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Sexy Ads Sell Affordable Care Act in Colo.

WebMD News from Kaiser Health News

By Eric Whitney

Sun, Nov 24 2013

The Affordable Care Act is good for young adults because it’ll save them money on health care, leaving them more to spend on liquor and birth control. That’s one way to interpret the message from a provocative new ad campaign in Colorado. Not everyone is thrilled with it.

In a federal hearing in October, Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., showed Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius one of the ads.

Gardner asked, “Do you agree with this kind of advertising for Obamacare?”

Sebelius responded that she couldn’t see it.

“It’s a college student doing a keg stand,” Gardner replied. “That’s a pretty big picture of a keg.”

Alcohol features prominently in several ads in the campaign that upset Gardner. They all encourage young people to learn more about the federal health care law.  But they’re not from the White House, or any agency Sebelius controls.

Two nonprofit groups in Denver put them together, ProgressNow Colorado Education and the one Adam Fox works for, Colorado Consumer Health Initiative. Fox, 28, says they only had about $5,000 to spend and wanted to grab some eyeballs on social media.

“We wanted to make sure that we got at least a few seconds of their recognition,” he says.

Mission accomplished. Within a few days of posting them on Facebook and Twitter, the ads made the leap from social media to the news media.

“We’ve seen a huge response, positive and negative,” Fox says. “Some people aren’t big fans of the ads, but some are, and we’ve seen just a huge amount of website traffic and a lot of social media shares of the images themselves.”

The ads dangle alcohol and sex in front of young people to bait them into clicking on a link to the decidedly unsexy topic of health insurance.

There’s the keg stand ad, one with women in yoga clothes drinking wine, and another where young ladies drink shots off of a snow ski – this is, after all, Colorado.

Perhaps most provocative, though, is the ad featuring a young woman with a man on her arm and a package of birth control pills in her hand, with the copy: “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 says women were involved in coming up with the ads, but he knows they’re not for everybody. Conservatives and liberals both have called some of the ads sexist. Fox disagrees.

“Women are strong, independent human beings, capable of making their own decisions,” he says.  “And birth control is just an important aspect of basic health care.”

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