The head of the advertising agency that produced the new MNsure ad campaign expressed surprise that anyone in Bemidji had objected to the use of Paul Bunyan and Babe, the blue ox, in the commercials.
"The truth is, we tested the work," said Brian Kroening, executive director of BBDO Proximity. "One of our markets was Bemidji. And it got very positive response from our consumers up there. So we were a little surprised by the initial response."
"No harm intended, whatsoever," he said on The Daily Circuit.
The mayor of Bemidji initially objected to the use of Paul and Babe figures that closely resemble the statues in a waterfront park downtown. Other, different likenesses of Paul decorate other Minnesota towns, including Brainerd and Akeley. The mayor cooled down later Monday.
Kroening explained the agency's approach to projects like the MNsure campaign.
"We said, 'Let's first of all think about finding that resonant, simple idea, and then let's deliver it in a fresh way,'" he said. "We're finding that's really helpful in changing behavior, and getting our clients a lot of success." He said a lighthearted approach like the one in the commercials "generally works better in marketing, to break through."
Despite that humor-based approach, he said his agency took the assignment seriously. "The part that we took most seriously was, 'How are we going to create awareness for the good folks at MNsure and create and incite action on behalf of those uninsured?'"
"First of all, the job is to let people know that something exists for them," he said. "The fact is, we know that the people who don't have [insurance] or are underinsured are ridden with angst anyway. They're also a little scared of the process, don't know how to go through it. So we knew if we were simple, we were upbeat and positive, that would incite people to go and check it out, and they will get the information they need."
"When we've got 30 seconds or 15 seconds, I'm not going to give you a serious message filled with facts," Kroening said. "I worry it would disappear anyway."
(Read Bob Collins' take in NewsCut.)