UnitedHealthcare Uses Amusing Injuries, Actual Medical Codes in New Campaign

Health Insurer Launches First National Brand Effort Aimed at Consumers

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UnitedHealthcare, one of the nation's largest health insurers, is poking fun at the complicated U.S. health-care system in its first national brand effort aimed at consumers, which launched this week.

Called "Way In," the campaign uses comical injuries, like getting hit with a piñata stick at a child's party, to illustrate the ways people get into the health-care system and how UnitedHealthcare can help them navigate it. In a TV spot, called "Our Song," a couple is dancing in the kitchen when one partner goes in "too hot" and crashes into the dining table. She later connects with a virtual clinic through UnitedHealthcare.

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The strategy aims to get the insurer on consumers' radar, build their trust and earn their recommendation to others.

"We know this industry is incredibly complex," said Andrew Mackenzie, chief marketing officer of UnitedHealthcare's commercial and Medicaid business. "We know consumers are frustrated. If we can demonstrate that … we can connect with them."

The insurer is speaking directly to consumers, a departure for the commercial-side of the firm, which primarily focuses on businesses. The shift reflects the changing landscape of health insurance, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, where consumers can now shop for insurance rather than relying on employer-and-government-provided plans.

"Consumers need to be more engaged in health care," said Mr. Mackenzie.

The ads have a light humor that is meant to make the insurer seem more approachable. For example, the ads are slapped with medical code stickers that have real diagnosis classifications on them, like "struck accidentally by falling object" and "activities involving frisbee." In a spot, a man avoids hitting a lamp post only to fall down a manhole moments later. The code reads: "accidental fall into storm drain or manhole."

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"We are going to get the consumer's attention in a human, relatable way," said Jeanie Caggiano, exec VP and executive creative director at Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, Chicago, which created the campaign. "We are going to make them laugh and maybe, just maybe they'll trust us."

"Way In," is UnitedHealthcare's first effort out of the Chicago shop, which won the insurer's consumer brand business last summer.

UnitedHealthcare wanted a breakout marketing approach that was unlike anything in the health insurance industry, which is dominated by ads of seniors walking on the beach, smiling babies and vague promises of wellness. It looked to Geico's creative portfolio and Allstate's "Mayhem" series -- created by Leo Burnett -- which helped elevate the creative in the auto insurance industry, Mr. Mackenzie said.

The Leo Burnett team created the concept when they came across the International Classification of Diseases, which is where the codes in the ads are from.

"These are real, actual medical codes," said Ms. Caggiano, recalling one about activities involving knitting. "Somehow, somewhere more than one person got into the system because they were knitting or crocheting and something went wrong. Everybody's got a story."

The effort is a "strong investment" for UnitedHealthcare, said Mr. Mackenzie, but he declined to reveal the budget. "It's a commitment for our leaders to say that branding is something we want to focus on," he added.

The campaign includes five spots that will roll out through May on CBS, NBC and ABC. The campaign also includes out-of-home, digital ads, radio and a social push, with daily tweets and Facebook posts using the hashtag "#CodeoftheDay."

Periscope handled the media strategy and execution for the push.

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