AARP Goes on The Offensive

AARP didn’t get everything it wanted in last year’s Medicare bill. So, in an election season where healthcare is a hot issue, the advocacy group for seniors is rolling out two new ads to pressure Congress and educate consumers.

AARP also hopes the commercials will deflect criticism from some of its members and from Democrats who lambasted the group for supporting the bill, which Republicans backed because it requires a test program to privatize Medicare. Some 60,000 members quit AARP in protest.

The spots, created by AARP’s agency, GSD&M in Austin, Texas, tackle the issue of affordable prescription drugs for seniors under Medicare. AARP is spending $7 million on a national media buy for a 30-second spot, “Drug Wars,” which launched March 8 and is running for six weeks. The spot says Americans should be allowed to buy drugs from Canada and the government should have the authority to negotiate lower drug prices. Both measures were left out of last year’s bill due to strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry.

A second spot, “Medicare Education,” will urge seniors to request an AARP pamphlet that explains the complicated new bill. The group will spend more than $6 million to air the 30-second spot, which will break nationally April 5 and run for four weeks.

The Medicare bill gives seniors a drug benefit that didn’t exist before, said John Killpack, AARP’s director of brand management. “We want to make sure people understand what AARP accomplished in supporting the Medicare legislation,” he said.

Maureen Barry, account director on the AARP business at GSD&M, called the ads “strategic messages” in a “critical time.” “They are meant to remind everyone that AARP is not giving up the fight,” she said.