REFORM BOOSTERS SHOOT BACK GROUPS ROLL OUT CAMPAIGNS SUPPORTING CURE FOR HEALTHCARE SYSTEM

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Look out Harry and Louise! Proponents of a national healthcare plan are on the offensive.

Several groups have started new advertising to win support for a national healthcare plan. Some ads feature real people, an effort to discredit the Health Insurance Association of America's famous but fictitious Harry and Louise, stars of the HIAA's TV campaign deriding the Clinton proposal.

Since September, the HIAA has spent $14 million on TV, radio and print ads from Goddard*Claussen/First Tuesday, Malibu, Calif. The ads, however, have been off the air since Feb. 20.

The fading to black of the HIAA campaign may present an opportunity for Clinton friend Harry Thomason to air new installments of his much-talked-about, but sparingly aired, ad spoof telling the continuing story of Harry and Louise. She died because Harry lost his job and health insurance and she didn't go to the hospital soon enough (AA, March 21).

A new spot, telling Harry's continuing sorry adventures, is complete and another is in development, Advertising Age has learned. However, no definitive plans to air the spot have been made.

"If you can make [people] laugh at the characters, [the HIAA ads] are not as effective," said Mr. Thomason, who made the spot with several other Hollywood producers.

At the same time, the Healthcare Reform Project, the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union and the Campaign for Health Security have weighed in with pro healthcare-plan ads featuring real people, not actors like Harry and Louise.

The ILGWU last week broke a 30-second spot featuring 11 union members telling their health insurance hardships. The $250,000 effort from Paula Green Advertising, New York, will air during the next month on network news shows in New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington.

"I lost my job. Now I'll lose my health insurance," one ILGWU member says. Another complains: "I'm covered. Not my kids."

The Healthcare Reform Project, a pro-Clinton coalition of labor, business and consumer groups, last week unveiled a 30-second spot in Washington and 14 key congressional districts to try to get the backing of small businesses. The ad from Chlopak Leonard Schechter & Associates, Washington, features Michael Elins, owner of Berkley Upholstering in West Virginia.

"Running a small business is tough," he says in the ad. "But, I do the right thing and pay for my workers' health insurance."

A direct mailing to 1 million voters also supports the latest effort. The Healthcare Reform Project has spent about $1.5 million to date and has budgeted up to $5 million.

The Campaign for Health Security, a coalition of 30 consumer, senior citizen, labor and religious groups, on March 26 started a $150,000 TV, radio and direct mail effort that initially targets five members of Congress to support real healthcare reform, including employer-mandated universal coverage. The group refused to say who created the ads.

The ads call on viewers to contact their representative and demand coverage as good as that congressman gets, not less. Targeted are Reps. Jim Cooper (D., Tenn.), Michael Bilirakis (R., Fla.), Scott Klug (R., Wis.), Marge Roukema (R., N.J.) and Fred Upton (R., Mich.).

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