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MNsure asks to temporarily keep marketing materials secret; releases 2013 marketing costs

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Officials with MNsure, Minnesota's new online insurance marketplace, have asked the state to keep some of its marketing and public outreach materials secret temporarily.

MNsure's application to the state's Department of Administration (posted below) asks that various aspects of MNsure's public marketing and outreach campaign such as slogans, colors, characters and images be kept under wraps until the campaign goes public. State law requires agencies to prove there is a "compelling need" to keep information out of public view.

MNsure's attorney, Mike Turpin, says the agency's officials are trying to prevent fraud by other groups using MNsure's brand to put out information that might be inaccurate. 

"They're holding themselves out as MNsure," he said of the other groups. "And then, lo and behold, when MNsure comes forward with its marketing campaign, it's similar or exactly the same as what this other entity was promoting — but in fact there was no affiliation between the two organizations."

MNsure's first major marketing push will occur at the Minnesota State Fair, which opens August 22. It wants the marketing theme prepared for the event to stay secret until then.

At the same time, the agency has released details about its spending plans — which total $8.5 million in 2013 — for the campaign, which is scheduled to continue in earnest after the fair. Broadcast ads, for example, will aim to make consumers aware of MNsure's brand and its services.   

MNsure officials say they are concerned that other groups may illegally charge consumers for information that will be free on the MNsure website. They also say the secrecy would prevent unaffiliated groups from spreading misinformation to the public.

The agency has already begun using social media -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube -- to share informatoin with Minnesota residents

Spencer Cronk, commissioner of the state Department of Administration, has 45 days to decide whether to grant MNsure's request.

Open Enrollment for MNsure runs from Oct. 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014.  Coverage doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2014.

MNsure's 2013 marketing budget: 8.5 million
Of that, $5 million has been dedicated to mass media:
•  TV — $1.1 million
•  Radio — $500,000  (radio ads; community radio will focus on reaching under-represented communities throughout the state)
•  Digital — $800,000 (geared toward people actively searching for information about changes to their health care coverage via search engines)
•  Newspaper — $400,000 (full- and half-page ads)
•  Magazine inserts — $300,000 (geared toward small-business owners, insurance brokers, general population)
•  Billboards, transit ads, skyways, fitness centers, etc.  —  $400,000 (with an emphasis on targeting  different areas of the metro area, based on culture and ethnic origins) 
•  Ad production — $1.5 million.

Remaining $3.5 million
•  Print materials with information to distribute statewide — $2 million (outreach material will be in English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish)
•  BBDO Ad agency contract —  about $1 million
•  Regional outreach liaisons — $500,000  (to distribute materials in different regions of the state)