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JoTo #PRFail: Irresponsible PR Promotes Controversy – Is it Worth the Risk?

proxy6.jpgTwo nonprofit groups in Denver recently created several advertisements designed to entice millennials into embracing the Affordable Care Act. The common thread in every ad? Sex and alcohol – usually depicted in tandem. Within a few days of posting the ads on Facebook and Twitter, they made the leap from social media to the news media – largely due to the eye-catching nature of the ads.

Perhaps the most controversial is an ad featuring a young woman standing with a man – whose arm is wrapped around her waist – 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.”
The creators of the ads say the response has been both positive and negative but the group’s main goal of getting recognition was met and surpassed. While the groups say the aim is to encourage young people to enroll in the state’s new health insurance exchange, proponents have said the ads belittle women and also adds to the partisan back-and-forth over the new health care law. The ads are a direct contrast of OptOut.org’s anti-Obamacare anti-Obamacare ad featuring “Creepy Uncle Sam?” (1)

But some say the advertisements – albeit in a joking manner – push irresponsibility for one’s actions by portraying alcohol and sex as the “bait” in a provocative way.

While the ads have received major attention, a substantial portion has been negative – which begs the question, did they really accomplish their goal? Will more young adults take advantage of the state’s health insurance?

With Publicity & PR, the goal is to facilitate communications and forge a relationship between and a company and its publics. But rather than a haphazard attention-starved tactic, real PR is accompanied by a strategy that aligns business initiative with public desires. While the health insurance ads were notable in nature, they failed to portray millennials and women (the target audiences) in a positive light – which distracted viewers from the real message of the ads and took away from their effectiveness. The ads inadvertently (or maybe intentionally) encouraged irresponsible behavior, leaving people to look at its creators as irresponsible.

PR is meant to establish a company as a thought leader and credible source – and I have to say the nonprofit groups responsible for the ads missed the boat on that one.

  1. Lee, Kurtis. “Pro-Obamacare Ads Targeting Millennials.” Denverpost.com. N.p., 12 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 Jan. 2014. denverpost.com/politics/ci_24509632/pro-obamacare-ads-targeting-millennials-stir-controversy-colorado.

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