The “Got Milk?” campaign was born in 1993. As “Got Milk?” celebrates its 20th birthday, the echoes of its massive success continue to bounce off the walls of advertising think-tanks across America. Most recently, “Got Milk?” — which packed magazines more densely than actual content throughout the duration of the grunge decade, with mega-star spokespeople like Michael Jordan and even The Simpsons — finds itself reincarnated in an unlikely industry. But not everyone is happy with the famous ad campaign’s controversial new application.
How does one translate the slogan “Got Milk?” into controversy? And what sort of edgy, youthful industry would foster such controversy? Lingerie? Alcohol? Cigarettes?
Try the federal government.
Well — sort of. It’s complicated.
The ads are pushing Obamacare, and the connection to “Got Milk?” is a tagline reading, “Got Insurance?” in a coattail-riding nod to the beloved campaign. So far, that seems innocent enough. Maybe a little corny, maybe a little unoriginal; but nothing that would raise eyebrows. The problem that some people have with the ads isn’t the slogan itself — it’s the reasoning the ads proceed give for why people should have insurance. Namely, that they can sleep with people and get drunk — hassle-free!
“A Few Seconds of Recognition” Indeed
The ads were not actually produced by the federal government, or any marketing departments thereof. Rather, the “Got Insurance?” campaign is the brainchild of two agencies. One contributor is ProgressNow Colorado Education; the other is Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. Both are modest nonprofits, with the latter in particular operating on a shoestring budget of just $5,000. (Compare that with CitiBank’s “Live Richly” campaign, which ironically — or maybe appropriately — cost a whopping one billion large.)
Without much extra money to throw at testing and development, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative wanted to make sure they could create a campaign that would compensate by immediately grabbing eyes. “We wanted to make sure that we at least got a few seconds of their recognition,” says Adam Fox, employee.
They’ve certainly achieved their goal, snaring much more than “a few seconds” of recognition from certain members of the House of Representatives. Cory Gardner (R-CO), upset by the ads’ content, asked Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, “Do you agree with this kind of advertising for Obamacare?”
By “this kind of advertising,” Gardner means advertising which rather bluntly suggests that if you have insurance, you can have cheap birth control, too (not to mention the ability to do keg stands to your heart’s content, worry-free). As one ad reads, “OMG, he’s hot! Let’s hope he’s as easy to get as this birth control. My health insurance covers the pill, which means all I have to worry about is getting him between the covers. I got insurance.”
Fox defends the ad’s message. “Women are strong, independent human beings, capable of making their own decisions. And birth control is just an important aspect of basic health care.”
Reactions from the public have been mixed. Some, like 32-year-old Laura Welp, aren’t offended — just unimpressed. “It doesn’t appeal to me. The interest for me in Obamacare is that I think I can get cheaper insurance,” she says. “OMG!” isn’t exactly a thought-provoking statistic.
But while Welp might be wishing for a more informative approach, others think the ads are great. Rachel Cain, also 32, was delighted. “I think they’re hilarious and right to the point. They’re perfect for the audience,” she says.
Obamacare is no stranger to controversy. But that controversy just got a little weirder.
So — got insurance?
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