FCB’s New Ad Prescription Agency Revamps Campaign for Blue Cross

By Scott Hume

CHICAGO–Foote, Cone & Belding next week launches the second phase of its national image campaign for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, refining the ‘What if?’ creative approach that began in October 1995.

The initial creative pool’s television and print ads featured a montage of common health worries in the form of ‘What if?’ questions. The new creative for the estimated $15 million campaign, a series of eight television spots that break May 12, takes those concerns one at a time, covering such wellness issues as blood pressure, cholesterol, flu shots, cardiovascular fitness and breast cancer. The spots and print ads are anchored with the tagline, ‘What if you didn’t have to worry about health care?’

The challenge in healthcare advertising is addressing a serious issue without chasing away viewers by being too serious, said Scott Larson, FCB senior vice president and creative director on the account. ‘You need to show you understand health problems, without necessarily showing those problems. You don’t want to be daunting, but you can’t be flippant, either,’ he said.

The agency sought a creative compromise that is engaging but not frightening, he said. For example, one spot, filmed like an action movie, follows a police bomb squad’s tense mission to defuse a sophisticated explosive device. With the bomb ticking, the specialist is just about to cut what he hopes is the right wire when the voiceover asks, ‘What if you didn’t have to worry about high blood pressure?’

‘Everybody likes a good story. The spots are stories people can relate to that also have a payoff: that peace-of-mind ‘What if you didn’t have to worry about health care’ line at the end,’ said Jim Yardley, FCB vice president and management director.

BCBSA is a federation of 58 independent local affilate health plans. To meet the various affiliates’ budgets and needs, FCB’s media plan calls for spots to air primarily during local late news programs. Affiliates can use locally the national spots they prefer. TN Media has created a so-called ‘unwired network’ that allowed it to buy local news slots in markets across the country at lower rates. Radio spots will air primarily in drivetime slots.

Print ads will run in Atlantic Monthly, National Geographic, Newsweek, Time and U.S. News & World Report in two flights covering April-June and September through November. The mix includes full-page ads and consecutive one-third-page executions.

This year’s campaign also includes a separate set of television spots promoting the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. Similar in style and tone to public service announcements, the spots will feature such current and former athletes as skater Peggy Fleming, skiier Tommy Moe and New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

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