Cigna Employs TV Doctors in New Campaign to Help Save Real Lives

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While Patrick Dempsey may have made hearts race as Dr. Derek Shepherd (AKA McDreamy) on "Grey's Anatomy," he didn't save any actual lives, but as part of Cigna's new campaign, he's trying to do just that.

The health insurance market is in flux, causing concern for consumers across the country. Some insurers, including Cigna, are requesting higher premiums on the 2017 Obamacare exchange, while others, like Aetna, are pulling out of Obamacare altogether. Cigna's new campaign doesn't have all the answers, but it's telling people -- with the help of famous TV doctors -- that they can take control of their personal health by doing one simple thing: going for annual checkups.

In the 30-second spot, which was created by McCann and will start running on Sept. 8 during "CBS This Morning" and the "Today" show, actors Alan Alda, Lisa Edelstein, Donald Faison, Noah Wyle and Mr. Dempsey tell viewers to "Go. Know. Take Control."

"We are the TV doctors of America, and we're partnering with Cigna to help save lives by getting you to a real doctor for an annual checkup," the actors say in the spot.

The commercial, which has a 48-second and 15-second version, will also air on the night of Sept. 8 during the NFL season opener. Stephen Cassell, Cigna global brand officer, said the media budget for the campaign -- expected to continue into 2017 -- is about $9 million. OMD is Cigna's media agency and Edelman handles PR for the company. A series of additional campaign spots will run on digital and social channels at later dates.

Unlike competitors Aetna, which launched a campaign created by MOD Worldwide this spring aimed at the LGBT community that featured real couples, or Humana, with its ad by BBDO targeting for baby boomers without any famous faces, Cigna decided to change its approach with its new initiative and use a big group of celebrities. Mr. Cassell said the brand thought it would be a "humorous way to try to attract attention."

In addition to the fact that up to 100,000 lives a year can be saved if people receive preventative care, according to the CDC, Mr. Cassell said there's "an economic reason" to focus on annual checkups and health numbers around blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI). People who know their four health numbers can save up to $1,400 a year in out-of-pocket costs, according to the 2014 Cigna Affordability Study. Also, the CDC reports that 86% of healthcare costs in the U.S. come from treating people with chronic diseases.

"And most people don't even know that annual checkups are free," said Mr. Cassell, who added that preventative care is better than reactive care because it allows a better chance for treatment and it can save people money.

In addition to its marquee TV spot, Cigna will bring the campaign to life on digital and social, such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, said Mr. Cassell. The brand is also looking at doing sponsored content on Facebook, and Mr. Cassell said the TV doctors are "all actively involved" and will do some interviews and social media pushes.

Last fall, Cigna also reminded people to get their annual checkups by doing a custom integration for its "America Says 'Ahh" initiative with ABC's "Jimmy Kimmel Live" during the show's one-week residence at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.

Spokespeople at insurers including Aetna, UnitedHealth Group, Anthem and Humana did not return a request for comment regarding any upcoming marketing initiatives.

Contributing: Adrianne Pasquarelli

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