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Attacking Raccoons Used In Washington State Insurance Ads

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The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has begun airing television commercials as part of a stepped-up campaign to promote the state’s online insurance marketplace, which opens for enrollment Oct. 1.

The new TV spots convey the sobering message that going without health insurance is “playing with chance” and could lead to a bad outcome.

One of the spots shows a snowboarder hurtling down a mountain and losing control, landing with a bone-crunching thud.

The narrator tells viewers the state’s exchange, called Washington Healthplanfinder, “offers new low-cost and free plans,” warning that “without one, you could go bust.”

The other ad features a snarling raccoon leaping out of a garbage can, poised to attack a woman in her own backyard.

“Washington Healthplanfinder offers financial help on new plans,” says the narrator, warning that “without one, it could bite you.”

These ads are darker than the sunnier, more upbeat ads that have aired in states such as Colorado and Oregon.

Colorado’s ads focus on the idea that consumers “win” by enrolling in coverage through the state’s health exchange. Ordinary people are shown celebrating their victory as if they have just won a baseball championship or a high-stakes horse race.

In contrast, Washington’s ad campaign is more about avoiding disaster.

The TV spots are meant to grab people’s attention, says Michael Marchand, communications director for the agency that operates Washington’s exchange. The goal is to motivate Washington residents – especially the uninsured – to find out how they can get coverage through Healthplanfinder.

Marchand says the two ads resonated with focus groups. A significant number of people identified with the snowboarder and said they worried about engaging in activities that could lead to serious injury, especially if they are uninsured.

The ad featuring the scary raccoon also struck a chord, according to Marchand.

“I was really surprised how many people had had encounters with raccoons,” he said.

The TV spots are part of a broader advertising and promotion campaign that includes radio spots and online ads that started running in August.

The goal is to enroll 130,000 people in health-care coverage through the exchange by the end of this year and 280,000 in 2014.