates that paid media devoted to public policy issues can be exploited by interested third parties, not just proponents and opponents.

Kaiser, an independent philanthropic and health research foundation based in California, plans an initial 10-week blitz of three 30-second cable and spot TV commercials and full- and half-page print ads for major market dailies and newsweeklies, said Matt James, VP-communications and media programs.

After that $3.5 million effort, Kaiser and league officials will review the campaign's impact and consider another flight, Mr. James said.

"We're backing none of the plans that have been proposed and want to be sure that what we're saying is based on facts," Mr. James said. "Our first ads are about the uninsured ... and cite specific research to identify them and the consequences of their being uninsured."

Campaign strategy was overseen by a pair of political media consultants, Republican Doug Bailey and Democrat Jim Margolis, and produced by Glen Pearcy, a Washington film producer. Print was by Herb Gunther of the Public Media Center,

"We didn't want an agency or someone whose regular job is to sell soap," Mr. James said. "Our campaign aims at the more informed audience, the opinion leaders and the media ... people who will write to their newspapers and to their congressmen. That's why we're not buying time on `Roseanne' but will on various news and public affairs programs."

Concurrent with the campaign will be a series of 60 electronic town hall meetings conducted by the League of Women Voters, he said.

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