Paul Bunyan ads resulted in people disliking MNsure, analysis says

Some would argue a negative reaction is better than no reaction at all, and that's essentially the line MNsure officials are taking in response to a startlingly negative analysis of the health exchange's controversial $1.5 million Paul Bunyan ad campaign.

The Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox ads ran from last August through early this year. They could be seen and heard throughout the state on TV, the radio, billboards, and buses, but many who encountered them were left with less favorable thoughts about MNsure than they had going in.

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"While there was no increase in the positive impressions of MNsure, the negative impressions ramped up to 35 percent from 11 percent," an analysis of the campaign put together by Persuadable Research says. "The intent to find more information or likelihood to switch or try dropped significantly in the post study."

But, of course, the ads weren't the only things behind increasing negativity about MNsure.

"Word of mouth and personal experiences with the malfunctioning website may have contributed to negative impression," the analysis adds.

On the flipside of the coin, awareness about MNsure shot up to a "phenomenal" 75 percent by the end of the campaign.

It's the latter result that has MNsure officials arguing the campaign was at least a partial success.

"Our hope was to build awareness of MNsure," Jenni Bowring-McDonough, media relations coordinator for MNsure, tells us. "That was one of the intentions behind the campaign. MNsure was a brand new state quasi-state agency... when you look at it from that lens, [BBDO] actually completed what they were hired to do."

Awareness aside, Bowring-McDonough points out that MNsure has met its enrollment goals so far and presented a balanced budget for 2015 to the legislature a couple months ago.

Joe Campbell, MNsure's director of marketing and communications, attributes more of health exchange's enrollment success to a subsequent ad campaign that moved away from Paul and Babe and instead focused on testimonials from Minnesotans who benefited from MNsure.

(For more, click to page two.)

"We find that when people tell their stories about ways they are impacted by access to affordable, comprehensive health care coverage, there is a positive result," Campbell says. "That's what we saw in January when we made the decision to pivot toward ads about testimonials. We saw 60 percent of our total enrollment [in the months that followed]."

"Minnesotans respond when they see other people have positive experiences," he continues. "But it's hard to know why people feel the way they do, and we've worked to make improvements to the website so it provides Minnesotans the type of experiences they come to expect."

Along with publicly releasing the Persuadable Research analysis, MNsure officials also recently put out a request for proposals for another advertizing campaign to be held this fall.

"The previous ad campaign was focused primarily on brand awareness, where [the next one] is laser focused on increasing enrollment," Bowring-McDonough says. "One very significant finding [from Paul and Babe] was that branding awareness alone is not sufficient to meeting enrollment goals. That's key to what we learned from the report."

To read the report for yourself, click to page three.


MNsure Paul and Babe analysis

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]