Blue Cross/Blue Shield Ensures Younger Customers with DRTV

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Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolina reported a 15 percent jump in subscribers to its Blue Advantage Health Plan since it started airing direct response television spots targeted to the 18- to 34-year-old market.


The 60- and 90-second spots were produced by CCP Film and were handled by DMW Worldwide, both in Wayne, PA. The spots began airing in January and will continue through the end of the year. DMW is handling the DRTV spot buys primarily through network affiliates in 23 markets across North Carolina.


The spots are aimed not only at recruiting new healthcare subscribers but also at rebranding the Blue Cross/Blue Shield name for a younger, hipper market.


"In the spot, we tie in that it's the coverage 'your mom and dad' had," said Patrick Farley, vice president of consumer marketing at Blue Cross/Blue Shield North Carolina. "We realize that many of the younger potential customers will recall the Blue Cross/Blue Shield logo and company. It's always been kind of a stodgy, older image, but we are working -- across the country really -- to reposition ourselves to be much more innovative, flexible and attractive to this age group."


The spots focus on selling the Blue Advantage Health Plan. This healthcare system is geared toward younger people both in price -- $66 a month -- and in its heavily featured alternative medicine option, including yoga, massage therapy and acupuncture, over traditional doctor visits. Farley said this has a twofold advantage for the company: It is naturally more appealing to a younger market, and alternative medicine "can significantly reduce healthcare costs."


The commercials also spotlight the Web address -- a must for reaching a generation that has grown up around two media boxes, the PC and TV, Farley said.


Farley also said that BC/BS North Carolina found the 18- to 34-year-old market a fertile one, especially 18- to 24-year-olds who think they are invulnerable. People that age think they cannot afford health insurance, but the company stressed the detriments of being saddled with hospital costs, he said.


BC/BS North Carolina had never targeted this market before, though it has worked with both DMW and CCP for six years on campaigns that focused on the over-65 market, self-employed people and a general campaign for all age groups.


"For the 'Blues' it was a stretch," Farley said. "This spot has opened up a market we have not been successful in attracting. Our conversion has been much higher than planned. The cost per inquiry is also much better than planned."


The unconventionality of the commercials' target extends to the actual production. The actress plays three different parts, the music is upbeat with a "Seinfeld"-like theme song, and the cuts are quick and frequent.


"Understanding that the target market has been raised on television and inundated with the computer box as well, we had to make sure the spot was innovative and informative," said Chas Kutchinsky, producer for CCP. "Syncopated editing and jump cuts all helped in making sure the target market stayed with it and got the ultimate message, which is to call or check out the Web site. We made sure that was clear to them throughout by always displaying the number."


Tom Pitcherella, DMW Worldwide's director of client services, said the media buys are mostly during afternoon programming geared toward the market, in the hopes of entrenching the new brand image -- something that cannot really be measured by the number of people who either call or click.


The Blue Advantage campaign is also being marketed through direct mail, BC/BS community relations and an athletics sponsorship agreement with the University of North Carolina. The spot itself recently won a Telly award and a Benny, the Philadelphia Direct Marketing Association award.
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