WellPoint To Launch First Image Work

Nearing the completion of a merger with Anthem that would make it the nation’s largest managed-healthcare provider, WellPoint Health Networks breaks its first image campaign this week, a print effort from RPA.

RPA COO Bill Hagelstein said the ads will run nationally through June in business magazines and newspapers with the aim of “getting the WellPoint name in the right light prior to the merger,” which is due to be completed in midsummer.

The Santa Monica, Calif.-based independent’s ads contrast simple ways people can stay healthy with WellPoint’s more sophisticated programs, such as its Physician Technology Initiative for e-prescriptions. One ad shows a water bottle with a tip on hydration as a pretext for explaining WellPoint’s “mission to help contain rising costs.”

“Some [healthcare providers] have a reputation as extra baggage that has to be carried by corporations,” said Hagelstein. “The ads will tell stories about WellPoint’s being a leader in reforming healthcare.”

Wellpoint, based in Thousand Oaks, Calif., owns UniCare in multiple states, Blue Cross of California, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Missouri, Georgia and Wisconsin, claiming total membership of 15 million customers. Spending on the campaign was not disclosed. The company spent about $20 million on ads for its UniCare and Blues brands last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR.

“The merger is coming, but we would be doing this advertising now regardless,” said Susan Cotton, svp of marketing, adding that WellPoint offers unique value. “We need to start communicating that.”

Anthem, which operates in about 10 states primarily under the Blue Cross and Blue Shield name, works with several agencies. It is acquiring Wellpoint in a deal worth an estimated $14 billion, but the combined company plans to remain under the WellPoint name. Cotton said the post-merger agency situation remains undetermined.