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Insurance Campaign Bombed In New Mexico

By Winthrop Quigley, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Aug. 25--Most New Mexicans without health insurance don't know about the insurance exchanges that are designed to help them buy affordable insurance despite a multimillion-dollar advertising and marketing campaign launched last year by the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

A Research & Polling Inc. survey of 501 uninsured adults done for the exchange board of directors found that 61 percent don't even know what an insurance exchange is.

Survey respondents generally had no memory of television advertising designed to encourage visits to the state exchange website. Only 19 percent said they remember a television ad featuring the band Los Lonely Boys, 15 percent remembered a humorous ad featuring an accident-prone young man, and 17 percent remembered an ad featuring New Mexicans talking about the risks of not having health insurance.

The exchange sponsored live events around the state where shoppers for insurance could speak with an exchange representative. Only 15 percent of respondents had heard of the events.

The survey also found that 49 percent of respondents had heard of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange and 30 percent had heard of Be Well New Mexico, which is how the state exchange is branded. But 46 percent of respondents said they are "not familiar at all" with Be Well New Mexico.

BVK, a Milwaukee-headquartered advertis- ing and marketing firm, was awarded an $8.4 million contract last September to promote the exchange and encourage enrollment. The exchange board awarded BVK a new $6 million contract in July.

Martin Hickey, who chairs the board's marketing committee, said the survey was designed to help BVK better understand and target the market niches in New Mexico.

"As a board member, I would say I would have expected a higher penetration of awareness of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange," he said.

Especially disappointing was the lack of success in reaching consumers earning from 138 percent to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, a segment that makes too much to qualify for Medicaid but that is eligible for significant subsidies from the federal government. Hickey estimated there are up to 80,000 people in that segment whom "we did not effectively reach."

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Of less concern is the lack of recall of BVK advertising, Hickey said. Ad effectiveness surveys usually are done within a few weeks of the ad's appearance, and this survey occurred months later.

Hickey blamed some of the marketing difficulties on delays getting the New Mexico exchange established. It took three legislative sessions to get a bill establishing the exchange passed and signed by the governor.

Hickey said future marketing efforts need to target the many different customer niches found in New Mexico, including a focus on providing better communications to Spanish-speaking customers.

"Because of the short time frame and the time needed (by a new marketing firm) to get up to speed and because of the lessons learned by the current vendor, we are engaging (BVK) for one more year, but with very clear deliverables, milestones and increased scrutiny," Hickey said.

The board was criticized for using an out-of-state firm to market to New Mexicans, but BVK impressed the board last year when it competed for the exchange contract, Hickey said.

"They were well known for research," he said. "They had just done a campaign on teen pregnancy among African-Americans (in another state) that has had astoundingly impressive results."

Much of the contract money is spent in-state for local public relations help, media production and advertising purchases, he said. By the numbers

61%: Did not know what an insurance exchange is.

46%: "Not familiar at all" with Be Well New Mexico.

19%: Recalled exchange TV ad featuring Los Lonely Boys.

15%: Remembered accident-prone young man TV ad.

$8.4 million: Value of contract to BVK to promote exchange/ enrollment.

$6 million: Value of newest BVK contract, awarded in July.





(c)2014 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)

Visit the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.) at

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Distributed by MCT Information Services

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